Not To Be Overlooked
Not To Be Overlooked introduces a variety of a wonderful but lesser-known books to assist readers in finding their next great reads. The column covers non-fiction with reviews by Jacqueline (In Your Defence) and Alicja (With).
In Your Defence by Sarah Langford
Published by Black Swan, April 2019 (paperback edition)
Sarah Langford’s In Your Defence is a collection of eleven stand-alone criminal cases and the defendants in those cases that Langford represented. While many of the cases deal with heavy subject matters, Langford makes it a point to not only inform readers of her own previous biases and what she learned while a student of the law, but to also help readers understand and look at their own biases as well by showing the humanity and occasional messiness behind a process that some may find to be cold and unfeeling.
Langford herself states that she is “not most people’s idea of a stereotypical barrister,” citing her background in English and how she “loved the way that words transported [her] into someone else’s life so that [she] could better understand them” as helping to her to understand her job and duties as a barrister:
“For behind the clever arguments spun from the pages of a law book there is always a human tale. It is my job to help my clients fit their lives, in all their messy shades of grey, within the black and white of the law by telling their story and telling it well.”
The stories in In Your Defence read as though they could be part of a crime or mystery novel, which shows Langford certainly can tell her clients’ stories well. Langford also knows her audience well, as at the end of the book, she includes a thirty-page section of “Notes on the Law,” which defines and explains the legal language used within each individual case.
Perhaps most meaningful to this reviewer and an incredibly timely lesson and reminder for readers everywhere was when Langford stated her case, pun not intended, for the law itself and why it is important:
“The law is human justice, designed and enforced. It will therefore always be imperfect. It makes mistakes, it is slow, sometimes chaotic, sometimes illogical. It cracks - at times - crumbles. But it remains a pillar upon which our country is founded. Were it to break, the stability of our nation would break too, and we would be all the poorer for it.”
Readers will hopefully find themselves challenged, changed and moved by these stories and come away with new perspectives on both the law and humanity itself.
With by Samuel Wells
Thoughts One Can’t Do Without series
Published by Juxta Press, October 2020
“Loneliness is not the same as being alone. Alone, we can be more in touch with ourselves, the world around us, the essence of all things. Together, we can still be lonely.”
Samuel Wells’ With is a part of the larger Thoughts One Can’t Do Without series, exploring contemporary issues through the lenses of philosophy, ethics and theology. While this is not necessarily my usual choice of the literature, it has been an interesting read.
Samuel Wells is a Visiting Professor of Christian Ethics at King’s College London and his experience as a theologian and writer comes out clearly in the thoughts he shares in With.
Incredibly timely as we are living through the lockdown and the pandemic haunting us in this year, Samuel Wells’ essay analyses the modern condition of living and the way we correlate to one another. Philosophy, ethics and theology are crucial to Samuel Wells points, making the reader think about how we fit in the world. From his debate of the methods of engagement, Samuel Wells proposes a new vision for being with one another.
But perhaps the most interesting part of Wells’ essay for me has been the beginning, where the author talked about the feeling lonely in the era of potentially the greatest connectivity so far. Being lonely doesn’t necessarily mean being alone. We live in the constant buzz of the Internet and new technologies and yet we know less about even our neighbours.
Our attention is constantly fought of over hundreds of devices, news, films and movies. Social media has seemingly taken over our life. And while in normal circumstances, our constant use of social media isn’t necessarily beneficial to our mental health and wellbeing, this year has changed our expectations and lives in an unprecedented way. This connectivity, even through social media, is potentially the only way we can connect with our families, with our loved ones, when travel bans and quarantine period have been imposed around the world.