Fiction and Non-Fiction Summer Law School Reading List for 1Ls

If you're starting law school this fall, check out this list to read

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If you enjoy reading and would like suggestions for legal-themed books before you begin your first year, you’ll find a summer law school reading list for 1Ls below. If you want to check out some other reading list suggestions, check out these lists from the ABA:  The 25 Greatest Law Novels Ever and  30 Lawyers Pick 30 Books Every Lawyer Should Read. 

Sometimes before law school it can be fun to get excited about the law.

And what better way to do that then reading some quality fiction and non-fiction. This list won't necessarily make you an excellent law student, but it will get you excited about the law and also entertain you while you are relaxing over the summer. 

But before we dive into the list of things to read this summer, a note on what not to read -- law school textbooks and supplements. Trust me, you will have plenty of time to read them in law school. I wouldn't worry about the substantive law during your pre-law summer. Instead, think about working on the skills needed to make you the best law student you can be

Legal Fiction 

  • The Paper Chase by John Jay Osborn Jr. 
    • This book, which is also a well-known legal film, follows the story of James Heart who attends Harvard Law School. You will watch him struggle in class, study for exams and fall in love. (Little known fact, the author is now a law professor himself. I have taken his class and he is not as intimidating as Prof. Kingsfield in the book!)
  • Billy Budd by Herman Melville
    • Billy Budd is about a sailor on a British Warship. But, when he is falsely accused of mutiny he strikes back, killing another person on the ship. He is tried at sea and the book takes you through the case. 
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    • One of my favorite-all-time books. The book highlights Atticus Finch who is a lawyer that has inspired new lawyers and law students for generations. If you didn't read it in school, pick up a copy today (or watch the movie which is also excellent). 
  • The Firm by John Grisham 
    • Mitch McDeere is recruited as a high paid associate at a law firm, but he learns he is actually working for a crime family. If you would rather, you can also check out the movie.
  • A Time to Kill by John Grisham
    • If you are interested in the death penalty, you might enjoy this book. This is John Grisham's first novel and many think his best. There is also a movie if you would rather have a movie night
  • Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow
    • This is Turow's first novel about a prosecutor accused of murdering his colleague. There is political intrigue, legal maneuvering and a quality ending. 
  • Defending Jacob by William Landay 
    • The author is a prosecutor-turned-novelist. He takes the transcript of a trial and turns it into a very riveting story (which is not an easy thing to do). I actually listened to it as a book-on-take during a road trip and I thought the story was excellent! 

Non-Fiction 

  • A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr

    • The book discusses a toxic tort case in Massachusetts and gives you a window into how this type of litigation works. You might have also seen the move about this case too. 

  • Becoming Justice Blackmun by Linda Greenhouse
    • This book discusses the mysterious world of the Supreme Court.  
  • One L by Scott Turow
    • A well known account of a first year law student at Harvard Law. I will warn you, it might stress you out about your 1L experience. You have been warned (and really, 1L year isn't that bad). 
  • Personal History by Katharine Graham 
    • Not necessarily about the law, but if you are interested in the press and freedom of the press, you will be interested in the later chapters of this book. 
  • My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor 
    • This is a nice read about Justice Sotomayor of the United States Supreme Court. Her book is honest and interesting for those just beginning their law school 
  • Mindset by Carol Dweck 
    • ​This is a fantastic book that has nothing to do with law school, but also everything to do with law school. This book teaches you about two different mindsets. One that can really help you be successful in law school and one that will stand in your way of success. Which one will you choose