A review of The World According to Star Wars

As I continue to set up this new blog and decide how I want to handle frequency of new posts, I’ve decided to post some older blog entries from my days as a solo attorney. My posts on my law firm site already got a little weird–I can become a little preoccupied with my personal interests, what can I say. Below is one of those older posts, slightly revised and adapted for this new site.

I loved legal scholar Cass Sunstein’s The World According to Star Wars, and I would recommend it to just about anyone. Do you like Star Wars? Then it’s worth a read for his retelling of the origin of the franchise, the short bibliography of recommended reading on the subject, and his brief analysis of varying interpretations of the films. Do you just not get Star Wars? Then read it for its discussion of information cascades and how early adopters and a good bit of luck can lead to the success of a product almost at random. Interested in Cass Sunstein’s thoughts on politics, constitutional law, textual interpretation, the causes of rebellion and terrorism, or behavioral science? There’s a little bit of all that in there, as well.

It’s an easy read, with a light, conversational authorial voice. The book eliminates distracting footnotes, but it does contain notes at the back, sorted by chapter and page, that cite the quotes and third-party ideas raised throughout (I love it when a nonfiction book, even if geared at a mass-market audience, devotes attention to a robust citation system). And while Sunstein does not hide his own political affiliations, he manages to typically be apolitical, and his most fervent arguments, humorously, are left for such topics as “objectively” ranking the films.

The book is a small volume, and the hardcover has some charming design. It’s such a compact book that it’s almost pocket-sized. If you have a free afternoon, this book is great light reading, even though it does cover a variety of thought-provoking topics. Besides Professor Sunstein’s injection of his ideas from other writings and some charming personal anecdotes, the thing that makes this volume rather unique in its discussion of Star Wars is its interpretation of the films as profoundly being about freedom of choice, rather than the narrative of destiny that the films superficially address. Characters shape history through their choices, and they are always free to choose. No preordained destiny dictates their fates. This is certainly true of the films, but I don’t believe I’ve seen that theme addressed at length as it is in this book. So yes, even if you are a Star Wars fan who has read dozens of articles and books that attempt to interpret Star Wars, I think you’ll find something fresh here.

Like I said, I’d recommend it. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.

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