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Doing Justice by Preet Bharara
Narrative nonfiction

Doing Justice

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Preet Bharara, on your first book!

by Preet Bharara

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Quick take

From the highly-regarded former federal prosecutor, an exploration of right, wrong, and a little concept called justice.

Synopsis

Preet Bharara has spent much of his life examining our legal system, pushing to make it better, and prosecuting those looking to subvert it. Bharara believes in our system and knows it must be protected, but to do so, we must also acknowledge and allow for flaws in the system and in human nature.

Bharara uses anecdotes and case histories from his legal career—the successes as well as the failures—to illustrate the realities of the legal system, and the consequences of taking action (and in some cases, not taking action, which can be just as essential when trying to achieve a just result).

Much of what Bharara discusses is inspiring—it gives us hope that rational and objective fact-based thinking, combined with compassion, can truly lead us on a path toward truth and justice. Some of what he writes about will be controversial and cause much discussion. Ultimately, it is a thought-provoking, entertaining book about the need to find the humanity in our legal system—and in our society.

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Get an early look from the first pages of Doing Justice.
Doing Justice

Preface

This book was written, over the course of more than a year, in the midst of an involuntary career change. I held the position of U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) for seven and a half years, extended beyond the usual term at the personal request of President-elect Donald J. Trump on November 30, 2016, soon after his election. Then, on March 11, 2017, I was abruptly fired by President Trump.

Before I left that office, the crises were many and since then they have been and continue to be frequent, even constant. The rule of law and faith in the rule of law, the state of judicial and prosecutorial independence, the meaning and primacy of truth—all are in question and under fire in numerous ways.

Phrases and concepts like “the rule of law” and “due process” and “presumed innocent” seem to do service these days more as political slogans than as bedrock principles. Other honored precepts appear to be slipping too. It seems preferred these days to demonize one’s opponents rather than engage them, to bludgeon critics rather than win them over. There is a creeping con¬tempt for truth and expertise. Rigor is wanting everywhere. We swim in lies, never corrected. And the concept of justice seems turned on its head—holding different meaning depending on whether you are a political adversary or ally.

Certain norms do matter. Our adversaries are not our enemies; the law is not a political weapon; objective truths do exist; fair process is essential in civilized society.

It turns out that the law has something to teach us about truth, dignity, and justice. About how to resolve disagreements and disputes—with reason and evidence rather than taunts and character assassination.

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Why I love it

This isn’t a book for liberals or Democrats, nor is it a book for conservatives or Republicans. This is a book for people who believe that the institutions that the United States is founded upon, while flawed, uncover truth and deliver justice. Bharara is one of these people, and he has dedicated his life to public service, including as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

The book is divided into four sections that mirror the criminal justice process: Inquiry, Accusation, Judgement, and Punishment. Each chapter is made up of the same components. First, an entertaining story about a crime or case, often one Bharara was personally acquainted with. From patricide to insider trading, these stories stand up against all of your favorite true crime podcasts. Next, Bharara uses the story as a case study to create a compelling lesson about how the justice system works. Finally, he takes it up a notch by delivering his personal point of view on how this component of the justice system is working (or not working) to deliver a fair and just society.

What makes this book worth the read is the lively inquiry into what, exactly, justice is. The criminal justice system, helmed by humans, is clearly imperfect. But justice, Bharara contends, exists on a higher plane. That through line is what makes this book a philosophical, entertaining, and dare I say necessary read. It's worth noting: The prologue and first chapter were a bit slow for this reader. But stick with it. Once you hit the stories about Kenny McCabe, the notorious mafia investigator, it’s all gravy.

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Member ratings (403)

  • Cat R.

    Arlington, VA

    It’s quite a dense read but I truly enjoyed it. I find a lot of the principles Preet discusses apply to my work as an engineer and I hear him in the back of my head saying “ask the stupid questions.”

  • Jared B.

    Hernando, MS

    Rather enlightening. I certainly learned a lot. There’s much more to the justice system than people think. It’s not just laws on paper, but so much more complex and human than I think people realize.

  • Christine C.

    Youngstown, NY

    Preet Bharara systematically takes the reader into the world of the Criminal Justice System in an easy to understand manner. His experiences are helpful to the average citizen. A must read for anyone.

  • Rachael C.

    Altamonte Springs, FL

    Doing Justice is not only fascinating but, an essential, profoundly relevant guide in these chaotic times. Bharara's passion for law and justice burns from every page and makes for a compelling read.

  • Cassie G.

    Lithia, FL

    I found this fascinating. Reminiscent at times of Arthur Conan Doyle, and just downright enjoyable! I felt as if I learned another fascinating fact with each turn of the page. Definitely recommend.

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