From Memoirs to Marijuana: The Year in Alumni Books

In the past year, Columbia Law alumni wrote about making ethical choices, sharing cultural power, and finding ways to make U.S. democracy work better. 

Books displayed on a bookshelf

The latest crop of books written by Columbia Law School alumni ranges widely: from the search for a man lost in the chaos of wartime Syria to the nuts and bolts of the emerging field of cannabis law. Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang ’99 spells out his ideas how government can better serve the people, and a posthumously published memoir tells the life story of civil rights lawyer Michael Ratner ’69, who successfully challenged the detention of prisoners at Guantanamo without judicial review.

Charles Alovisetti with book The Cannabis Business

Charles Alovisetti ’09

The Cannabis Business: Understanding Law, Finance, and Governance in America’s Newest Industry (Routledge, December 2020)

Cannabis is now legal for recreational use in 18 states and the District of Columbia. This comprehensive primer on all things cannabis law was written by Charles Alovisetti ’09 and Cassia Furman of Vicente Sederberg, a firm specializing in the industry.

Daniel Levin with book Proof of Life

Daniel Levin ’93 LL.M.

Proof of Life: Twenty Days on the Hunt for a Missing Person in the Middle East (Algonquin Books, May 2021)

Daniel Levin ’93 LL.M., whose nonprofit work focuses on government reform and economic development, describes his hunt for an unnamed missing man in the chaos that is Syria. Part thriller, part memoir, the book describes a journey that takes him into the underground industry of war, where arms, drugs, and even people are for sale.

Susan Liautaud with book The Power of Ethics

Susan Liautaud ’89

The Power of Ethics: How to Make Good Choices in a Complicated World (Simon & Schuster, January 2021)

Drawing on her experience as an ethics adviser to corporations and nonprofits, Susan Liautaud ’89 addresses the challenge of living ethically in an increasingly complex world. She outlines a straightforward, four-step process for ethical decision-making that allows readers to develop a clear point of view, speak out with authority, and contribute to a more ethical world. 

Hope Mohr with book Shifting Cultural Power

Hope Mohr ’01

Shifting Cultural Power: Case Studies and Questions in Performance (University of Akron Press, August 2021)

A dancer and choreographer, Hope Mohr ’01 founded The Bridge Project, a performing arts nonprofit in San Francisco, in 2010. She writes about the organization’s shift from a hierarchical nonprofit to a model of distributed leadership, expanding the artistic canon, having difficult conversations about race, and reckoning with aesthetic bias.

Michael Ratner with book Moving the Bar My Life As a Radical Lawyer

Michael Ratner ’69

Moving the Bar: My Life as a Radical Lawyer (OR Books, May 2021)

Michael Ratner ’69, former president of the National Lawyers Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights, wrote most of his memoir before his death in 2016; it was completed by writer Zachary Sklar and published this year. Ratner’s long career as a civil rights lawyer included representing inmates in the Attica riots and Wikileaks creator Julian Assange. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, he successfully argued that prisoners held at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay had the right of habeas corpus, or judicial review of their detention.  

Mikaël Schinazi with book The Three Ages of International Commercial Arbitration

Mikaël Schinazi ’16 LL.M.

The Three Ages of International Commercial Arbitration (Cambridge University Press, December 2021)

A specialist in international arbitration and dispute resolution, Mikaël Schinazi ’16 LL.M. compiles a history of the field that spans four centuries and argues that international arbitration has oscillated between anxiety, when it was feared the practice was overstepping its bounds, and renewal, when new approaches, instruments, and institutions were developed to carry international commercial arbitration forward. Tension between the two states is a key thread running through the evolution of international commercial arbitration, Schinazi writes.

Andrew Yang with Book Forward Notes on the Future of Our Democracy

Andrew Yang ’99

Forward: Notes on the Future of Our Democracy (Crown, October 2021)

2020 presidential primary candidate and 2021 New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang ’99 lays out his ideas for improving the state of the nation beyond his signature proposal for universal basic income. Yang’s list, which he calls “a small menu of important structural solutions,” includes instituting term limits, open primaries and ranked-choice voting, ending the filibuster, and moving routine government services like voter registration online.