ELYRIA — Behind the closed doors of a jury room in the county Justice Center, where the fates of accused thieves and killers are decided, another kind of discussion is taking place.
Gathered around the jury table are two judges, a few staff attorneys, some secretaries and court reporters discussing Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man.”
“It’s like Shakespeare — it’s still great literature when you read it 40 or 50 years after it was written, and it still rings true,” declared Common Pleas Judge Christopher Rothgery.
Welcome to the Justice Center book club, where 12 members of the justice system gather once a month to discuss the books they’re reading — from the classics to weighty historical tomes to the guilty pleasures of “chic lit.”
The group was founded by staff attorney Jim Blaszak and court reporter Tracey Reiman, both of whom work for Judge James Burge, shortly after their boss took office at the beginning of the year.
They got to talking about reading and decided to talk with Rothgery’s staff attorney, Tom Dougan, about forming a club. The response was overwhelming, but right now they’re keeping it at 12 members.
“But we do have people knocking on the door,” Blaszak said.
While munching on sandwiches at the May meeting, the group named the books they’re reading, and each gave a synopsis.
discussion derailed once Miraldi started discussing “The Invisible Man,” a classic look at how blacks are treated in the United States. Rothgery and Miraldi debated the merits of the book until Blaszak urged them to move on so they could get to the book of the month.
Each month, one member of the group is designated to read a book and provide an in-depth review. In May, it was Linda Butler’s turn.
Butler, Miraldi’s staff attorney, happily launched into her spiel on “Heart-Shaped Box” by Joe Hill, the son of Stephen King.
Butler quickly ran through the plot — centering on an aging rock star plagued by the ghost of a former lover’s family member and memories of his own past — before explaining that she chose the book in part to compare the writing styles of the father and son.
Based on the one book, Butler, a fan of King, said she think Hill’s got a future in the business and not just because of his famous father.
“I think he’s going to be a great writer,” she said.
There’s a good chance Butler’s review will spark some book sales as some of her fellow book club members likely will read Hill’s offering.
After Miraldi’s discussion last month of “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, an in-depth look at the former political rivals who comprised President Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet, two of the members picked up the book.
“It’s 850 pages, but it’s an easy read,” Blaszak said.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.