Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life
by Jane Sherron De Hart
source: Christmas gift from my daughter
Random House Audio, 2018
Narrated by Suzanne Toren
24 hours and 3 minutes
source: audible credit
The first full life--private, public, legal, philosophical--of the 107th Supreme Court Justice, one of the most profound and profoundly transformative legal minds of our time; a book fifteen years in work, written with the cooperation of Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself and based on many interviews with the justice, her husband, her children, her friends, and her associates.
This review is long overdue. My jumbled thoughts have languished in a draft folder for weeks. They're not getting any more profound, so it's time to hit the publish button.
The first thing you need to know:
This book is NOT for readers with a casual interest in Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I've read other RBG biographies and De Hart's is, by far, the most comprehensive and complex. This is a book for the reader who wants more... more about RBG's childhood, early career and personal life, more about her causes, specific cases, and how they represent incremental progress in the fight for equal treatment under the law, and, finally, more about the changing dynamics of the Supreme Court during her tenure.
Also worth noting:
This book was not written solely for lawyers or legal scholars. I have no legal education or training, yet De Hart is able to clearly explain issues, opposing arguments, majority opinions, dissents, and, most importantly, their significance in language I could understand.
The audio version is a winner:
Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life managed, for the most part, to hold my interest for 550 pages. I approached it as a read/listen combination and will admit that the audio version pulled me through a few drier sections. Suzanne Torren's narration is excellent. Her crisp, authoritative voice is perfectly suited to the book.
But I do have a couple of criticisms:
First --> Does Ruth Bader Ginsburg have any faults? If, indeed, she does, none are mentioned in this book.
Second--> The book veers down an increasingly partisan path in the last several chapters. Realistically, I'm not sure this can be avoided once Trump becomes a part of the narrative.
My favorite "day in the life" anecdote:
Early in her career, RBG argued a case before the Supreme Court in the morning, returned to NYC in time to deliver an afternoon lecture at Columbia, and still made it home in time to have dinner with her husband and children. Rest assured, she did not cook the dinner... but this still makes me feel wholly inadequate!
My next step:
I plan to get a copy of My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, "a witty, engaging, serious, and playful collection of writings and speeches from the woman who has had a powerful and enduring influence on law, women’s rights, and popular culture."
The bottom line:
If you're familiar with the RBG basics and want to dig deeper, this is the book for you! For a more accessible starting point, I recommend Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon.
Ultimately, Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life has left me with an even greater respect for this brilliant, driven, and seemingly indefatigable woman.