I just finished reading a book review sent to me by a great Arizona lawyer. And I was pleased to discover that it was a terrific read and on a topic that fits Arizona Attorney Magazine. We’ll run it in an upcoming issue.

And that reminded me about how much I like book reviews—when they are executed well.

Here is another review in the September issue of the magazine. It’s written by Judge George Anagnost, a frequent contributor.

If you read Judge A’s review, you’ll spot some of the elements that make a good review:

  • It tells its own story; it is not a forced march, chapter by chapter, through the volume.
  • It evinces an understanding that a book review is still a magazine article, which needs somewhat of a narrative arc.
  • It contains an author’s voice, rather than relying on the importance or prestige of the subject-book.
  • It ties the book to contemporary issues, recognizing that readers will wonder, “What does this have to do with my life?”
  • It reviews a recent book, rather than waits until the book is old and stale.
  • It is written well and in a tone that matches the volume reviewed, rather than sounding like a high school book report (no offense to my high school readers).
  • It is not a review of a textbook, or of a practice-specific volume, which would better serve a subset of Bar members.
  • It’s brief—or at least brief-ish. The New York Review of Books we ain’t, so a book review for us has to be a delightful break rather than a full-fledged escape. Aim for 700 to 1,200 words. Readers and I will thank you.

Given my own criteria above, you’re likely to see a good number of history books reviewed. I do enjoy history, and I’m hoping readers do too. (Here is one exception, a charming review of Reading the Green: The Real Rules of the Game of Golf by lawyer Faith Klepper. She describes the book—concisely—and leaves no snark unturned. It’s not quite history, and it’s maybe a little specific of a topic, but golf, lawyers and humor seemed a perfect mix.)

But any review, even a treatment of history, that doesn’t touch on the modern day, or that doesn’t “reach” readers in a deeper way, will not make it into print—at least, not at Arizona Attorney. Instead, those authors get a polite “decline to publish” letter.

Do you have your own ideas for books to review? Contact me anytime at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Dennis Burke, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona

According to an announcement this morning from the office of the United States Attorney for the District of Arizona, U. S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke has resigned.

Ann Scheel will serve as Acting United States Attorney.

We covered U.S. Attorney Burke and his goals for the office back in January 2010. (He also is a former member of the Arizona Attorney Magazine Editorial Board.)

The Arizona Republic reported on the resignation, noting that it follows on the heels of the recent “Fast & Furious” gun scandal, which has engulfed the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives. Just today, other outlets reported that ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson had stepped down. The Washington Post reports he has been reassigned.

Republic columnist Laurie Roberts had one of the most intriguing—and quickest—commentaries on what she estimates occurred. (Though Arizona lawyer Faith Klepper has reminded me that lawyer Greg Patterson–who blogs as Espresso Pundit–predicted this back in June.)

Here is Dennis Burke’s resignation letter to President Obama (click to make it larger):

The full release is below. We’ll have more news on this as it become available.

Dennis K. Burke Resigns as U.S. Attorney for District of Arizona 

PHOENIX – Dennis Burke, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, has delivered his letter of resignation to President Obama.

In an email to staff, Burke said:

“The work in every corner of this office – your work – has been significant and impressive.  When I first came to this office a decade ago as a line AUSA (Assistant United States Attorney), I knew this was an excellent office and did important work.”

Burke added, “My long tenure in public service has been intensely gratifying.  It has also been intensely demanding.  For me, it is the right time to move on to pursue other aspects of my career and my life and allow the office to move ahead.

Burke was appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona in 2009.  His resignation is effective immediately.

Ann Scheel will serve as Acting United States Attorney, under the Vacancies Reform Act and by virtue of her position as First Assistant.  Burke added, “I thank Ann for agreeing to assume these responsibilities until the Attorney General or the President makes an interim or permanent appointment.”

RELEASE NUMBER: 2011-194(Burke)

On this Friday, Change of Venue Day, we wish a fond farewell to an important part of Arizona Attorney’s sausage-making process.

Faith Klepper has been the Chair of the Editorial Board for two years, since 2008. She has been all we could want in a leader: funny, helpful, snarky, quick-witted. And full of ideas. Brimming with them, in fact.

Yesterday was her last board meeting as chair. Besides the standard plaque issued to all lawyers who have contributed significant service to State Bar operations, she received a few gifts that demonstrate her affinity for the Houston Astros (don’t ask).

As one board member said better than I, “One hopes all one’s rulers can be as gracious, intelligent, and balanced as our proud Queen (plus we especially like her barbed tongue and quick wit). Our new leader will have to run fast to keep close to her performance.”

Thank you, Faith. You’ve earned far more than a bobblehead (pictured below), and we hope to keep working with you for many years to come.