Monday, April 29, 2013

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

Mostly, this book is the personal memoir of a man who works hard every single day to manage a health problem. He's been incapacitated, given up on life, and damaged by something he has no control over. And yet he maintains a great sense of humor and perspective.

Hanagarne has the most extreme case of Tourette's that his doctors have seen. His tics cause him harm in a number of alarming ways: when medicine failed to help control it, he became ... a weightlifter? When he couldn't stop the noises, he studied to become ... a librarian? While this may seem counter-intuitive, Hanagarne perseveres as a big thinker who puzzles through problems by asking a million questions without worrying that many are unanswerable.

I really enjoyed this book because it's not a typical autobiography. Josh isn't always positive, and he's never certain he'll be successful. He loses faith, and his worst nightmare (passing Tourette's to his son) comes true. Yet he keeps putting one foot in front of the other.

This is also a book about libraries: the people who love them, the people that use them, and the philosophy behind the institution. Big-city libraries are a true melting pot, and Josh does a great job explaining what his day is like and describing the people he meets (I'm reminded to be grateful as a small-town librarian that I don't have the same characters and struggles).

Hanagarne is a Renaissance man - smart, bookish, inquisitive, and polite. But he's also a physical hulk with a hobby that includes throwing boulders for no good reason. The book is well-written, a great mix of trials and tribulations, funny library stories, and moments of faith and reflection. I'll recommend it -  and not just to librarians and fans of libraries - to anyone interested in personal stories.

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