FIRE staff work hard all year long protecting civil liberties on the nation’s college campuses — and that means we do a lot of reading. It’s our job to be first to know about FIRE-related current events, consider opinions on all sides of FIRE issues, reflect on historical trends, and do deep dives into the latest research. And we’re reading in our free time, too — turning to lighter material for personal growth, self-care, or just plain fun.
Here are some of the books and articles that made an impression* on FIRE staff this year, that we think you might enjoy as well.
Driver is a law professor at the University of Chicago, and I picked up his book primarily for its perspectives on the major First Amendment cases involving public schools, like Tinker and Barnette. I wasn’t disappointed there (Driver considers Barnette opinion author Robert Jackson “the single finest writer in the Court’s history”), but Driver’s book is also a highly valuable resource for its takes on the court’s major civil rights and religious liberty cases, and Driver takes the extra step of contextualizing the cases by showing readers how they were viewed at their time in the media and in academic legal circles. It’s a complete one-volume history that I’ll reference for years to come. — Peter Bonilla, Vice President of Programs
“Jim Crow Campus: Higher Education and the Struggle for a New Southern Social Order” by Joy Ann Williamson-Lott
Joy Ann Williamson-Lott’s meticulously researched accounting of the push for student and faculty rights at southern universities in the 1960s and ’70s is extremely useful for readers interested in the history of free speech on campus and the power of expressive freedom to generate social change. Williamson-Lott’s historical perspective is both fascinating and invigorating, and I’ve been recommending it to students, attorneys, and administrators this past semester. — Will Creeley, Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Advocacy
The Atlantic: One Criminal-Defense Attorney’s Lament by Conor Friedersdorf
This is probably the best full-throated endorsement and explanation of due process that I’ve ever seen. — Eli Feldman, Research Associate to the President
“Standing Strong” by Teresa Giudice
In this harrowing, emotional tome, Our Nation’s Spiritual Leader Teresa Giudice examines her new life after being unjustly incarcerated in the biggest miscarriage of justice in Real Housewives history. The New York Times bestselling author reflects on a cold reality: that justice isn’t always realized, and the price of freedom does not come cheap. — Daniel Burnett, Communications Manager
“Virtuous Violence: Hurting and Killing to Create, Sustain, End, and Honor Social Relationships” by Alan Page Fiske & Tage Shakti Rai
This provocative and radical book shows that people mostly commit violence because they genuinely feel that it is the morally right thing to do. It explores the idea that one’s opponents — even opponents who want to do you harm — are not necessarily “bad” people. — Gordon Danning, History Research Fellow
“A Year of Kindness” by Pamela Paresky
Not to be self-promotional but I recommend my guided journal, “A Year of Kindness,” because keeping ourselves focused on gratitude and kindness provides an antidote to the vitriol and divisiveness that we see all around us. Journaling about gratitude and the kind things we do each day not only encourages each of us to be a beacon of light for others, but leads to being a happier and more fulfilled human being. — Pamela Paresky, Chief Research Officer to the President and CEO
An exciting and fascinating read. Comstock was an anti-obscenity crusader, and “Lust on Trial” is shockingly relevant today. — Cynthia Meyersburg, Research Fellow in Psychology
It gives a global overview and surprising, varied take on today’s societal ills. I’m not sure I like it, but it gives the reader lots to chew on. — Bonnie Kerrigan Snyder, High School Outreach Fellow
“The Sociopath Next Door” by Martha Stout
An unnerving must-read by Harvard psychologist Stout, who argues 1 in every 25 people is a sociopath — that they’re born with no conscience whatsoever. The author’s mix of research and anecdotes on how sociopaths move through the world leaving havoc in their wakes will have you armchair-diagnosing that not-quite-right neighbor, your least-favorite elected official, the in-law who humiliates you every Thanksgiving, and pretty much everyone who’s ever wronged you. Not a light read. — Alex Morey, Editor-in-Chief, Newsdesk
“The Invisibility Cloak” by Ge Fei
Ge Fei’s “The Invisibility Cloak” tells an eerie story about a surly protagonist in modern China who tries to sell a magnificent sound system to a mysterious villain. The unaffected prose heightens the novel’s uncanny ambiance. Observing that Fei “craftily evokes taboo subjects,” The Wall Street Journal presents Fei as an “example for Chinese novelists” seeking to “smuggle vital truths past the censors.” — Joshua Smith, Legal Intern
“Licensed to Lie” by Sidney Powell
A great look at how prosecutorial abuses can warp justice and ruin people’s lives — in this case, having to do with the Enron/Arthur Andersen debacle. Plus, it involves folks who are still in the news today! — Robert Shibley, Executive Director
*The views expressed in these recommended reads do not necessarily reflect official FIRE positions. FIRE does officially endorse seeking out a variety of viewpoints, especially those with which you disagree.