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The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution
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The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  283 ratings  ·  47 reviews
Updated now for the first time, The Words We Live By continues to take an entertaining and informative look at America's most important historical document, now with discussions on new rulings on hot button issues such as immigration, gay marriage, and affirmative action.

In The Words We Live By, Linda Monk probes the idea that the Constitution may seem to offer cut-and-dri
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Paperback, 288 pages
Published February 18th 2004 by Hachette Books (first published 2003)
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Rachel
Many of BYU's freshman have read this book this summer (or at least they are supposed to have! I'll see if that's the case tomorrow). All of us Honors teachers (and others as well, probably) have been assigned to incorporate this book into our classes somehow. It's basically one of those books that is not very enjoyable to read--especially at the breakneck speed at which I had to read it--but is actually full of interesting facts and general knowledge that any educated citizen should know. I wou ...more
James
Mar 04, 2008 James rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Every American adolescent and adult
Excellent job by the author, Linda R. Monk; she has written a clear and useful explanation of the U.S. Constitution, clause by clause, and actually made it flow nicely as an interesting read as well as being a useful reference. My quibble is that she skimmed over some controversies that I wish she'd covered in more depth, particularly that of the interpretation of the 2nd Amendment and the meaning in its context of the phrase "the people," as this is likely to be one of the biggest political sto ...more
Andy Biggs
Like so many of these types of books she takes judicial interpretation as being the law and not what the authors of the constitution intended.
Nate Smith
Not completed 187/250
I really enjoyed this book. I am a political junkie and so this book was perfect. I would only recommend this book to people that like American history, to others it may seem boring. This book breaks down the constitution, bill of rights and all the amendments. I love how it gives insight along the permitter of the pages. When your reading about the laws in these documents it tells you about times when they were tested. The book was explaining the inauguration process and ho
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Lora
The odd-feeling, clunky title does not bode well for this. I will say that this is very well-researched and fairly well-condensed so as not to be horrifically long. It's actually easy to get through, written at what I expect is about a 7th-grade reading level. The ideas are more complicated than what most 13-year-olds are willing to work on, though.

Generally a good overview of the U.S. Constitution, its history, and why the changes were made when they were made. One of the highlights is the inc
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Jeffrey
Since those taking political office and serving in the armed forces must pledge to support the Constitution, and every citizen informally / indirectly pledges to do so--those who become citizens directly--why this isn't taught every year in high school is beyond comprehension. As I said, the people who take office and pledge to serve this country are those that we vote for, ergo we must know the Constitution well enough to know what those we put in office are pledging to. It only makes sense. Bu ...more
Brent
Jul 18, 2009 Brent rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Armchair constitutional scholars, like myself.
Shelves: history, politics
How many of us can say we've read every word of the Constitution? Before reading "The Words We Live By", I couldn't.

Thanks to Linda Monk, I've read every word, and I've gained insight into the history behind the Constitution's construction, the rationale behind its 27 amendments, and the way the various clauses have been interpreted over the years by the Supreme Court.

One realization that has surprised me as I read this book is how fluid the law is. The Supreme Court has molded and shaped its re
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Kendra
A surprisingly enjoyable read. The book is broken down like a textbook, and breaks down the Constitution, Bill of Rights and the Amendments, almost sentence by sentence in some cases, and gives more detailed information on the lines, along with thoughts from the Founding Fathers, and major court cases that have helped clarify the information over the years. On some of the more controversial cases, it gives both sides as perceived by well-known individuals, without being judgmental over it. Easy ...more
Kristen
Ok, I gave up. I waited 3 months to get this book because there were so many holds on it at the library (we were going to read it for bookclub, but changed our minds). And after waiting so long for it, I thought I should at least give it a shot. But, boy, oh boy. This book takes every single phrase of the constitution and expounds on them, in detail. I made it through about 50 pgs and was still somewhere in the first sentence, I think. I'm sure this is a very good study of the constitution, for ...more
Scottnshana
A nuts and bolts guide to the Constitution for those of us who didn't go to law school but still take the law, current events, and the forefathers seriously. I enjoyed Dr. Monk's infusion of point and counterpoint editorial paragraphs to emphasize the views on Articles and Amendments--you may not see William Safire and George Carlin in the same book anywhere else and I think that only strengthens the book's appeal. I think she artfully included the historical context to each development in this ...more
Shad
So far, this is like a high school text book . . . for liberals. I hope it gets better, but I doubt it will. It did get a little better, or my attitude did. Basically, I think it was a decent attempt at putting out basic background on the Constitution, the amendments and what the Court has done with them (with some newspaperesque additions) in a not-too-biased way. Given its length, it is necessarily oversimplified (to the point of being misleading and just wrong in some areas). There are a few ...more
Jacob Lines
Very enjoyable, easy-to-understand guide to how the U.S. Constitution has been interpreted. Not scholarly – written by a journalist – but interesting and a good start for the uninitiated.
Michelle
Really enjoyed this book. The formatting of the explanation of the Constitution is rather unique. I love how the book took the different passages of the Constitution, and not only explained it but also brought the history behind the passage into the explanation. After reading this it would be hard pressed to walk away with out some what of a new respect for this document. The process a which Monk went through to discusses the various aspects of the Constitution helped in the mere understating of ...more
Dan
The Words By Which We Live?

