What To Read When You're On Jury Duty

Librarians are one of the most trusted professions, just below nurses, according to this report from Maine State Library, and according to the fact that we always cite our shit (see: what I just said). This particular librarian also has what the Buzzfeeders refer to as Resting Nice Face. Put it together and what have you got? JURY DUTY.


Me in the jury box


During the two weeks I was sitting on this trial, I had time to reflect (there is A LOT of sitting around time when you're not in the box and you're not allowed to talk about the case) on my apparent double trustworthiness. Should I use it for evil? Dinin' and dashing? Direct sales "parties" on Facebook? Leading a double life as The Jackal, hustling hustlers a la Glenne Headly in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (RIP Ms. Headly)?

No, I decided. Trustworthiness is basically a superpower in this goddamn day and age and I'm going to use it for good. I'm going to use it to convince you that I know what you should read if you should ever be called to go a courtin'. Without further deliberation (ehhhh?), I give you:


You may think I'm going to recommend a bunch of true crime or surly detective novels. No way, man. If you're chosen for jury duty, you need your mind fresh. You don't want to be confusing the defendant with the Gone Girl. Save your sleuthing reads for after the trial when you've learned more lawyer words and can pretend you're a forensics expert because you heard 15 minutes of testimony.

In the beginning, you want either a book that you can pick up and put down a lot or a book that's so engrossing you'll be able to jump right back into it when the judge calls a recess. This is not the week to read the dense classic you've always been meaning to get to. You'll have the time, but not the focus. There is so much hurry-up and wait with jury duty and you will, of course, be deciding on a verdict that affects lives, which will hopefully be taking up a lot of room in your brain.


Fun and smart books with lots of pictures exist in the form of Abbi Jacobson's Carry This Book and Slaughterhouse 90210: Where Great Books Meet Pop Culture by Maris Kreizman. Jacobson's book is a collection of her drawings of the imaginary contents of famous characters' purses and pockets. If you don't mind snorting with laughter in front of the other jurors, bring this. In Slaughterhouse 90210, Kreizman pairs quotes from poignant literature with pictures of pop stars and famous films and TV shows. I believe there is at least one pairing that will pierce your heart, no matter what you like to read or watch. For me there were several.

If you're looking for more text, but still in tiny doses, may I suggest Stuart Dybek's book of short short stories, Ecstatic Cahoots, or, as you will soon learn if you keep reading this blog, ANYTHING BY STUART DYBEK. He is a beautiful writer so you won't even mind rereading the passages when you come back to it after you've lost your place. Another beautiful and brief writer, but on the more casual and relatable end of the spectrum is Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Her two sort-of memoirs, sort-of just insight into the human soul in book form are titled Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life and Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Poetry also falls into the quick pick up category (I have a dream to have a library in a house and in that house the poetry will be shelved in the bathroom so readers can concentrate in short blocks of time) and an excellent book of poems that reads more like a novel is Fanny Says by Nickole Brown. Brown's book is a collection of poems about her Southern grandmother, Fanny, and the advice the matriarch passed down throughout her life as well as the impact she had on the author. All of the books mentioned in this paragraph are funny and sweet and sad at different moments. You're already going to be going through a lot of emo in the jury room. Don't fight it. Kick it up a notch.


Celebrity memoirs, especially rock star ones, tend to be of the OHMYGODWHATTHE Can't Put Down variety. Like these:

Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny by Nile Rodgers

Rodgers wrote and/or produced sooo much amazing pop music. He's worked with all the stars, from the 1970s to now. He wrote "I'm Coming Out" and now he wants the world to know his life story. As with the best celebrity memoirs, Rodgers' childhood and personal life are even more fascinating than the tidbits about the other famous folks. 

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

This book will get you alllll the way through the trial. It's long, but it's interesting and poignant and way more honest than most celebrity memoirs. Springsteen is as great at writing longform as he is at songwriting. And I reread the part about him falling in love with Patti three times and then listened to both their records from that era on repeat and now I know all the words to "Brilliant Disguise".

Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness, or My Life as a Fabulous Ronette by Ronnie Spector

Looking for something to talk about to the other jurors? This book is some crazy shit. Ronnie Spector tells the story of her singing career and rise to fame as lead of The Ronettes, her marriage to Phil Spector and the subsequent havoc their union wreaked on her life. I don't want to spoil it, but just expect to be shocked and keep the style board on your Pinterest page open to pin photos of Ronnie in all her high hair glam.


If you're not into memoirs and you're actually missing being at work instead of sitting in a sweaty room with eleven strangers, you might try some novels set in the workplace. For a realistic fast read that will make all of your senses tingle, try Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler, a novel based on Danler's real life experience as a waitress at a high end restaurant in New York City. You could also get weird in the best way and read Helen Phillips' The Beautiful Bureaucrat, about a woman who finds an office job in a strange gray building with eerie walls and an even eerier boss. Then her husband disappears. Precise and chilling writing.


