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A "Supreme" reading list: Books about SCOTUS

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Visitors line up outside of the U.S. Supreme Court
Visitors line up outside of the U.S. Supreme Court as they wait to go inside to view Antonin Scalia's casket lying in repose.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

With controversy brewing over President Obama's forthcoming nomination of a new justice, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, it's a ripe time to study up on the history of the country's highest court.

Tim Johnson, a University of Minnesota professor and author of "Oral Arguments and Decision Making on the U.S. Supreme Court," shared a reading list for those curious about the court. 

A "Supreme" reading list: On the history of the Supreme Court

Publishers provided the book descriptions below.

"The Choices Justices Make" by Jack Knight and Lee Epstein

"The Choices Justices Make" is a groundbreaking work that offers a strategic account of Supreme Court decision making. Justices realize that their ability to achieve their policy and other goals depends on the preferences of other actors, the choices they expect others to make, and the institutional context in which they act. All these factors hold sway over justices as they make their decisions, from which cases to accept, to how to interact with their colleagues, and what policies to adopt in their opinions.

"The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court" by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong

"The Brethren" is the first detailed behind-the-scenes account of the Supreme Court in action.

Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong have pierced its secrecy to give us an unprecedented view of the Chief and Associate Justices — maneuvering, arguing, politicking, compromising and making decisions that affect every major area of American life.

"Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR's Supreme Court Justices" by Noah Feldman

A tiny, ebullient Jew who started as America's leading liberal and ended as its most famous judicial conservative. A Klansman who became an absolutist advocate of free speech and civil rights. A backcountry lawyer who started off trying cases about cows and went on to conduct the most important international trial ever. A self-invented, tall-tale Westerner who narrowly missed the presidency but expanded individual freedom beyond what anyone before had dreamed. 

"Scorpions" tells the story of these four great justices: their relationship with Roosevelt, with each other, and with the turbulent world of the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War.

"Deciding to Decide: Agenda Setting in the United States Supreme Court" by H.W. Perry, Jr.

 Of the nearly five thousand cases presented to the Supreme Court each year, less than 5 percent are granted review. How the Court sets its agenda, therefore, is perhaps as important as how it decides cases. H. W. Perry, Jr., takes the first hard look at the internal workings of the Supreme Court, illuminating its agenda-setting policies, procedures, and priorities as never before.

"The Rehnquist Choice: The Untold Story of the Nixon Appointment That Redefined the Supreme Court" by John W. Dean

 In 1971, William Rehnquist seemed the perfect choice to fill a seat on the United States Supreme Court. He was a young, well-polished lawyer who shared many of President Richard Nixon's philosophies and faced no major objections from the Senate. But in truth, the nomination was anything but straightforward. Now, for the first time, former White House counsel John Dean tells the improbable story of Rehnquist's appointment.

"Gideon's Trumpet" by Anthony Lewis

"Gideon's Trumpet" is the history of James Earl Gideon's landmark fight for the right to legal counsel. The book has sold more than 800,000 copies since it was first published in 1964.

"Becoming Justice Blackmun: Harry Blackmun's Supreme Court Journey" by Linda Greenhouse

In this acclaimed biography, Linda Greenhouse of The New York Times draws back the curtain on America's most private branch of government, the Supreme Court. Greenhouse was the first print reporter to have access to the extensive archives of Justice Harry A. Blackmun (1908-99), the man behind numerous landmark Supreme Court decisions, including Roe v. Wade.

"Closed Chambers: The Rise, Fall, and Future of the Modern Supreme Court" by Edward Lazarus

In this eloquent, trailblazing account, with a new chapter covering Bush v. Gore, Guantanamo, and other recent controversial court decisions, Edward Lazarus, who served as a clerk to Justice Harry Blackmun, presents a searing indictment of a court at war with itself and often in neglect of its constitutional duties. Combining memoir, history, and legal analysis, Lazarus reveals in astonishing detail the realities of what takes place behind the closed doors of the U.S. Supreme Court — an institution that through its rulings holds the power to affect the life of every American.

For those specifically interested in confirmation hearings, Johnson recommended two books: "Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings in the U.S. Senate: Reconsidering the Charade," by Dion Farganis and Justin Wedeking; and "Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings and Constitutional Change," by Paul Collins and Lori Ringhand.