American Epic: Reading the U.S. Constitution

Garrett Epps. Oxford Univ., $29.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-19-997474-0
Americans “have little interest in what the Constitution says; but… we are obsessed with what it means,” argues Epps (Democracy Reborn) in this lively, engaging study. Picking apart every article, amendment, and section—from the Preamble to the 27th Amendment—with meticulous care, the University of Baltimore law professor explores their historical and legal contexts and assesses their origins, antecedents, and their legacies. Given that people have been studying, interpreting, redefining, and amending this document for centuries, even a cursory examination might seem daunting. But Epps tackles it with glee, teasing apart what the states and the federal government can and can’t do, and playing devil’s advocate with constitutional loopholes and other points of interest. He approaches the task with a scholarly, open attitude, and his arguments and conclusions are sure to spark debate among readers of differing political mindsets. His stated aim is not to offer comprehensive explanations but to share his reading experience. In doing so, Epps has created the ideal study guide for civics and political science classes, an intelligent and provocative tour through the fascinatingly complicated, vitally important blueprint of the United States. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/27/2013
Release date: 08/01/2013
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