20 Books For Your 2020 Reading List

Lawline Staff Writer | December 18, 2019

Most lawyers love to read (it’s a terrible profession to go into if you don’t), but it can be a struggle to carve the time out of your busy schedule to read for pleasure. If your New Year’s resolution is to read more - or if you are looking for a last minute gift for a lawyer in your life - then you need a reading list. To put this list together we polled our faculty to find out what they read in 2019 that they would recommend for all attorneys, law-related or not. Some interesting data emerged from the responses: for example, only one-quarter of the faculty recommended novels, instead gravitating mostly towards non-fiction. And while very few of the featured titles relate directly to the law, almost everyone who responded said these books had an impact on their practice. 

 So for lawyers looking for their next great read, we present 20 Books to Read in 2020:



  1. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. Set during World War Two, this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel follows a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy with a genius for fixing things. Rachel Robinson says it is “beautifully written and a compelling and intriguing story with very interesting characters.”
  2. City on Fire, by Garth Risk Hallberg. Named one of the best books of the year in 2016, this mystery novel set during the 1976 New York blackout features a cast of characters from every walk of life, and the detective tracking them all to solve a murder. Geoffrey Mort recommends “this superbly written novel that, among other things, is a riveting portrayal of New York City in the late 70s.”
  3. The Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage, by Cliff Stoll. Susan Ross suggests you check out this easy-to-read “true crime” bestseller from the 1980’s, which “explains Internet security in the context of a “whodunit” and formed the basis of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.” 
  4. Daisy Jones & the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Bruce Cheriff says this documentary-style novel is “so well done that at first I thought it was a true story - I only found out it was fiction when I googled the band.”
  5. Fatal Features, by Lyndee Walker. Amy Goldsmith recommends anything by LynDee Walker, a southern crime reporter turned novelist (“the crime fiction is realistic and her writing is excellent”), but you can get started with Fatal Features, which is set in an abandoned Renaissance fairground and available as a free download.
  6. The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss. Avi Kelin predicts that this series is “the next Game of Thrones, so read the books now before the movie and TV show debut.” But fair warning for frustrated fans - more than eight years have elapsed and the third book still has not been released.

  7. The Alter-Ego Effect, by Todd Hermann. Most attorneys know intellectually that they are accomplished and competent. But sometimes there is that nagging feeling that suggests otherwise. Francine Tone recommends this book to help attorneys find out “how to show up as your most effective, best self even when you feel less than fully confident.”
  8. Bad Blood: Secrets & Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou. Christopher Loh, patent attorney, says this investigative report is an excellent piece of journalism, “and a great reminder to those of us who practice in the life sciences field to keep our skeptics' hats on.”
  9. Becoming, by Michelle Obama. Michelle Bradford says the former first lady’s memoir “is deeply personal and gives insights into the struggles that all lawyers face when trying to find their purpose.”
  10. Breaking Through Bias: Communication Techniques for Women to Succeed at Work, by Andrea Kramer and Alton Harris. We are excited to recommend this fantastic book by Lawline faculty, which outlines why the wage gap persists in the 21st century and introduces clear communication techniques that women can use to avoid the discriminatory consequences of gender stereotypes.
  11. Educated, by Tara Westover. This fascinating memoir from the child of rural survivalists traces her journey from the mountains of Idaho to Harvard and Cambridge. Michael Santos calls it “inspiring!”
  12. Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World - and Why Things Are Better Than You Think, by Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, and Anna Rosling Rönnlund. In an era that sometimes feels defined by fake news, Max Elliott recommends lawyers check out this data-driven, “thought-provoking” and hopeful book investigating how people understand (and misunderstand) statistics, and how you can do better. 
  13. How to Work a Room, by Susan RoAne. Every day is full of many face to face and online interactions, which can be stressful and unpleasant. Fran Griesing recommends this book to “address the challenges of today’s interactions and provide valuable proven strategies to effectively communicate in multiple settings.” 
  14. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice & Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson. This memoir by the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative recounts the experience of an idealistic Harvard Law grad who goes on to advocate for major changes in the criminal justice system, and the movie adaptation is currently in theaters. Max says “In a very human way, it encapsulates the challenges, failures, and triumphs that accompany being a diverse attorney in America.”
  15. Leaders: Myth & Reality, by General Stanley McChrystal. Christopher Kende recommends this for its “great insight on the concept of leadership and extremely fascinating biographies of many past historical leaders, including Robert E Lee, Harriett Tubman, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Einstein, Leonard Bernstein, Robespierre and more.” A must-read for anyone looking to develop leadership potential in themselves or others. 
  16. The Second Greatest American, by Daniel Kornstein. Another faculty read, this biography presents a new view of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, exploring the impact of his military service in the Civil War on his judicial views.
  17. Spiritual Atheist: A Quest To Unite Science and Wisdom into a Radical New Life Philosophy to Thrive in the Digital Age, by Nick Seneca Jankel. Wylie Stecklow raves “this book is one I continue to keep on my nightstand. The author is also a leadership speaker and delves into understanding our place in the universe outside of religious parameters. As a busy federal litigator in a solo practice, I am often at my wits end with deadlines. This book helps me take a step back and exhale, appreciate my place in the world, and not get overwhelmed - all very helpful tools to keep my feet squarely planted on the ground while trying to shoulder the stress and problems for all of my clients.”
  18. Stamped from the Beginning, by Ibram X. Kendi. Darius Davenport recommends this extensively researched narrative into race and racist ideology in America, which “provides additional historical context to the foundations of traditional American values that still impact us today.”
  19. Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know, by Malcolm Gladwell. Clear client communication is a key part of a successful attorney’s practice. Raymond Furey suggests that “these stories and examples will have the reader reexamine his or her professional and personal communication skills.”
  20. Trauma & Recovery, by Judith Herman, M.D. For attorneys with clients who have been impacted by traumatic events, Geoff Trenchard says this book is “essential reading” to understand how trauma manifests and can be overcome.


Happy Reading to one and all!


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