- Age Range: 18 and up
- Grade Level: 06 - 08
- Lexile Measure: 1340L (What's this?)
- Series: Stonesong Press Books
- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Hachette Books (August 18, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 078688620X
- ISBN-13: 978-0786886203
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution (Stonesong Press Books)
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From Publishers Weekly
The U.S. Constitution gets a comprehensive overview in this engaging blend of history and commentary. Monk, author of The Bill of Rights: A User's Guide, traces the history and consequences of each part of this vital document in a line-by-line analysis of the original seven articles and the 27 amendments. Drawing on the writings of constitutional scholars, Supreme Court Justices and concerned citizens like Charlton Heston, playwright Arthur Miller and rock star Ted Nugent, she also gives even-handed but lively accounts of the debates over such Constitutional controversies as the right to bear arms, the right to privacy, church-state separation and capital punishment. The portrait of the Constitution that emerges is a mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous. Some parts, like the Civil War amendments that defined citizenship and equality in granting them to African-Americans, are terse milestones in our evolving understanding of freedom, while elsewhere the Constitution seems like a scratch-pad for ill-considered ideas like the hastily repealed Prohibition Amendment. Monk avoids comparisons with other countries' charters that might have illuminated the Constitution's idiosyncrasies, and skirts deeper critiques, like Daniel Lazare's argument that the Constitution's overall structure of states' rights, separation of powers and checks and balances hobbles rather than effectuates the will of the people. Still, this is a fine introduction to Constitutional history for a general readership laid out rather like a good social studies textbook. Illus.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Marching methodically through the Constitution, Monk partitions the parchment's text and appends brief historical or legal background to each clause. Upon arrival at the Twenty-seventh Amendment, the reader should be able to sling around such phrases as "original intent" and "implied powers" like a law scholar. On the other hand, Monk's analysis does not pretend to profundity: her aim is to be as populistic as possible. To this end, photos abound that are symbolic of various rights (actor Charlton Heston with his musket; civil rights demonstrators in Selma), as do sidebars quoting founders, jurists, and individuals significant to constitutional development, such as Clarence Earl Gideon. His petition to the Supreme Court resulted in the guarantee of a lawyer to criminal defendants. Monk's illustrations of the expansion of rights--the original Constitution protected few personal liberties--will remind readers how the document really is a "living" entity. Also showing the constitutional basis for the expansion of government power, Monk readily explains the constitutional phrases that imbue American political discourse. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
In just over two hundred pages, Monk walks the reader through the text of the entire document (including the Bill of Rights), giving history, relevant cases, and an overview of competing interpretations. Sidebars present relevant quotations from, well, lots of people -- Charlton Heston on the Second Amendment, Ted Nugent on the importance of copyright, and tons of others. Monk makes her selections from across the political spectrum and she carefully refrains from taking sides herself. Terms that won't be familiar to the typical reader are defined in the margins.
Despite what you may have heard, her presentation is neither 'liberal' nor 'revisionist'. (For example, her presentation on the Second Amendment is nicely handled; we hear from all sides, but Monk makes clear that a federal appellate court has held that the right to bear arms is unambiguously an _individual_ right.) In fact, she does remarkably well at presenting all major points of view on each issue within a very short space, and she doesn't slight anyone; any reviewer who thinks otherwise didn't read the book very carefully (if at all).
Don't let the noise from the peanut gallery scare you off. People who don't want a 'living constitution' don't have a clue what it would be like to have a dead one. (For one thing, libertarians -- of whom I am one -- would be miserable. The police wouldn't need warrants to tap phone lines; electronic eavesdropping wasn't a 'search' until 1967, when _Katz v. U.S._ expanded the Fourth Amendment to protect us wherever and whenever we have a 'reasonable expectation of privacy'. And yes, that case is covered in here -- along with _Olmstead_, which it overruled, and _Kyllo_, which expands it to cover thermal imaging.)
Highly recommended to anyone who wants to know what the Constitution says and means. And that should include all Americans -- even the ones who already have copies of the Cato Institute's Constitution and Declaration booklet.
Monk explains every sentence in the Constitution and the amendments, giving historical background and showing how the clauses and articles have been interpreted and acted on over the years. She remains objective but does not shy from controversy; when discussing such hot button issues as gun control, abortion and the death penalty, she presents both sides of the arguments, and by providing excerpts of writings by others, allows other opinions to be shown.
So why should every American read this book. Simply because this is a great introduction to the document that dictates life in the United States. An informed American is better than an ignorant one, especially in the voting booth. You may not be a full-fledged Constitutional scholar when you finish this book, but you will at least understand this document a bit better.