PositiveThe New York Time Book ReviewAmar explores this territory brilliantly in The Words That Made Us, his deeply probing, highly readable study of “America’s constitutional conversation” from 1760 to 1840 ... For all of his insightful, and at times surprising, reflections on the founders, Amar is no exponent of the great man theory of history, at least when it comes to the key documents of early America. He strongly suggests that America as a whole — through its great national conversation — did more to draft the Declaration of Independence than Jefferson, and more to write the Constitution than Madison ... Excellent as The Words That Made Us is, there are ways it might have been even better. One involves class. Amar is appropriately attentive to the relative absence of Black Americans, women and Indians from the constitutional conversation (though he notes that their participation grew over time). It would have been good if he had said more about the exclusion of poor people, since so much of the discussion in this era was dominated by economic elites. At times, his radar for class issues seems to falter ... Also less than ideal is the book’s length. Amar declares that he wants students, pundits, politicians and the general citizenry to read his history and be improved by it. The chances of them doing so are reduced considerably by a three-digit page count that begins with an \'8.\' Portions could have been trimmed, or placed in an online appendix, in the interest of luring more people into the conversation ... enormously appealing — democratic, inclusive and rooted in an ethos of \'Come now, let us reason together\' ... In addition to educating the Americans engaged in this discussion about their rich constitutional legacy, the book has a generous spirit that can be a much-needed balm in these troubled times.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewMarcus’s book is impressively reported, highly insightful and a rollicking good read. It also adds another dispiriting data point—as if one more were needed—that the American Republic is seriously ailing ... The most interesting part of Marcus’s narrative is her discussion of why, in the end, the evidence mattered so little.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review\"... assiduously reported and briskly written ... While Biskupic sheds light on when and how Roberts made [his decision on the Affordable Care Act in 2012], she is less illuminating on why ... The difficulty of understanding that historic vote is emblematic of something larger: just how hard it is to figure out who Roberts really is ... Biskupic all but throws up her hands toward the end of her narrative, calling Roberts an \'enigma,\' but she suggests that he is pulled by two often-conflicting instincts. One is ideological: a desire to move the court rightward on race, religion and other issues. The other is institutional: an interest in the court being respected and seen as nonpolitical.\