11 Legal Books Everyone Should Read
Whether you are a legal buff or just love a good story, we’re here to tell you that reading legal books need not be boring. Many people might expect legal books to be too technical for pleasurable reading, but often enough, legal stories make for excellent thrillers and page-turners.
With that being said, here are 11 must-reads for anyone who loves a good story. These books are full of great characters who defy the odds, interesting legalities, and great information you won’t be sorry to have learned about.
The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark (1940)
The first book on our list, The Ox-Bow Incident, is the meticulous study of three innocent men in a Western town wrongly convicted. The book drew poor reviews when first released, but eventually, critics began to consider it a masterpiece.
According to its Britannica Encyclopedia entry, the book centers on the following concept: “This psychological study of corrupt leadership and mob rule was read as a parable about fascism when it first appeared. Set in Nevada in 1885, the story concerns the brutal lynching of three characters falsely accused of murder and theft. It details how the strong-willed leader of the lynch mob, Major Tetley, easily manipulates the suppressed resentment and boredom of the townspeople.”
Though watching the film is also a great time, we recommend you read the book for the best experience with this story.
Old Filth by Jane Gardam (2004)
Many legal books use the “bad lawyer” trope as a method to plot their storyline. Generally, we prefer to find books that are more innovative with their material, “Old Filth,” by Jane Gardam meets our expectations and shows us the portrait of a different kind of lawyer.
This book is all about a much-admired lawyer who has earned a good and prosperous career, but whose career and present reputation is at odds with his past. Of course, Gardam hopes to show that even seasoned lawyers may face situations that challenge their beliefs and moralities.
Old Filth by Jane Gardam (2004) is a great way to see how life truly is for a lawyer who has had a great career. What challenges his celebrated career? You’ll have to read the book to see.
Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver (1958)
Like many others, we love a good murder mystery, especially when it involves legal intrigue. In our opinion, Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver, does a great job displaying the intensity of the situation following a murder.
This book discusses a former district attorney in rural Michigan that opens a case and takes on a client accused of murder. A fun fact about this book is that Traver was the pen name of John D. Voelker, a justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. Interested? You should be.
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)
Many people know and love the HBO series of the same name, based on this dystopian thriller by Margarate Atwood. Like the show, this book throws us into a highly moral and patriarchal future of America, where woman’s rights have faded into memory.
In the dystopian nation that was once known as the United States of America, this book completely throws out all constitutional rights for women and subjects them to being owned by men for the purpose of breeding children. In this future state, the ascendency of the Christian right in national politics is valued over the constitutional rights of women.
The Handmaid's Tale is meant to be dystopian tale that warns us about what the future could hold if we move toward a more moral society. Needless to say, this book is a must read and a classic.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844)
One classic read that has been popular since its release in 1944, is the Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. You may be familiar with the popular screen adaptation that changes the story immensely, so we recommend reading the original.
The Count of Monte Cristo is politically inspired book that resulted Dumas’ experience with heart-wrenching problems in the legal system in France. The main character is a man who has been condemned to prison for life and escapes to the island of Monte Cristo where he exacts his revenge and creates a new identity for himself.
One fun fact about this book is that the complicated plot is based on the real-life story of François Picaud, a Parisian shoemaker whose story of imprisonment and revenge was discovered by Dumas in real French police files. Though written in the 19th century, this book is ripe with action and you won’t regret putting this book on your list.
The Firm by John Grisham (1991)
The popular movie of the same name based on this book, boasts Tom Cruise taking a shot at a legal job. Though we love seeing Tom Cruise on the big screen, the book is arguably even better.
When one of the brightest new law graduates is recruited by a hyping firm, his new job feels like a dream; it even comes with a mortgage and a car. Soon, however, he discovers that he is not working for a firm, but for an undercover crime family. This interesting premise promises a series of exciting events while he attempts to find a way out for himself and his wife.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937)
In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston delves into the complicated issues of race and gender in 1930s America. The center of this novel follows an African American woman who is charged with the murder of her estranged husband. It explores the turbulence of sexuality and human identity that is defined not by the individual herself but by the men around her. In a place where men have all of the rights and women are in a position where all they can do is follow them, this groundbreaking novel is certainly an important piece for everyone to read.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)
In the classic Dickens book, A Tale of Two Cities, the story follows an 18th-century lawyer whose life takes a dramatic turn when he falls in love. This book has been one of the most celebrated 45 chapter sagas in Western history, those who love a good story, and an interesting legal drama will enjoy this classic.
Charles Dickens through his skill and craft as a writer, was able to show through this book the complicated legal historical legal structure of the 18th century, even as a historical piece at the time. A century later, this book still comes out as one of the best stories that people have read in their lives.
The Stranger by Albert Camus (1942)
If you are a Philosophy fan, you know Albert Camus for his philosophical theories, but many do not know that he was also an adept novelist. The Stranger by Albert Camus takes you on a journey of murder with twists and turns, set in French Algeria. In one of the summaries, the plot is said to include the following: “When Meursault is imprisoned for the murder in the desert of an unnamed Arab man, his lack of emotion is interpreted as a lack of remorse and he is condemned to the guillotine. But facing death, he finds himself oddly comforted by the simple fact of his own life.”
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)
Though a part of nearly every high school syllabus, this classic piece of American literature stands the test of time. We even recommend reading it later in life to really understand the legal structures that Hawthorne unravels which are quite ahead of their time.
It is a story about a fallen woman who undergoes the sadistic manipulations of her husband as he exacts his justice against her in nearly every shaming way possible. As we have said, reading it again allows you to fully understand the groundbreaking story that it is.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1862)
Last, but not least, is Les Miserables on of the most famous books and stories in history. Many people know this story from the astounding musical of the same name, but we also argue that the book, that follows the story of Jean Valjean, is in its own right, just as heart-wrenching . This tragic story that ends in redemption goes beyond the boundaries of legalities, covering love, sacrifice, and war in the moments before the French revolution. If you don’t know what we’re talking about, read Les Miserables, you won’t be sorry.
Read Again and Again
With age comes a new experience that gives a person a different point of view. Though many of the books on this list you may have read while younger, we recommend reading them again and again as you age. These legal books are anything but boring, and nearly all will stand the test of time.