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The Penguin Guide to the United States Constitution

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  338 ratings  ·  40 reviews
A unique and handy guide to the law of land from one of America's most esteemed constitutional scholars.

Known across the country for his appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Professor Richard Beeman is one of the nation's foremost experts on the United States Constitution. In this book, he has produced what every American should have: a compact, fully annotated
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Paperback, 224 pages
Published August 31st 2010 by Penguin Books (first published July 29th 2010)
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Average rating 4.21  · 
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Kat ❅
I never added this to my currently reading because I've been reading this slowly over the last couple of months for my U.S. government and politics class. It had very good annotations that made of the documents written in a very high style a little more simple. Very good for people a little intimidated my those oldish documents and also very informative.

Edit 1/24/20:
Reread this for a class. Still interesting but I’ve removed my four star rating because this isn’t really a type of book that can
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David
Aug 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting read because it includes the complete text of important founding documents along with analyses and explanations to make them more understandable. These founding documents contain some of the longest sentences I've ever read and can be difficult to follow. The modern language descriptions help with understanding the importance of what is said, or not said in some cases. It also puts them in the context of the times in which they were written. I learned a lot and this book ...more
Skjam!
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Americans
Recommended to Skjam! by: Goodreads
After the last book I reviewed, I felt I needed something a bit more intellectually challenging to recharge my brain cells. Thus this volume, which contains not just the annotated text of the United States Constitution, but the Declaration of Independence, selections from the Federalist Papers, and a short history of how these things came about.

The troubles started in the aftermath of the French and Indian War, which England won, but at high cost, and the British government was broke. Parliament
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Starr Cliff
Feb 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The annotations provided by Richard Beeman are incredibly helpful. This book was published in 2010 and I was hopeful for an updated version, with more recent examples of how sections of the Constitution have been interpreted resulting in current laws and verdicts. I was saddened to learn the author died of ALS in 2016.
Reading the Constitution was more emotionally jarring than I had anticipated. More sections than I realized were rendered null and void, thankfully, by the 13th amendment. Still d
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Mark Taylor
May 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Because I’m a huge history and political science nerd, I recently read The Penguin Guide to the United States Constitution, by Richard Beeman. No, it’s not a guide for flightless fowl like Opus from Bloom County; rather it comes from the Penguin publishing house. It’s an excellent compact and concise guide to the Constitution of the United States, and should be required reading for every American. Beeman annotates the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, as he explains what the diff ...more
Tony
Apr 02, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Building on other reading I found this to be a really useful book. Not only does it cover the Constitution - including the 'Bill of Rights' and other Amendments - but the Declaration of Independence, three key essays from the Federalist papers and five chapters on the context and debates around the creation of the Constitution.

It made for a fascinating read. It always raised a number of questions for me in terms of the current debates in the US around voting rights in particular. Also reading t
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Keeko
Nov 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Insightful annotations and account of the founding documents. Each election year, I read a book to try to learn something about the process, and this book was all I hoped for and more. I saw the author on Jon Stewart, and I liked his enthusiasm and affection for the subject.
One of my favorite parts of the books is how Author Beeman organized the information so I could see how each idea and action built on another. I didn't think the Forefathers whipped this together, but I had no idea how long t
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Peter
Apr 16, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
For someone who didn't to to American schools, this was a very helpful overview. It is quite short and I will continue to refer to different parts of it, as the need arises. It has also motivated me to learn more about parts that are of special interest to me -- I ordered a few library books on a few subtopics and I have looked at some relevant wikipedia articles. Of course, I don't know what I don't know: and so there might omission of material that really should be in here instead of some of t ...more
Robert Parish
Oct 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this helpful

I understood in a general sense that the written Constitution was only part of the story. The true Constitution is the law as a guiding force in public affairs. This book has helped me to understand how the Constitution has went from a controversial overturning of the Articles of Confederation in to the institution we have today
Adrienne Scanlan
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent review of America's core documents. Especially helpful during an election year in understanding the reasons behind the Electoral College. This book is only an introduction, of course, but the text contains references to other scholars and their books for further reading. ...more
Catherine
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Handy and information guide to the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, Selected Federalist Papers as well as a comprehensive history of the US following implementation of these documents and a selection of Supreme Court cases. Excellent resource for students and teachers.
Zach
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, 2017, history
Finished this months ago. Just cleaning out my "currently reading shelf" ...more
Laura
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
Useful, but not a page-turner.
Joan
Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult
Clear presentation. Annotations help navigate this important document.
Shivani
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
This being my first introductory read to America's constitution, I haven't much to dish out as far as insights go. But this definitely got me interested into the history behind the conception and ratification of this historic document. The endeavor by the founding fathers to bring together the thirteen ideologically warring colonies under one banner bordered on recklessness. The effect that the Declaration and the Constitution had is a testament to their talents and insights. And much of what th ...more
Tom Knoll
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent explanation of the founding fathers thought process, and the power of the document itself
Pacific Lee
Mar 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Understanding the context to any idea is necessary if you want to derive the most insight. Reading the Declaration of Independence, for instance, would make much more sense if you knew that it was as much an argument for unity to the colonies (often in disagreement) as it was a statement towards Great Britain.