A nice, concise, layman's overview of the Bill of Rights and the Constitutional Amendments, which is exactly what I was looking for. It doesn't have much in the way of commentary, but again, that's what I was looking for. It has a few outlines of notable court decisions with regard to each Amendment, plus a few margin boxes containing relevant anecdotes from Thomas Jefferson, Thurgood Marshall, and...uh...Ted Nugent.

And lots of pictures to look at.
Sue
Dry reading but the facts I wanted to know are in here. Now I know the constitutional amendments.
Malea
This is like a textbook of knowledge that every American should be aware of. If you want to read or learn about the Constitution, this is the way to go about it. Now I am ready to search for current information. As I was reading, I would exclaim, "so that is why the government does that," "that is what the government is slacking on," "that is why our law enforcement is corrupt," and the like. It was quite the enlightening book.
Tamra
I use this book a lot with people who think they know about the Constitution because they heard about it on the news or vaguely remember studying government in high school. The Words We Live By is incredibly accessible without being patronizing (like I just was in the first sentence). It's thorough. It's balanced. The layout is great. It's one of those reference books that should be on everybody's shelves.
Camille
Good run-through the Constitution while bringing to light current matters that actually matter, without discounting why they matter. Typically unbiased, but I feel this book has a Liberal tilt. I think my teacher in 12th grade chose this to provide a balanced read to the more conservative population she was bound to be handed in my area. Regardless .. very useful read.
Danielle
This book (read for a book club) goes through the Constitution, word by word, explaining what everything means and relevant laws, Supreme Court cases, and quotes. It was actually very interesting (but not a light read). It was good preparation for our upcoming election and had interesting things to say about current events relating to parts of the Constitution.
Tracy
Had to return this book to the library before I finished it. It was interesting and provided a balanced study of the constitution. Having studied quite a bit of American history, I didn't learn a whole lot. However if you are unfamiliar with the constitution and the way our government works, I would recommend this book.
Arlene McComas
This is not a casual read
It is more like a history lesson
I learned so much, when I listen to the political news, when I vote I am better informed
I often go back and read parts of it.
There are many notes written in the margins of my book
Buy verses reading a library copy so notes can be made
Melissa
I really enjoyed this book. A simple and accessible explanation of the history of the Constitution and how it has been interpreted. A valuable asset for all Americans and other folks interested in learning about the U.S. Constitution.
Brad
It turns out that this book is more of a high school text book. Even though it wasn't what I thought it was when I put it on my Amazon wish list, it's still a good walk through the constitution and amendments surveying a range of opinions.
Brian
I thought it would be worthwhile to learn more about the Constitution before it disappears completely.

Rather a simplified discussion of the Constitution and all amendments. Examples of important cases, but not a lot of nuanced detail
Shannon
I thoroughly enjoyed this walk through the Constitution. The book is fun to read and covers the basics of the history and changes to our Constitution, with tidbits of interesting but little known trivia about the document.
ADD
A delightful book. Easy to read and informative not only in the words and meaning of the Constitution, but also the perspectives and moods of the United States at the time associated with its writing and subsequent revision.
Whitney
Quite interesing and full of good information. It is however, boring if you try to read straight through it. I'd recommend flipping through it and reading bits at a time, coffe-table style.
Denise
My niece lent me this from her AP History class. I learned a great deal and I'm glad I read it. It's a good basis for diciphering the news coming from our nation's capital.
Metzi
It's a handbook perfect for a pol sci freshman or an old timer like me refreshing their memory on semantics. It should be a required reading at some point in any US citizen.
Paul
Dec 01, 2007 Paul rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who like owners' manuals
Awesome book...this should be the first book you read if you want to learn about the basics of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Good research and good stories.
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