The Year of Living Constitutionally: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Constitution's Original Meaning (Hardcover)

The Year of Living Constitutionally: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Constitution's Original Meaning By A.J. Jacobs Cover Image
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The New York Times bestselling author of The Year of Living Biblically chronicles his hilarious adventures in attempting to follow the original meaning of the Constitution, as he searches for answers to one of the most pressing issues of our time: How should we interpret America’s foundational document?

“I didn’t know how I learned so much while laughing so hard.”—Andy Borowitz

A.J. Jacobs learned the hard way that donning a tricorne hat and marching around Manhattan with a 1700s musket will earn you a lot of strange looks. In the wake of several controversial rulings by the Supreme Court and the on-going debate about how the Constitution should be interpreted, Jacobs set out to understand what it means to live by the Constitution.

In The Year of Living Constitutionally, A.J. Jacobs tries to get inside the minds of the Founding Fathers by living as closely as possible to the original meaning of the Constitution. He asserts his right to free speech by writing his opinions on parchment with a quill and handing them out to strangers in Times Square. He consents to quartering a soldier, as is his Third Amendment right. He turns his home into a traditional 1790s household by lighting candles instead of using electricity, boiling mutton, and—because women were not allowed to sign contracts— feebly attempting to take over his wife’s day job, which involves a lot of contract negotiations.

The book blends unforgettable adventures—delivering a handwritten petition to Congress, applying for a Letter of Marque to become a legal pirate for the government, and battling redcoats as part of a Revolutionary War reenactment group—with dozens of interviews from constitutional experts from both sides. Jacobs dives deep into originalism and living constitutionalism, the two rival ways of interpreting the document.

Much like he did with the Bible in The Year of Living Biblically, Jacobs provides a crash course on our Constitution as he experiences the benefits and perils of living like it’s the 1790s. He relishes, for instance, the slow thinking of the era, free from social media alerts. But also discovers the progress we’ve made since 1789 when married women couldn’t own property.

Now more than ever, Americans need to understand the meaning and value of the Constitution. As politicians and Supreme Court Justices wage a high-stakes battle over how literally we should interpret the Constitution, A.J. Jacobs provides an entertaining yet illuminating look into how this storied document fits into our democracy today.

About the Author

A.J. Jacobs is a journalist, lecturer, and human guinea pig whose books include Drop Dead Healthy, The Year of Living Biblically, and The Puzzler. A contributor to NPR, The New York Times, and Esquire, among other media outlets, Jacobs lives in New York City with his family.

Praise For…

“Hilarious and illuminating.”—The New York Post

“Since The Year of Living Constitutionally is by A.J Jacobs, I knew it would be hilarious, but I was unprepared for how thoughtful and erudite it turned out to be. I don’t know how I learned so much while laughing so hard. This book is more fun than a cruise on a super yacht with a Supreme Court justice, and considerably less expensive.”—Andy Borowitz

“This book, written with a light heart and a gentle touch but a very big brain and a deep soul, might be just what’s needed to help turn the fateful tide we confront. It’s a journey that’s at once hilarious and educational. Everyone should read it.”—Laurence Tribe, author of The Invisible Constitution, Harvard Constitutional Law professor emeritus

“I’ll be honest: This is a really funny book. A.J. sets out to be faithful to the Constitution in the most literal way possible, and hilarity ensues. But at the same time, it’s deeply insightful about the promise and problems of living under a political order framed almost a quarter of a millennium ago. And—dare I say it—the book actually offers better ideas about how to improve modern constitutional democracy than most legal scholarship.”—Kermit Roosevelt, University of Pennsylvania constitutional law professor and author

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, should make The Year of Living Constitutionally mandatory reading. In approaching the document as a series of Odyssean tasks, Jacobs underscores the conflicts and confusions that hold it together. And, in a sense, hold us together, as a country.”—Greg Young, host of popular history podcast The Bowery Boys

“In this wildly entertaining book, A.J. Jacobs tries to understand the Constitution by spending a year living like the framers. The results are so enlightening that I may add ‘join a Revolutionary War reenactment army’ and ‘ask Congress for permission to fight pirates’ to next year’s constitutional law syllabus.”—Jay Wexler, Boston University law professor and author
Product Details
ISBN: 9780593136744
ISBN-10: 0593136748
Publisher: Crown
Publication Date: May 7th, 2024
Pages: 304
Language: English