The guide here provides not just historical information, but also highlights stylistic features that may have been missed (e.g. the list of grievances in the Declaration rising to a cresce
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Tyler Hill
Jun 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2011
This book, or at least a book very much like it, should probably be required reading for all Americans. But, based on the fact that I somehow received a High School and College education without reading either the Declaration nor the Constitution in its entirety, it obviously isn't. So, why bother reading it now, at the ripe old age of 35? Well, to be frank, in recent years, it seems like people whose political opinions I disagree with have become more and more fond of wrapping themselves in the ...more
Jay
Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I am in an active service member in the U.S. Army. My purpose of being is to protect and defend the U.S. constitution. To be exact, the following is the oath that I made: “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulat ...more
Henry
Dec 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: usa
I was looking for a book to learn more about the United States Constitution and The Penguin Guide to The United States Constitution over-delivered! Richard Beeman's writing is excellent, both engaging, informed and to the point.

Each section of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and its Amendments is given verbatim followed by notes presenting historical, political and legal context. This guide gives body and depth to these fundamental documents affecting every American citizen one
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Andrew Watson
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent compact volume including, and annotating, the Constitution and related documents.

If I were invited to the Trump White House I would go, holding this book as a gift in one hand. I'd need the other hand to hold my nose. More at: https://changingway.org/2017/02/16/if...
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Josh McConnell
Jul 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Richard Beeman has a brilliant piece of work here. Purposefully designed to be a small pocketbook for reference, The Penguin Guide To The United States Constitution takes an unbiased annotated commentary to America's important founding documents. Beeman goes through the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, Amendments to the Constitution and finally a few selections from The Federalist Papers. All of these are broken down effectively to explain what the language meant at t ...more
Lisa
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
A compact guide which covers The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, All Amendments to the Constitutions, The Federalist Papers, History and a few Supreme court cases all in 208 pages. A good quick overview if you don't have time to read 800+ bios of the key players etc. ...more
Ray Stickle
Jan 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, 2015
Readers looking to get reacquainted (or simply acquainted) with the U.S. Constitution need look no further. Here you have the original text of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution interspersed with annotations that provide historical background, objective clarifications, and important connections to legislation that preceded and followed the documents. Following the two documents are selections from The Federalist Papers, including Madison on separation of powers and Hamilton on ...more
Matt
Mar 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Penguin Guide is what it claims. It’s a quick reference to the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Amendments with some light annotations. There are a couple short chapters which give historical summaries of the conventions, some excerpts of Federalist papers and a sampling summary of U.S. Supreme Court precedents. My only complaint was that it did not also have the Articles of Confederation, but there was a short chapter in the back which discussed the distinguishing characte ...more
Christopher Watson
Nov 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If you're looking for a concise, accessible, authoritative reference guide to the Constitution and its history, this is the book. Beeman strikes the ideal tonal balance between scholarly and popular, and includes far more quality information than you'd think possible in such a slim volume. Illuminating and entertaining, with terrific, cogent commentary on the Constitution and its amendments. Also includes the Declaration of Independence and applicable selections from the Federalist Papers. You'l ...more
Genesis Hansen
May 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book suffers from the curse of a crappy title - sounds dead boring, doesn't it? We did a community read wit this and the author came to speak at my library so I picked this up to skim before attending the event. It's a short and very accessible guide to the Constitution and other important documents in the history of the United States, and FAR more interesting than the title makes it sound. It would be a great text book for a high school or college class, as it really brings to life some of ...more
Patrick Pritchard
Jul 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
A very accessible volume of annotated text to the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence. This volume also contains three short abridged essays from the Federalists Papers, essays on the struggle of ideas that went into creating America's founding documents and also a small section on notable Supreme Court decisions.

This work is quite enjoyable and enlightening. I would recommend it to any student of American history or many others wishing to know more about the birth of our nation.
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Ed
Feb 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
There is so much crap talked about the US constitution that I had to study to become a US citizen that I thought I should know a bit more. This book sits by my computer to wack back at strict constitutionalists in on line arguments. A good summary and commentary on the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and key Federalist Papers by someone without an axe to grind who writes intelligently and informatively.
Vivek Anandh
Oct 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Just as the name suggested it gives a brief overview of Americal Constitution. For a person who did not even have an inkling of this subject, it proved to be a great place to start with. Now I am greatly interested in knowing more about the US Constitution.
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Richard Roy Beeman was an American historian and biographer specializing in the American Revolution. Born in Seattle, he published multiple books, and was the John Walsh Centennial Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania.

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