5 Good Books about the U.S. Constitution

  • January 18, 2021

How well do you know America’s founding document?

5 Good Books about the U.S. Constitution

The Constitution may have been written more than two centuries ago, but its contents are urgently relevant today. If you’ve never read this foundational text — or are murky on its origins — explore the titles below. Understanding how America got started is key to ensuring we keep going.

American Epic: Reading the U.S. Constitution by Garrett Epps (Oxford University Press). Taking the Constitution on its own terms, the author leads a fascinating literary exploration of the 7,500 words of the document itself.

The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution by David O. Stewart (Simon & Schuster). This book offers a compelling narrative about the brilliant though sometimes angry and scheming personalities who produced the world’s first written charter for a republic.

The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay (multiple editions). First published in newspapers as advocacy pieces, the collective wisdom of these 85 essays on the new American government has never been surpassed.

Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788 by Pauline Maier (Simon & Schuster). Once the Constitution was written, the states still had to ratify it, and the process proved to be difficult, dramatic, and enlightening.

James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights by Richard Labunski (Oxford University Press). The Framers of the Constitution neglected to include most protections for individual rights, so Madison and the First Congress undertook that essential effort in 1789. 

[Editor’s note: This piece first ran in 2014, but we wanted to share it again now. See “urgently relevant,” above.]

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