PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewNo one can recount judicial decisions as accessibly and intelligently as Greenhouse. She does an excellent job of describing the court’s jurisprudence...interspersing short biographical observations of the justices and filling in useful background ... Maybe because it’s hard to write a drama in which the villain hasn’t done anything terrible yet, Greenhouse makes an uncharacteristic misstep in a brief excursus that compares the new justice to the late Phyllis Schlafly. To be sure, Schlafly was an important figure in the early anti-abortion movement. But her anti-feminist crusade against women in the workplace sits oddly with Barrett’s lifelong pursuit of a full-time career as a law professor and judge while raising seven (no, that’s not a typo) children ... If the book had been delayed a year and extended through June of 2022, it could have included what are likely to be profoundly consequential, dramatic moments ... If some or all of this drama occurs in the months and years ahead, one can only be comforted by the knowledge that Linda Greenhouse will be here to write about it.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewBudiansky’s Oliver Wendell Holmes is a lively, accessible book, retelling the story of its subject’s life and work for a generation that knows Holmes was important but not why. Yet this biography suffers from its refusal to grapple with the stubborn fact that Holmes was, and remains, a deeply contradictory figure ... Budiansky’s biography...self-consciously rejects critical studies of the justice over the past 40 years in favor of a worship that can verge on apologetics ... Budiansky, a prolific historian and journalist, devotes more than 50 pages to Holmes’s Civil War career ... These pages are exciting and well written, their subject presumably more to Budiansky’s taste than the mere work of the law ... Budiansky’s playing down of the contradictions that make Holmes infuriating and interesting is particularly mystifying because he has dived into the sea of Holmes’s voluminous writings and even contributed to Holmes scholarship ... Budiansky also does a fine job of telling the story of Holmes’s gradual move to embracing free speech under the influence of Judge Learned Hand and the Harvard Law School professor Zechariah Chafee ... And if Budiansky can’t quite explain why Holmes, whose scholarship showed that judges make law, got famous for arguing that judges shouldn’t make constitutional law, that isn’t entirely the author’s fault. Contradiction is always hard to resolve.