Monday, August 17, 2015

Book Review: Fables and Foibles of the Supreme Court

Fables and Foibles of the Supreme Court by Nancy Hardin - book review
I just finished reading the new book by Nancy Hardin, Fables and Foibles of the Supreme Court. If that title doesn't pique your interest, then the subtitle, The Weird and Wild Decisions That Affect Your Life, surely will. The book is a thoughtful yet entertaining discussion of serious, thought-provoking, and sometimes humorous cases addressed by the United States Supreme Court throughout our country's history.

I thoroughly enjoyed it.

You don't have to be a Constitutional scholar or even a serious student of American history to appreciate this book. Throughout, I found myself entertained and educated, sometimes spellbound, and occasionally flabbergasted as I read. The book definitely held my attention.

I like how the material flows as Nancy lays the historical foundation for the rest of the book with early cases that most of us learned about in school, then advances to some of the most controversial cases that currently grace our nightly news shows and online discussion forums. She really reaches her stride as, rather than languishing in current controversy, she moves back in time again to some lesser known cases, some very important, some not so much.

Perhaps my favorite humorous case to read about was the "tomatoes are vegetables" decision. Hard to imagine the Supreme Court of the United States taking time to hear and rule on a case possibly better decided with a biology textbook. Instead, their decision overlooked scientific fact, addressing the spirit rather than the letter of the law. Wonder how many subsequent lawsuits have quoted this one as precedent?

I like that Nancy quotes Justice Antonin Scalia several times throughout the book. Earlier this year I had the privilege of attending a lecture by Justice Scalia and I was struck by three things: one, how he is able to get to the meat of an issue in mere seconds; two, how much he loves the Constitution of the United States of America; and three, his obvious sense of humor. All three of those traits show up in the quotes that Nancy included in the book.

Something that Nancy makes very clear throughout this volume is evidence of change in the moral foundation of our society (and in the justices themselves) throughout our nation's history. From the discussion on what constitutes a hate crime, to several cases involving the status of people based on skin color or heritage, on to the almost unbelievable ruling in 1927 in which Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes used the phrase, "Three generations of imbeciles are enough," in his ruling, the progression of change is clear. Hopefully moral progression has been positive, though in some cases that "fact" is arguable. I'll leave it to you to read the book and draw your own conclusions.

I certainly would recommend Fables and Foibles of the Supreme Court as a quick read for a high school or even college student going into an American history class. So much of what makes up the judicial system, and even the general history of the United States is much better understood, appreciated, and even enjoyed with an insight into the historic cases of the Supreme Court.

This is an e-book, available for your Kindle, phone, tablet, or other electronic device. You'll be able to read it free with your Kindle Unlimited membership (as I did), borrow it through the Kindle lending library, or buy it for just $8.99 (price subject to change). While the book's listing estimates its length as 31 pages, that seems low to me. I spent a good hour reading it, maybe longer, not counting the time I stopped to ponder some of the points that Nancy makes.

Check it out at this link.


  1. Thanks for posting this book review. I love history and enjoy history books that show the lighter side. I'm going to have to check this one out.

  2. You're welcome, Melody. I'm with you - history is much easier digested in light portions. Hope you enjoy the book!

  3. Wait, so in America tomatoes are vegetables? Such fun :). I'm quite busy with school at the moment but I'll have to check this book out after exams.

  4. Maybe it's because we're north of the equator, you think, Sarah? :) Seriously, it's a great little book if you're interested in the American judicial system. Hope you get a chance to read it. Appreciate your visit!

  5. Sam, this is undoubtedly the BEST review my book has ever received, and I thank you so much my friend. I was going through the manuscript tonight, and I found several things to correct, and also included the sad passing of Justice Antonin Scalia. Watch for the updated version, because I'm including more cases too. Thanks again, I'm thinking of printing and framing your review! :-D