Face it, you're in it for the long haul. Might as well learn something. You could take this endless ways, but I chose two for you:


Try In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed by Carl Honore and learn about how, since the Industrial Revolution, we've been wasting a lot of time trying to be faster and how to find balance in a chaotic speed-hungry world. Or look at the fact that you're not allowed to bring your phone into the courthouse as an opportunity to read the history of human memory and our digital future in When We Are No More: How Digital Memory Is Shaping Our Future by Abby Smith Rumsey. Or you could meditate on Buddhism Plain and Simple: The Practice of Being Aware, Right Now, Every Day by Steve Hagen which is an excellent primer on the teachings of the Buddha. Or you could just sit there.


I enjoy reading books about productivity and making good habits. I never get around to actively taking the advice in the books, but I'm pretty sure that, little by little, some of the information I'm digesting is taking hold. Here are some of my favorites, in case your only plan for de-stressing is making more plans:

The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use It For Life by Twyla Tharp

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

The Other 8 Hours: Maximize Your Free Time to Create New Wealth & Purpose by Robert Pagliarini

Good luck, fellow juror. I hope these books "overrule" your world (ehhhh?). You're dismissed.


Short Story for Summer

I wrote this story for a zine I made a few years ago. Please enjoy or stop reading it if you're not enjoying it. Summer's too short.

The Summer Mickey Lost His Finger Trying to Start the Lawn Mower in the Dark

Wendy told her husband that he smelled like a stranger while they were making love and he got the impression that she liked the idea of the stranger more than the idea of him. The husband pouted and Wendy went out to the couch. He did smell like a stranger because he’d been to a two-day training about a new type of cash register and he’d used the hotel shampoo, plus the liquor on his breath. He drank the liquor after he got back because it was his first job thing away from home and he wanted to feel like a weary travelling businessman and not a second-generation gas station owner.

So that’s why Wendy was on the couch and it was because she was on the couch she heard Mick scream from his garage next door and ran over. Not because they were involved in some tryst, although they were and had been all through the summer. Mickey and Wendy had slept together three times, mostly because, in May, Mick had seen her bent over in her garden in pink shorts that were too short and too tight and couldn’t stop thinking about her ass (she was wearing shorts that were too short and tight because she’d had them since high school, but couldn’t part with them, so she had banished them to yard work clothes). Then he got the courage up or had drank enough or was just stupid and bold enough to ask her why she wasn’t wearing the pink shorts one day in June at the gas station while she was giving him change (on the old cash register where the drawer jammed and he had more time to think of something to say while she unjammed it). And Wendy had blushed and uncrossed her legs on the stool she was sitting on. She blushed and uncrossed her legs because he made her feel like she was a teenager again and she’d never felt as pretty as she did when she was a teenager (which is why she couldn’t part with the pink shorts). So Wendy said, still blushing, “I can’t even button them up anymore.” And Mick said, “Even better,” and walked out quick. 

He walked out quick because his wife, Rachelle, was outside honking the horn. She was honking because she’d seen the pink shorts too, not just this May, but four summers straight at the beach back in high school (and she didn’t button them up then either). Rachelle had disliked Wendy since forever because Wendy had always been too cheerful. She had been cheerful because she was happy and pretty and free. Rachelle had never been cheerful because the women in her family just never were. They said Rachelle’s grandfather died young because he didn’t believe in divorce. Har har.

So that’s why Rachelle assumed Wendy was in the garage in her nightgown for the wrong reasons when her husband cut his finger off and she shouted and wailed and the cops came. Mrs. Berza called the cops because Mrs. Berza called the cops every time something woke up her dogs and the cops were slow to come for that same reason. And that’s why they never got the finger back on. 

Wendy and Mickey never fooled around again after that. Mick griped it was because of his missing digit and Wendy said no, it was just too much drama, but really it was because she kept thinking about her husband, in a way, as the stranger, as the weary businessman, and she fell back in love with him. To themselves they always use the summer Mickey lost his finger as a marker for the time their marriage got its second wind. 

I don’t know why he was trying to start the damn mower in the dark. Who knows why these things happen?

This is the zine I made in case you would like to send me $4.00 and read it. Hand sewn and contains one confession.

This is the zine I made in case you would like to send me $4.00 and read it. Hand sewn and contains one confession.

What Would Winona Read: Lelania Pierce

&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; Welcome to the world of the emotionally mature.

          Welcome to the world of the emotionally mature.

