I’ve been waiting anxiously for the Supreme Court to issue its major rulings for this session, so I asked friends to recommend the best books about the Court. Votes were cast for The Nine and for The Brethren, and the library got The Nine in first, so here we are.
It’s a startling portrait of the justices and their major cases over the last twenty or so years, and I felt I learned quite a bit about some of the justices’ personalities and the reasoning and maneuvering behind some of the major rulings. Based on this strength alone, I recommend the book.
The book is dated, of course (published before the 2008 election), but that can’t be helped. However, I felt at times that Mr. Toobin’s portrayals of the justices shaded toward unseemly. For instance, is it necessary to say that Justice Scalia “raged”? Or to comment more than once on Justice Ginsburg’s (physical) stature? Or to call Justice Kennedy vain? Far more interesting was the revelation that several of the justices enjoy travel and are interested in the views of their international colleagues.
I didn’t care for the organization of the book, which too often was chronologically vague and disjointed. And I would have preferred a narrative with fewer overt political opinions from the author, who seemed to me, at times, to be taking on the role of interpreter of the nation’s laws for himself.
Still, it’s worth reading if you’re interested in the workings of the court.