... remarkably candid and heartening ... puckish, mildly subversive humor runs throughout the book, which is a calm and sagacious volume rendered somewhat somber by the news of his passing ... Justice Stevens recounts the major cases of his long career with an even-handed clarity ... Justice Stevens was widely known for a rare combination of shrewdness and genuine kindness, and that same combination fills his book. As the narrative progresses, readers see a deep thinker who was steadily reexamining his own beliefs; Justice Stevens clearly saw the 'making' in his book’s title as a lifelong process.
Some of the most interesting passages of the book deal with the backstory of some of the landmark cases decided during his tenure, including Bush v. Gore and District of Columbia v. Heller ... With newer appointees venerating Scalia and his restrictive approach to our Constitution, it’s refreshing to consider Stevens’ common-sense rejoinder ... The Los Angeles Times once called Stevens a 'national treasure.' At age 99, with this book, he cements that legacy.
The inspiring legacy of Justice John Paul Stevens are well represented ... if, as seems likely, the US Supreme Court is poised to embark on a voyage of regression, the book makes for wistful reading as well ... An especially interesting part of Stevens’s book is the first 130 pages or so, which recount his upbringing and training before he joined the Court ... a fascinating aspect of his memoir is his descriptions of how he sought, but often failed, to persuade his colleagues that his view of these issues was consistent with the Constitution, if not, indeed, mandated by it ... Stevens, however, ended this, his last book, without expressing the bitterness that one might expect of a great judge who saw so many of his views rejected by a majority of his colleagues.
... has indisputable historical value. But it turns out that neither a penchant for legal analysis nor an equable judicial temperament guarantees a gripping narrative ... Though occasionally outspoken about the court, Stevens is often reticent about the rest of his life. His first wife, Elizabeth Jane Sheeren, merits only a mention or two before disappearing entirely from the narrative ... It’s probably unreasonable to expect a truly gossipy memoir from a former Supreme Court justice. Still, Stevens’ evident regard for his colleagues across the ideological spectrum is notable.
While the decisions in which he participated will be of primary interest, Stevens’ recollections of his upbringing in Chicago, naval service in WWII, and legal career in the 1950s and 1960s will also sustain attention ... Stevens’ illumination of the court’s internal processes, accounts of cases, and often caustic opinions of its results form an important contribution to legal literature.
[Stevens] candidly shares his thought processes on hundreds of cases, often openly criticizing his fellow justices for their lack of legal acumen and/or lack of compassion ... Refreshingly, though, the author never attacks his fellow justices in a personal, gossipy manner, and he discusses his varying degrees of friendship with each of them ... The author also offers searing commentary on cases involving abortion rights, gun control, wrongful convictions in criminal courts, campaign finance, and many other ongoing societal issues ... The author’s consistently absorbing commentary on a wide variety of legal cases will require close attention by readers, but the payoff is worth it.