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Sandra Day O'Connor
Written by: Evan Thomas
Narrated by: Kirsten Potter
Length: 16 hrs and 33 mins
4 out of 5 stars (1 rating)

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Publisher's Summary

New York Times Best Seller

The intimate, inspiring, and authoritative biography of Sandra Day O’Connor, America’s first female Supreme Court justice, drawing on exclusive interviews and first-time access to Justice O’Connor’s archives - by the New York Times best-selling author Evan Thomas.

“She’s a hero for our time, and this is the biography for our time.” (Walter Isaacson)

She was born in 1930 in El Paso and grew up on a cattle ranch in Arizona. At a time when women were expected to be homemakers, she set her sights on Stanford University. When she graduated near the top of her law school class in 1952, no firm would even interview her. But Sandra Day O’Connor’s story is that of a woman who repeatedly shattered glass ceilings - doing so with a blend of grace, wisdom, humor, understatement, and cowgirl toughness.

She became the first ever female majority leader of a state senate. As a judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals, she stood up to corrupt lawyers and humanized the law. When she arrived at the US Supreme Court, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, she began a quarter-century tenure on the Court, hearing cases that ultimately shaped American law. Diagnosed with cancer at 58 and caring for a husband with Alzheimer’s, O’Connor endured every difficulty with grit and poise.

Women and men who want to be leaders and be first in their own lives - who want to learn when to walk away and when to stand their ground - will be inspired by O’Connor’s example. This is a remarkably vivid and personal portrait of a woman who loved her family, who believed in serving her country, and who, when she became the most powerful woman in America, built a bridge forward for all women.

Praise for First:

“Cinematic . . . poignant . . . illuminating and eminently readable . . . First gives us a real sense of Sandra Day O’Connor the human being. . . . Thomas gives O’Connor the credit she deserves.” (The Washington Post

“[A] fascinating and revelatory biography . . . a richly detailed picture of [O’Connor’s] personal and professional life . . . Evan Thomas’s book is not just a biography of a remarkable woman, but an elegy for a worldview that, in law as well as politics, has disappeared from the nation’s main stages.” (The New York Times Book Review)

©2019 Evan Thomas (P)2019 Random House Audio

What the critics say

“A great storyteller has found his greatest subject in trailblazer Sandra Day O’Connor. Evan Thomas has written one of the most insightful and thoroughly captivating biographies I have ever read: A clear and compelling illumination of Sandra Day O’Connor’s unique voice and place in American history is told through her remarkable life’s journey from a rancher’s daughter to the first woman appointed to the highest court in the land.” (Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Leadership: In Turbulent Times)

“Before Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there was Sandra Day O’Connor, and O’Connor’s story has everything. In Evan Thomas’s brilliant and compelling book, we are given an intimate and gripping account of a pioneering American woman successfully seeking to thrive in an all-male world. Noble and flawed, selfless and ambitious, Justice O’Connor sought a more perfect union amid imperfect choices. Written with fluidity and grace, Thomas’s book is required reading for anyone interested in the role of women in America, the course of justice, and the nature of our politics. This is a landmark achievement about an American original that’s also, blessedly, a delight to read.” (Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Soul of America

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  • Brooke H
  • 2019-04-10

Enthralling

This book was well written and truly fascinating. I’m thankful to have listened and I’m glad to know more about the incredibly life of O’Connor. Truly inspirational

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • KathrynVB
  • 2019-04-05

Remarkable woman, well served in this book.

I am a female attorney with strong liberal views. This book about SOC satisfied my curiosity about America's first female Justice of the SCOTUS and never offended my left leanings. In fact, it impressed me with its confirmation that justices with great personal integrity, rather than rigid ideology, generally decide cases with a liberal bent rather than a conservative one.
I was not surprised to learn that a researcher who had created a system to analyze a judge's leanings over time was able to prove that SOC became much more liberal in her decisions as her decades of jurisprudence evolved.

SOC lived her values. She valued civility and personal relationships with her fellow justices and law clerks, and treated them with a touch of motherly attention. She valued decisiveness and never backed down from the tough decisions foisted on her as a judge. She had a pillow in her chambers, embroidered with the slogan "Maybe in error, Never in doubt". She was a decider.

Excellent book, excellent narrator. Worth your time and credit.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • travis
  • 2019-04-17

LOVED Kirsten Potters narration !

This book captures so much of Sandra and her incredible and inspiring journey but what made me come back to it day after day was Kristen’s reading / narration. The excitement and enthusiasm was ..... AMAZING! I look forward to hearing more from her.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Patti Jones
  • 2019-09-29

too perfect

I couldn't finish. Her life is relayed as if looking through Rose colored glasses. Boo

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  • Crystal
  • 2019-07-29

Outstanding!

This biography is a gripping narrative of SOC’s life, ability to navigate the political scene, and impact on the SCOTUS. I found the analysis of her (small p) political acuity particularly compelling given the era in which her career emerged. Bush-Gore aside, her moderating voice was, and still is, needed on the court. My own brilliant mother descended into the fog of Alzheimer’s, forgetting everything she did in life. It’s sad to know that she too does/will not remember what an incredible individual she is and how many lives she touched. My political worldview is progressive, and I highly recommend this book for court watchers and anyone who wants to read about an amazing, influential woman and her life, regardless of your political worldview.

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  • tuftonboro
  • 2019-07-25

Narration distracting

I bought the book because of the interesting story of Justice O’Connor. The narrator’s performance is horrible. Made the Justice sound snooty. Found all the pauses for affect distractions to the story. Couldn’t finish the book unfortunately.

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  • greenwheels313
  • 2019-06-12

Entertaining perspective on her life and jurisprudence

As a woman lawyer who went to law school during the Reagan years, SOC’s status as the first woman Justice of the Supreme Court, her reserve made her an enigma, especially as she evolved from old school Republican state legislator and became the swing vote on an the Court as it pitched to the right.

Fascinating look at her life, career and views. Scores of interviews from trusted friends and colleagues flesh out this most interesting woman. Highly recommend.

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  • DebWHNP
  • 2019-06-06

how inspiring!

What a great biography! Justice O'Connor was an inspiring woman. She showed the world that you can have it all by hard work, no excuses and just getting it done. These are characteristics that are missing in most people today. I hope that I can retain the positive lessons she offered and integrate them in my life. She changed the world by example, not by force.

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  • Nonnacm
  • 2019-05-29

An interesting story

I enjoyed the book, more so toward the end. Her story rests on the connections and white privilege of her life, especially Stanford on. Working with and dating Rehnquist, living near Barry Goldwater and working in his campaign, state connections, etc. A relatively short stint as a judge before going to the Supreme Court. She had more experience as a political operative and politician. Her SCOTUS record as a tinkerer and minimalist was an approach with both admirers and detractors. She seemed to become more centrist and liberal through the years. It’s telling that she wanted to retire during a GOP administration and then bemoaned the appointment of Alito to replace her. And that she did not respect Scalia, or vice versa, as far as jurisprudence. It’s amazing she didn’t have the foresight then to retire during a Democrat administration! It was sad to see her leave for John, a short lived and futile sacrifice, but that was another example of her stubbornness at times. She realized her great mistake later. As her total picture evolved, I became to appreciate her more and am glad I finished the entire story. She was a centrist figure who was probably the best choice at the time to serve as the First.

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  • ericinspring
  • 2019-05-24

Excellent

What an amazing look into the life of one of the most important SCOTUS justices in my lifetime. SOC was a remarkable person and it was a pleasure to get a glimpse into who she was. I highly recommend.