I am two-thirds fo the way through Balkin's Living Originalism. The book is divided into two parts, the first is the argument for his version of originalism and the second is an exposition of how the theory works as applied to some provisions of the Constitution and current issues. The shorthand for Balkin's thoery is "text and principles." It is originallist in the sense that understanding the Constitution starts with the meaning of the texts at the times adopted and the principles then embodied in the texts. The contrast might be with Solum's semantic originalism in which the public meaning go the texts at the time of adoption determine interpretation, with the rest being 'construction' of the Constitution. This is too short to set out the differences between Balkin and Solum, though they are substantial. One of the interesting things about Living Originalism -- setting to one side the substance of the theory advanced -- is the way that Balkin argues his case. The first part of the book is, in a number of ways, loosely argued. It is not as closely or as detailed an argument as one might expect from a book. Law review articles are long, but not long enough to substitute for a book. I am not saying that the arguments are weak or poorly constructed. It is that they are a bit loose-jointed. They move along quickly. Is it that the book is intended as a more popular rahter than academic effort? It is quite accessible I think, so maybe that is it. It is an interesting mix: the notes are quite detailed and useful, and that is where Balkin engages with other writers (for the most part).
One annoying feature is the repetition of examples about meaning or semantics that are ridiculous. Balkin is another user of the example of "Domestic violence" meaning intra-familial violence and not civil disorder. I find it hard to believe that high school students reading the Constitution think it is about family fights. It is not just that the example is "fanciful" but that it is both unpersuasive and built on a plainly false view about written language. The example supposes a univocal disposition for semantic content of clauses that I find very hard to believe.