Legally Minded Books to Read

In my last posting, we enjoyed some #longreads and today we will discuss even longer ones. The following is my list of 5 legally minded books to read over the holidays:

1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky circa 1956. This book stays with you. There is no other book, which can climb into the mind of a killer with so much detail, perspective, and pity. The horror of the act is observed in the backdrop of a ruthless Russia, where poverty, corruption, and greed reign. Yet, it is tempered by a beautiful and delicate theme of redemption, which is guaranteed to leave you weeping.

2. Bleak House by Charles Dickens circa 1852. I love this book. There is no better opening chapter of a book like this one as the Court of Chancery becomes a metaphor for the thick fog spreading through London like the Angel of Death sweeping through Biblical Egypt when the Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites leave. And so too does the story spread as the wards in Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce weave through the London streets together with delicious characters like Guppy, Tulkinghorn, and Clemm.  The twists and turns in this book is pure Dickens as is the language and the tragic consequences.

3. The Onion Field by Joseph Wambaugh circa 1973. This is another book, which although I read many years ago, I think and ponder about every now and then. This true crime novel, a first for Wambaugh, chronicles a horrific crime in a California onion field and the subsequent court case, which had far reaching consequences both on a personal and societal level. Wambaugh writes a moving account of a factual case and it reads like fiction.

4. A Void (La Disparition) by Georges Perec circa 1994. This quirky book is the kind of experimental writing I find fascinating. A book written completely without the vowel "e", Perec manages to use this omission or void to highlight the Kafkaesque nature of the narrative. Originally written in French, where the vowel e is even more essential, the book is actually highly biographical. Perec, an orphaned survivor of the Holocaust, finds in his missing vowel the personal themes of loss, limitations, and emptiness.

5. Plato's Apology by Socrates. The wry wit employed by Plato as he excoriates the Senate must be experienced first hand by reading Socrates replay of Plato's trial, judgment, and death. It is brilliant rhetoric. Even to the end, Plato had the capacity to teach. Just as we today have much to learn from his logic and reasoning.

Holiday Gifts For That Special Lawyer On Your List

In effort to help those who are still struggling with gift giving ideas, I am re-posting (kind of like re-gifting!) a previous blog, from November 26, 2011, on holiday gift giving ideas for the lawyer and non-lawyer on your list. And for those who just can't click on another link, I have reproduced it below:

I am feeling in the holiday mood, despite the Black Friday antics in the USA. If you have a lawyer on your list or just someone special, here are a few suggestions:

1. Donate

Donations are my favourite way of saying "I love you!" and there are many places that need our financial support and help. You can donate as a "gift" to the organization or in honour of a loved one or even in memory of those whom you will miss over the holidays.

As a lawyer in Alberta, I like to donate to the Lawyers Assist program run by the Law Society of Alberta. This organization assists lawyers in need of help for a myriad of reasons such as substance abuse, depression, and the like. Another organization I support is the Legal Archives Society of Alberta. History is so important and is an ideal worth supporting. 

As a criminal lawyer, I support the John Howard Society. This worthy institution provides support for offenders and their families. For a female touch, the Elizabeth Fry Society also helps female offenders in need of guidance. The rehabilitative aspects of these organizations benefits all of society. 

As a lawyer who teaches human rights, I like to donate to Simon Weisenthal Centre, which promotes human rights and holocaust education. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association works hard at preserving and protecting our human rights and civil liberties. The number of cases in which they receive intervenor's status is astounding. A donation there is a big "thank you" to those who volunteer their time to ensure our freedoms are protected.

Personally, I also support the World Wildlife Fund and the Canadian Cancer Society. Buying one of those breast cancer wristbands, I spoke of in my "Keep A Breast" campaign blog would be another great gift. Finally, if you are a member of an ethnic group, as I am, donate to a worthy cause in your specific community

2. Gifts Which Say "I Believe In This Worthy Cause"

There are a number of gifts you can give a lawyer or really anyone who cares about an issue. Those breast cancer wristbands for instance. Another idea is a "banned books" bracelet from the American Library Association website. The bracelet, which also comes in a childrens' book version, is made of small stylized front covers of various banned books. My favourite banned book included in the item is "To Kill A Mockingbird," which I recently saw as a play and blogged about here.

If you want to get more radical, buy a T-shirt from Rosa Loves, a website dedicated to what we are dedicated to: they provide T-shirt messages with meaning and as a vehicle for raising awareness and funds. Once the goal has been met, the uniquely designed shirt is no longer available to give way for the next project. An example, is this cool T to raise money for Armonia, a Mexican organization which helps the rural community.

3. Legal Stuff

There is a lot of legal "stuff" out there. If you are channeling former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, then you will love the "great seal" pin from the Supreme Court Historical Society shop. Or if your taste runs more Canadian, try the cuff links from the Parliament of Canada gift shop. I prefer something to jazz up my dashboard and the bobble-head President Lincoln fits the bill from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Although, those Lincoln Logs bring back memories. As a fun piece of trivia, Lincoln Logs were designed by John Lloyd Wright, the son of the famous architect.

4. Retro Gifts

Any lawyer would like a gift that harkens to the nostalgic past. The Star Wars: The Blueprints book would make a nice gift in that memory lane category. This spoof of my son's first baby book Good Night iPad would also be a nifty choice but do not buy Robert Munsch'sclassic Love You Forever, unless you want a good cry. The best retro gift has to be The Beatles Yellow Submarine action figures. Admittedly, I have a few in my basement, including the Blue Meanie.

5. What I Would Like

A T-shirt from the Imaginary Foundation. I love this website, with its mixture of science, art, design, and everything cool, the Imaginary Foundation makes me feel creative. Just check out these T-shirts and you can see why. I just bought my son this Kaku shirt. I also want the National Film Board's production of Blackfly, based on a song by Wade Hemsworth. You can watch it here. Be prepared, it's addictive. I would also like the book recently published on JRR Tolkein's original illustrations. Finally, I would like everyone to watch or re-watch Lord Bertrand Russell's message of tolerance so we can truly have peace on earth this holiday season.

By the way, I did receive the JRR Tolkein's original illustrations as a lovely Chanukah gift.Happy holidays everyone!