Reading is like treasure hunting. Usually, my casual reading materials follow a theme over some time. One book leads to another; one subject prompts questions on a related matter. Maybe I need time to let the thoughts simmer in my head before moving on to other topics. Or, it may just be obsession.
In an effort to blog again, I decided to write about my “book trail”, i.e., how I came across a title, my thoughts as I read through the book, etc. We’ll see how long this will last. Today’s inaugural title will be Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson.
How I Came Across the Title
When I came across this book, I hadn’t read a full book in a while. Hence, to Amazon I went. Just Mercy was (still is) one of the popular books, with glowing reviews on Amazon. The title sounded religious, but the book introduction said it was about the criminal justice system. Intriguing.
Since I just got married, moved to a house, and began a life of long commutes to work, most of my reading time evaporated. After avoiding audiobooks for a long time (I’m a visual learner), it was time to give them a try. Just Mercy was my first audiobook ever.
Thoughts on the Book
I wrote my thoughts on the book in this post. I loved that the author himself voiced the audiobook, which conveyed the personal nature of his stories. The book was exceptional, but its strongest appeal was the author himself. Stevenson, a living, breathing, full time Good Samaritan, lives an extraordinary life.
Just Mercy’s subject matter, combined with recent events in the news, made for very relevant food for thoughts. It was not something I could pick up and drop, so I decided to read more about the criminal justice system and picked up a second audiobook, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander, a topic for another post.
Usually if I liked a book, I would be momentarily (or permanently) obsessed with the author. Naturally, I looked up other reviews, interviews, news articles about Just Mercy and Bryan Stevenson. Here are some of them:
- Bryan Stevenson’s 2012 TED talk — my new favorite. I’ve watched it multiple times. I loved the humility, the way he packaged the topic of criminal justice in a narrative about identity, and the way he lived a conscientious life. His encounter with Mrs. Rosa Parks was simple amazing. Brilliantly presented.
- Stevenson’s interview with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show.
- The New York Times (NYT) review on Just Mercy.
Ever since I finished the book, I became more conscious when the topic of death row came up in the headlines. Recently, NYT covered Ray Hinton’s story, an inmate who was freed after 30 years being on death row. Bryan Stevenson took up his case 16 years ago and remained in Hinton’s legal team.
- Alabama Man Freed After Decades on Death Row, published April 3, 2015.
- Freed From Death Row: ‘I Refuse to Give Them My Joy’, published May 23, 2015.
Of course, the article on Walter McMillian, whose story was the backbone of Just Mercy, also appeared in NYT in 1993.
Other articles on Stevenson:
- NYT featured Stevenson in 1992
- By Nicholas Kristof, A Shooter, His Victim and Race, published Dec 13, 2014.
- By Nicholas Kristof, When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 3, published Oct 11, 2014.
- Article on NYU Law Magazine.
Articles by Stevenson:
- The Man on Death Row Who Changed Me, published Oct 24, 2014. Also the story in the Introduction of Just Mercy.
- On the books that impacted him.
The work of Stevenson’s non-profit organization, the Equal Justice Initiative, has been featured many times in NYT:
- Before the Battles and the Protests, the Chains, published Dec 9, 2013.
- History of Lynchings in the South Documents Nearly 4,000 Names, published Feb 10, 2015.
- Lynching as Racial Terrorism, published Feb 11, 2015.
- Lynching in America: A Grim History, published Feb 19, 2015.
- Alabama, Feds Reach Agreement Over Alleged Prison Abuse, published May 28, 2015.