(Masterpieces of American Literature)

One L has, for good reason, become required reading for those thinking of entering law school. Having scored in the stratosphere on the Law School Admissions Test, Turow had his choice of law schools, and he chose to enter one of the country’s oldest and largest, and arguably the most prestigious, of legal education programs, Harvard Law School. What happened to Turow during his first year there, 1975-1976, is the subject of One L, a nonfiction account Turow reconstructed from the diary he kept during eight overwhelming months. While Turow’s object is to explore emotions and events that he personally experienced, his meditations on the system of legal education make it clear that these experiences are by no means unique, either to him or to Harvard Law School. The continuing popularity of One L attests to the universality of its insights.

As more than one reviewer has pointed out, part of the appeal of One L is that it reads like a good thriller, as Turow steers the reader through the sustained hysteria leading up to exams and the ensuing race to make Law Review. He relates his own reactions as well as those of his fellow students to the burdensome workload, to the indignities of the fabled Socratic teaching method, and to the ceaseless competition among classmates.

Along the way, he introduces some memorable personalities. Turow made only minor efforts to change names and otherwise to disguise the...

(The entire section is 428 words.)