American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
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American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  88 ratings  ·  27 reviews
If the U.S. Supreme Court teaches us anything, it is that almost everything is open to interpretation. Almost. But what’s inarguable is that, while the Court has witnessed a succession of larger-than-life jurists in its two-hundred-plus-year history, it has never seen the likes of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Combative yet captivating, infuriating yet charming, the...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published August 17th 2010 by Sarah Crichton Books (first published November 10th 2009)
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Justice Scalia is one of those people I'd love to have over for dinner (even though I don't quite have his love of opera,) but I don't buy his premise that he's an originalist, i.e. one who argues that the law is to be interpreted in light of the intent of the framers. I mean really, then we'd be back implementing the 3/5ths rule, and I don't buy the idea that the framers all thought monolithically. He despises the idea of a "living Constitution," yet refuses to answer questions that seem to go...more
This was actually harder to read than I had anticipated. The book focused more on his rulings, and it is really hard to see him as something other than an intolerant buffoon with a knack for hyperbole and exaggeration. He characterizes himself as an "originalist" (one who interprets the Constitution as it was originally written), but his rulings seem to indicate that he is inconsistent in applying that philosophy. When the "originalist" criteria doesn't seem to fit, he invokes his moral compass...more
Informative. Interesting. Written by someone not sympathetic to Scalia's views and understanding of the law and the Constitution. She looks like she's trying to be even-handed, but her bias nevertheless shows through at numerous points, often times simply in her choice of words. Regardless, I have learned a good deal about the man and a number of the cases in which he participated. At times Biskupic's narrative becomes tiringly tedious to this non-legal reader as she belabors one legal case afte...more
Holly Morrow
I don't know much about the Supreme Court (basically only what the redheaded Court-analyst lady on MacNeil/Lehrer says) but Justice Scalia has long been on my list of "If you could have five people to dinner..." on style points alone. Hes brilliant, combative, funny, and thoroughly and sincerely committed to his philosophy. Turns out I disagree on at least half of that philosophy, but I can respect an honest proponent of most viewpoints making an articulate and reasoned case for their side. Actu...more
The library beckons. I must return the book. Actually I renewed it, but I am not really making progress, reading a only few pages in bed every night before the book hits my nose. So, I am stopping halfway through. My nose needs to heal.
My son, the lawyer, highly recommended the book. It is good. If I was a laywer I might have finished it. The book describes the career of Antonin Scalia and how he rose through the ranks to become a supreme court justice. The book also describes how the supreme c...more
Jeff Kelleher
Not much life story.

If this first-ever biography of the colorful and prickly Associate Justice were a New Yorker profile, it would merit four stars; if an Atlantic Monthly feature, three. It is an accessible and compact survey of Scalia's public writings and pronouncements, and of public commentary on them. But as biography, it is disappointing.

Biskupic devotes only 21 pages to the first 38 years of her subject's life--the very period the reader is most curious about. How can this be called biog...more
I have to begin this review by pointing out that I'm not a Scalia fan. I picked up this book in an attempt to understand a judicial philosophy that I find anathema to my own views. That said, this book accomplished everything I had hoped it would for me. First, I must note that the author is extremely balanced and fair (whew, that seems like a loaded phrase these days!) in her depiction of Scalia. The author reveals nothing about her personal views of politics or constitutional interpretation an...more
This author was remarkably even-handed in her discussion of Justice Scalia and his jurisprudential philosophy, which is an impressive feat. Scalia is such a polarizing figure that to acknowledge both the merits and problems of his thinking and his approach to judging requires resolve and skill (and probably gratitude for his cooperation). The author explains the legal concepts that the Court considered clearly and correctly without watering things down, with the only exception being the use of "...more
Scalia is an incredibly smart man who really believes in what he's doing, and for that you must admire him. However, I think some of his decisions are impossible to reconcile with his originalist viewpoint. This book does a thorough job of documenting this, but never without staying fair. I just bought Justice Breyer's book on the living Constitution, it should be a perfect counterpoint to this book.

On another note, this book made me realize just how much I forgot about con law after graduating...more
Jason Wilcox
The material on Justice Scalia's early life is interesting. As with most books dealing with contemporary events or figures, the closer to the present day we get, the more Joan Biskupic gets wrapped up in her own biases. Its obvious she is not a fan of Scalia's jurisprudence, and the book turns into a bunch of "gotchas" by the time she starts writing about the mid-90s onward.

In short, first 130-150 pages are worth reading. The rest is 'eh.'
Overall, a great biographical sketch of Scalia, his life, and judicial philosophy. The author, no matter how deferential to Scalia’s intelligence, is in obvious disagreement with his opinions. She tries very hard, however, to present a balanced view of the Justice and the consistent policy of judicial interpretation he espouses.
Jeff Raymond
I don't know what Biskupic's ideology is, but I get the feeling that she's not a Scalia fan, which taints this book somewhat. It's not like I want to read hagiographies, but I don't really care to interpret incredulous reactions about the subject of the book in a biography, either. Not terrible, but could have been a lot better.
Mark Jakubik
Some interesting, heretofore unknown (at least to me) biographical detail about Justice Scalia, it is very apparent that Biskupic neither sympathizes with, nor understands particularly well, Justice Scalia's jurisprudential philosophy or its origins. The former is forgivable, but not the latter.
Excellent book of its genre. The author is a leading Supreme Court journalist. She obtained unprecedented access, and yet provided an unusually blunt, informed, and otherwise useful analysis, which she amplified also on my weekly radio show.
A fairly balanced look at Scalia. I disagree totally with 'originalists' - in my judgment the constitution was intended to be a living evolving document. But the man and justice is an interesting and complex person.
Susan Segal
A fascinating look at the mind of one of our Supreme Court Justices, whose opinions are usually quite the opposite of mine. Helps to understand where the Court may be going in the future - and it's a bit scary.
An interesting portrait of one of our former colleagues. - Michael H. Schill
Brian Cole
Shows the inconstitency of the originist. As the oldest justice maybe he will retire and President Obama can replace him.
An assured, smoothly evenhanded profile of the one Supreme Court Justice who is infuriating and fascinating at the same time.
If you like Scalia, you will like him more. If you don't like him, this book won't change your mind.
Stefan Vollering
A well-balanced book about a superb writer and at times times opportunistic catholic.
Mar 18, 2010 Matt marked it as to-buy-or-borrow  ·  review of another edition
I saw her speak at the GWU Law School. It sounds like a very interesting book.
Loved it! Easy to read. Great insight into SCOTUS most colorful justice.
Excellent study of Justice Scalia, his life, and his jurisprudence.
A little dense, but worth the read. Scalia is truly a character.
Best Supreme Court biography I've read.
What would Jack Bauer do?
Rhea Arsenio
Rhea Arsenio marked it as to-read
Jul 21, 2014
Bakunin marked it as to-read
Jul 21, 2014
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JOAN BISKUPIC has covered the Supreme Court since 1989. Previously the Supreme Court reporter for The Washington Post, she is the legal affairs correspondent for USA Today, a frequent panelist on PBS’s Washington Week, and the author of Sandra Day O’Connor: How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became Its Most Influential Justice. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and daughter.
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