“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers” -Charles W. Elio
Clichés tend to be true. This is how they become clichés. And one of law’s most repeated is: Law is all about reading. Lots of reading.
But that doesn’t mean that you have to read only the bland bare acts, never ending- Judgements by Supreme Court and High Courts in toto, instead nuances of law can also be absorbed through great literature and thoughtful non-fiction.
So, here is a list of 5 must-read law books not only for law students but others associated with this intriguing arena as well because nothing could beat spending the summer vacations reading these lively and highly readable books. Individually each work is excellent. Collectively they constitute an overview of the values and challenges of the legal profession.
The Trial- by Franz Kafka
“It offers everything and confirms nothing”- Albert Camus
This Masterpiece by Franz Kafka is a cautionary tale about the soul-crushing dimensions of the legal system. More allegory than story, this nightmarish parable makes being turned into a bug an improvement over what happens to Joseph K. on the day when officers of the court pay him a visit. Though they leave without ever charging or arresting him, they inform him that he is the subject of a legal proceeding where his guilt is certain. There is no actual legal trial in The Trial (spoiler alert), just the human trial of a man forever transformed by the grinding gears of the law. Joseph K. spends the novel desperately seeking an acquittal from a nameless crime while all of Prague becomes a prison on account of a legal proceeding that can’t be stopped even though it has barely begun. An Irresistibly compelling book is a must-read for everyone.
Crime and Punishment- by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart”- Crime and Punishment
After reading this brilliant work you will end up being fascinated by Dostoevsky’s brilliant understanding of human nature. Dostoyevsky’s literary works explore human psychology in the troubled political, social, and spiritual atmosphere of 19th-century Russia
The novel, which follows the mental torment and moral dilemmas of student Rodion Raskolnikov who feels driven to commit murder. The Novel describes Rodion Raskolnikov’s life, from the murder of a pawnbroker, through spiritual regeneration with the help of Sonya to his sentence in Siberia.
This is a classic novel about crime, guilt, and punishment.
Roses in December- by M.C. Chagla
“A great judge, a great citizen and, above all, a great human being.”
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These are the words written over the Statute of this great personality inside the Bombay High Court and these words are enough to reflect the essential humanity of the man who brings to his work a sharp mind, a tolerant outlook and a sense of decency and decorum that marks him out not only as a perceptive analyst but as a great gentleman and human being.
Roses in December is a book to be read, and re-read and read all over again and digested. Where he writes about the judiciary, administration, diplomacy or of life itself. The book is an exhortation on ethics in the legal profession both on and off the bench, spiced up by anecdotes and epigrams concerning the legal legends and high political functionaries. Believing it to be his duty, he has left an account of various experiences in his career, for the posterity to learn from, creating roses for us in the December of his life.
Bleak House- by Charles Dickens
“A word in earnest is as good as a speech.” – Charles Dickens, Bleak House
It is very little known that Charles Dickens worked as a Court reporter for four years and undoubtedly drew upon his experiences, particularly at the Old Bailey for his fiction.
The Kernel of the novel is a long-running litigation in England’s Court of Chancery, Jarndyce v Jarndyce, the consequences of which was not just limited to court walls but has a far-reaching effect on all involved. Bleak House is a joy to read, so many memorable characters, intertwining plot threads and twists, moments of suspense, intense sadness, political and social commentary, and humour. This is Dickens commentary on the legal system of his day.
If you are already of fan of Dickens but for some reason had not yet tackled Bleak House, do so. If you’ve never read Dickens, I can’t think of a better place to start than with one of his very best.
Nani Palkhivala: The Courtroom Genius by Soli J. Sorabjee and Arvind P. Datar
“Palkhivala was unsurpassable for sheer advocacy”- Iqbal Chagla
The book talks about one of the greatest advocates India has ever seen – Nani Palkhivala. Nani Palkhivala was not a born genius as would be evident from the fact that he failed to clinch the job of a lecturer in English literature at Bombay University. But he transformed himself into a genius – he had no foundation in economics or finance but became the best tax lawyer in the country. He had a stammering problem since childhood, but he was the best orator of his times, the courtrooms saw. He argued all the most complicated and most important cases of India’s legal history. He had no foundation in political theory, but was, beyond doubt, the best constitutional lawyer of the country. this book is about that story as to how by sheer hard work and determination, a mediocre can become a genius, and of course, achieve success. The book provides a deep insight about the life and time of one of the greatest lawyers of modern era Nani Palkhivala.
All Legal alumni should read this book before starting his/her curriculum just to know the level to which advocacy has been taken by Nani.