The Constitution Today

Timeless Lessons for the Issues of Our Era


By Akhil Reed Amar

Formats and Prices




$38.99 CAD


This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around September 13, 2016. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

A leading legal scholar addresses the most important constitutional controversies of the past two decades and illuminates the Constitution’s spirit and ongoing relevance

America’s Constitution, Chief Justice John Marshall famously observed in McCulloch v. Maryland, aspires “to endure for ages to come.” The daily news has a shorter shelf life, and when the issues of the day involve momentous constitutional questions, present-minded journalists and busy citizens cannot always see the stakes clearly.

In The Constitution Today, Akhil Reed Amar, America’s preeminent constitutional scholar, considers the biggest and most bitterly contested debates of the last two decades and provides a passionate handbook for thinking constitutionally about today’s headlines. Amar shows how the Constitution’s text, history, and structure are a crucial repository of collective wisdom, providing specific rules and grand themes relevant to every organ of the American body politic. Prioritizing sound constitutional reasoning over partisan preferences, he makes the case for diversity-based affirmative action and a right to have a gun in one’s home for self-protection, and against spending caps on independent political advertising and bans on same-sex marriage. He explains what’s wrong with presidential dynasties, advocates a “nuclear option” to restore majority rule in the Senate, and suggests ways to reform the Supreme Court. And he revisits three dramatic constitutional conflicts — the impeachment of Bill Clinton, the contested election of George W. Bush, and the fight over Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act — to show what politicians, judges, and journalists got right as events unfolded and what they missed.

Leading readers through the particular constitutional questions at stake in each episode while outlining his abiding views regarding the Constitution’s letter, its spirit, and the direction constitutional law must go, Amar offers an essential guide for anyone seeking to understand America’s Constitution and its relevance today.


  • Roanoke Times
    “If I were stranded in a remote area and could have only one book to read, that book would be written by Akhil Reed Amar — any Amar book. Each one is filled with thoughtful examinations of the United States Constitution.”, Top 10 nonfiction books of 2016
    "A book on the Constitution may not have felt so urgent or timely in any other year, but in the wake of the Khan family's appearance at the Democratic National Convention—and the president-elect's subsequent affront—Amar's expert framework of our nation's most fundamental document feels desperately needed."

    Library Journal, Starred Review
    “Impressively, Amar presents a panoramic view of recent history through the lens of Constitutional interpretation. Moreover, he accomplishes this in layman's language, so that his insights are accessible to general readers. Indeed, Amar's professed intent is to educate journalists on Constitutional issues, and he succeeds unequivocally, explaining what's at stake in landmark cases such as Bush v. Gore and Citizens United, while commenting on the constitutionality of the Second Amendment and the exclusionary rule.”

    Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
    “Bringing an unusually informed and cool head to the tumult accompanying unfolding events, Amar performs a valuable service for his fellow citizens.”
  • Norman Ornstein, author of It's Even Worse Than It Looks
    “Akhil Amar knows the Constitution and loves the Constitution. That is true of many scholars. But Amar is among the very, very few who can write about the Constitution with not just deep knowledge but with insight, verve, an understanding of both history and politics, and passion, and in a way that can be appreciated by legal scholars and lay readers alike. The Constitution Today shows Amar at his best, covering the widest range of areas with strong opinions that are anything but predictable and doctrinaire. At a time when many of the fundamentals of our system are under challenge, this book could not be more timely or welcome.”

    Alan Dershowitz, author of Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law
    “Akhil Amar's compelling and readable new book is so cram-filled with provocative and ground-breaking ideas that no one will agree with them all. I, for one, couldn't disagree more with his opposition to exclusionary rules. But every reader will acknowledge the cogency of his arguments. He makes you think, reconsider your ideas and admire his sheer brilliance.”
  • Weekly Standard
    The Constitution Today hits hard; what is more, it dares the reader to hit back. In this regard, it showcases scholarship fulfilling its greatest potential: engaging meaningfully and unflinchingly with the world beyond the university in terms intelligible to the layperson. To be sure, Amar is a powerful intellectual force within the academy, where his work on constitutional history continues to shape our understanding of the Bill of Rights. He is also an authority within the legal profession, where his scholarship is routinely cited by the Supreme Court. But these essays showcase Amar's influence in a different way, reflecting the capacity of a serious scholar and gifted teacher to educate an audience beyond the lecture hall—to distill complex constitutional questions into terms accessible to inquisitive citizens.”

    Los Angeles Review of Books
    “Amar is at his best when providing historical insights to modern-day constitutional issues... what his new book exemplifies is a consistent commitment over two decades to speak to issues beyond the academic, to engage with audiences beyond a New Haven classroom, and to use the perch and resources of his academic appointment to help the rest of us learn more about the history and principles that guide us today.”

On Sale
Sep 13, 2016
Page Count
464 pages
Basic Books

Akhil Reed Amar

About the Author

Akhil Reed Amar is the Sterling professor of law and political science at Yale University and the author of several books on constitutional law and history, including America’s Constitution: A Biography and America’s Unwritten Constitution. He lives in Woodbridge, Connecticut.

Learn more about this author