Summer. It’s the perfect time to take a break from reading opinions, statutes and codes, horn books and the ever-popular correspondence from opposing counsel expressing consternation at your client’s actions/position.
Lawyers as a whole tend to be huge readers. Just Google “Wisconsin attorney” and “enjoys reading,” and you’ll see plenty of results. This is exactly what I did to identify some of the big-time readers of our state’s legal community. I then asked them what’s currently on their nightstands. Here’s what they had to say.
- State Supreme Court Justice Pat Roggensack “absolutely loved” Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane.”
- State Bar of Wisconsin past-president Pat Fiedler, a Madison lawyer and “huge Packer fan,” is re-reading “When Pride Still Mattered,” a book about Vince Lombardi by David Maraniss. “It takes you through the entirety of his life,” Fiedler said, “and fairly portrays him not only as a nationally-renowned sports figure, but also as a person.”
- Another Madisonian, Dane County Bar President Sarah Zylstra, just finished “Never Go Back” by Lee Child. It’s the latest in the Jack Reacher series. “It’s fast-paced, full of action and easy to read,” Zylstra said. “It’s great if you enjoy the genre.” But if you don’t, “Cold Sassy Tree” by Olive Ann Burns, might be more to your liking.
- Milwaukee Bar Association President David Peterson recommended “Iron Fist, Lead Foot,” by Frank Moriarty, “for anyone who’s into cars of any kind.” It’s available in paperback and is a quick read about the Ford Mustang. It resonated with Peterson because he’s owned four Mustang convertibles over the years. A summer read about a summer car.
- Madison lawyer Michelle Affatati is a longtime member of a book club, which recently read “You Before Me,” by JoJo Moyes. It left her both laughing and crying, she said. But if you want something a little less emotional and a little more cerebral, Affatati recommended “The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York,” by Deborah Blum. While Affatati tends to avoid “science-y” books, this one was very accessible and fascinating, she said. Or, for something completely different, try “The Night Circus,” by Erin Morgenstern, a fantasy set in Victorian London.
- On deck for Appleton lawyer Patrick Furman is the fourth volume of Robert Caro’s Lyndon Johnson biography, “Passage of Power.” Furman said he also tends to favor the classics and is presently reading “The Bridge of San Luis Rey,” by Thornton Wilder, who was born in Madison. Furman just finished Michael Cunningham’s “The Hours,” in part about Virginia Woolf’s struggles with mental illness while writing “Mrs. Dalloway.”
- Another fan of the classics is Green Bay lawyer Lucas Schneider, who highly recommended anything by John Steinbeck, but his favorite is “East of Eden.” Right now, Schneider is also on an Ernest Hemingway kick, having just completed “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “A Farewell to Arms.”
- Another Hemingway fan is Stevens Point attorney Jason Studinski, who said “The Nick Adams Stories” offer a “great description of landscape and scenery – great read for a north woods vacation.” Another fine, “thought-provoking” summer read, per Studinski, is “Proof of Heaven,” by Eben Alexander. Studinski also recommended “Any Other Name: A Longmire Mystery,” by Craig Johnson. Studinski said the books are “much better than the television series.”
To that last point from Studinski I say, “Duh, the book is always better than the movie/TV series,” the exception being “Orange is the New Black” by Piper Kerman. The nonfiction book and fictional series of the same name are apples to oranges, but both are exceptional in my opinion. And if you haven’t already read “Gone Girl,” by Gillian Flynn, hurry up and read it so you can join me in not liking the film as much. I started that book on a Friday and was done by Sunday afternoon. Flynn’s other novels are great, too.
Whatever your choice, find a summer literary escape that keeps you fresh and focused for your daily work.
And, if this applies, stop writing those letters to opposing counsel expressing consternation. They make your client happy, but serve little other productive purpose. Plus, it’s time you could spend reading for enjoyment.
After all, life is short, and so is summer in Wisconsin.