Thursday, October 8, 2015

Review: The World's Strongest Librarian

Josh Hanagarne has a great sense of humor and a deep love of books and libraries. That is enough to predispose me to like this book, and like this book I did. In this memoir Hanagarne tells his story of growing up with Tourette Syndrome and living in a Mormon family. From the time he was a small child Hanagarne was severely affected by Tourette tics. It took years for him to be diagnosed, and his family was somewhat in denial about his condition. As an adult, Hanagarne finally found some relief from his symptoms by training as a strong man, taking up extreme weightlifting. He funnels his love of books into a career as a librarian. 

This is a fine example of the fact that a reasonably happy story can make for a good memoir. Hanagarne certainly suffered from his Tourette Syndrome, but he has many positives in his life. He grew up in a functional and close-knit family, he has a rewarding career, and a unique and impressive hobby. This memoir is a story of Tourette Syndrome, but it is also a meditation on the importance of libraries, and a story of a man's struggle to make sense of his faith. Hanagarne is heavily invested in the importance of libraries. At one point Hanagarne notes that every time someone walks into a library there is the potential for their mind to be expanded. That idea has stuck with me ever since I finished the book. I also learned quite a bit about Tourette Syndrome from this book. I had never really considered the issue of repetitive stress injuries- having the same tics over and over isn't just socially awkward, it's hard on the body. 

This was a really engaging memoir. I wasn't all that interested in the technical stuff about weightlifting (and there's a section of the book that gets pretty deeply into strongman training), but overall this was a really interesting read. Hanagarne seems like a great guy, with an interesting story.

Josh Hanagarne: The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family (Gotham, 2013)

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