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.