Reality Bites. Synopsis: Beautiful slacker/filmmaker Lelania Pierce graduates college and finds herself living what she will look on back in her old age as The Fucking Dream- hanging out with Janeane Garafolo, drinking Big Gulps and going to see shitty bands. But for no good reason she wants more out of life. She applies for some jobs and must choose between compromising her art with Michael (Ben Stiller) or her loser roommate Troy (Ethan Hawke) who gave her puppy dog eyes after his dad died. This movie is The Best. Remember when all you had to worry about was not compromising your art and which loser guy you were going to crash with for a few years? Lelania does.

In 2017, Lelania is divorced, if she ever even convinced Troy to agree to the institution of marriage, which she totally did in the year 2005 because he needed insurance. She found a decent paying job making commercials and, later, viral videos for non-profits, and dabbled with documentary film on the side, but was disenchanted by the onslaught of reality TV. Troy rode his own melt into a series of bullshit capitalist jobs that he justified his employment at by stealing anything he could get his hands on. For awhile, during good times, they hosted a monthly game night where they would guzzle beer and raffle off his random pilfered goods. Staplers, legal pads, cartons of chai tea mix, natural peanut butter, postage stamps, that sort of thing. During bad times, he fucked around, gave her that old "I may do mean things but I'm the only real thing you've got" schpiel, and made her film acoustic videos for his Youtube channel, Hey That Used To Be My Bike.

'90s slacker love couldn't stand up to the recession. Lelania sold out by making video ads for a pizza company in order to pay the bills, using old footage from her college years, which defines irony? She still doesn't know. After losing most of her non-profit work to interns, she now films dating profiles for a Generation X-only dating service where you sign up through zine subscription and send VHS tapes to your matches. She has recently gotten into selling essential oils, half-heartedly, as Lainey does most things. 

Troy fell ass backwards into money when a financier mistook his cynicism and perfect latte foam for wisdom, but somehow managed to fuck it up. The financial stress and Troy's morals-when-convenient attitude, plus the neighbor chick he fucked culminated in a "divorce", though neither has filed paperwork. Troy moved out and is currently crashing with a chick he met through Airbnb the last time the last band he was in toured. He has a big following on Twitter because, if you don't know him, a lot of the shit he says makes sense. He remains under no orders to make the world a better place. The uncouple have one teenage daughter together, Jane, and she and Lelania are very close and Jane is the most responsible of the three.

In case you're curious, Vickie still works at The Gap and has a side hustle selling her old clothes and "reimagined" Gap jeans on Etsy. Lelaina's daughter models them and since she looks like a teenage Winona Ryder, business is good. Vickie is really into journaling. And she's happy because I want Janeane Garafolo to be happy. Sammy lives on a Texas farm with his partner and two kids. He and Vickie and Lelaina go on a trip every year together and the trip is getting super stoned at Sammy's farmhouse and telling old stories. 

Michael makes training videos for Silicon Valley upstarts and every once in awhile someone will recognize him from In Your Face. On those nights, he lies to his wife and kids about where he's going and parks at the 7-11. He has a big Slurpee and tries in vain to find Lelaina on Facebook.

But the question on everyone's mind is: what is Lainey reading?

Anything with "self care" in the title, for starters. Anything with quizzes about one's empowerment or intimacy style. Our heroine doesn't "power through" stressful times. She likes to wallow. Lelaina is also browsing The Awakened Psychic: What You Need to Know to Develop Your Psychic Abilities by Kala Ambrose and Be Your Own Herbalist: Essential Herbs for Health, Beauty and Cooking by Michelle Schoffro Crook. And while those two books on their own might be fine- together they give off a little bit of a manic witch vibe. 

Waaaait a minute...

Waaaait a minute...

What else? She's also trying to track down a biography of the band Squeeze. Sorry Lainey, it doesn't exist. At Vick's suggestions, she's trying out The 52 Lists Project: A Year of Weekly Journaling Inspiration by Moorea Seal. And in a few weeks when she's digging through her old stuff looking for her favorite holey oversized t-shirt, which she will look inexplicably adorable in, she'll stumble across an old worn out copy of Rebel Without A Crew: Or How a 23 Year Old Film Maker with $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player by Robert Rodriguez and be inspired to make art again. But first she needs money. So please buy some essential oils from her. She makes a peppermint infused foot oil that will literally give you the best night of sleep, you guys. And she's working on a version of Thieves Oil that will banish Troys instead of sickness.

What I would recommend for today's Lelaina Pierce:

Lelaina Books.png

This Is How by Augusten Burroughs (for real talk)

Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chodron (for gentle real talk)

Country Music Hair by Erin Duvall (for fun)

NOLO Guide to Divorce and Money (for on the off chance that Troy decides to apply himself. He's pretty fucking smart)

Heartburn by Nora Ephron or Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher (for great semi-autobiographical fiction about messy lives with a nostalgic vibe)

In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing by Walter Murch (for, like, work)

Good luck out there, Lainey. It's a different world, but sometimes, if we're lucky, they still play "My Sharona" on the radio.