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Category Archive: LIsts

Feb 17

The Top 25 Law Novels Ever Written – How many have you read?

Have you read any of the top 25 greatest law novels ever written? Sure you have, but you may not know it or consider some of these novels as ‘law novels’. I know I didn’t.

After reading a magazine story about the supposedly greatest law novels ever written, I immediately began to wonder ‘who says they are the best’. Who decided, what are the criteria, and why was “In Cold Blood” not on the list?

You may have guessed by now that, yes indeed, lawyers decided. I don’t mean that with any malice you understand, because of course, lawyers might view ‘law novels’ with a more critical legal eye than you or me. However, literature, English, and journalism majors might disagree with their choices. Some of the classics they chose surprised me, yet I can understand why they were chosen.

The ABA Journal published its list of the top 25 law novels of all time last year (August, 2013). They convened a panel of experts, well-read lawyers and scholars, (names listed on their website) and asked for nominations. Next, they complied a ballot of 100 novels with storylines that revolved around lawyers or legal cases. The panel then selected the list of 25, which turned out to be 26 in the end (two books tied for the Number 25 spot).

They describe their final choices this way: “These are stories that have endured for years or decades, or even generations. Many of them are familiar; some of them, less so. Among them are stories of life and death, courage and betrayal, loyalty and honor, revenge and redemption—in other words, human existence.”

• “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote was not included in the ‘best ever’ list because: “In Cold Blood was a seminal contribution to the true-crime genre, but it wasn’t a novel. It was written with all the narrative conventions of a work of fiction…but was too deeply identified as journalism to be considered for our list.”

• Three authors have two works on the list.

• My score: 12 out of 26. What’s yours?

25. A Tie.
Old Filth by Jane Gardam (2004)
The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark (1940)

24. The Fountainhead by Ann Rand (1943)

23. Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver (1958)

22. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)

21. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas (1844)

20. The Firm by John Grisham (1991)

19. QBVII by Leon Uris (1970)

18. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston (1937)

17. The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk (1951)

16. A Time to Kill by John Grisham (1989)

15. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)

14. The Stranger by Albert Camus (1942)

13. Native Son by Richard Wright (1940)

12. Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street by Herman Melville (1853)

11. The Paper Chase by John Jay Osborn Jr. (1971)

10. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser (1925)

9. The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe (1987)

8. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)

7. Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow (1987)

6. Billy Budd by Herman Melville (1924)

5. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1862)

4. The Trial by Franz Kafka (1925)

3. Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1852)

2. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866)

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)