Book review: 'The World's Strongest Librarian' is engaging, insightful memoir by Utahn Josh Hanagarne
A library may be the hardest place for someone who can’t sit still or be quiet to spend the majority of their time. But for 35-year-old Salt Lake City librarian Josh Hanagarne, who has Tourette's syndrome and a passion for books, that is exactly where he wants to be.
Hanagarne’s memoir, “The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength and the Power of Family,” is full of humanity as he shares his journey from when symptoms first started at age 6, how it has affected his relationships, work and self-esteem and how he has worked to find ways to manage it. He details his life with candid clarity and an entertaining storytelling voice.
Hanagarne has enjoyed strong family bonds both his youth and adulthood. There are many moments of sweet tribute, especially to his mother. This love is echoed in his and his wife’s struggles with infertility and adoption.
Literary love also shines in Hanagarne’s story. Frequent allusions to other books as they apply to his life pepper the book, adding a subtle spice that other bibliophiles will enjoy as inside jokes. Also insightful are the encounters he has at the Salt Lake City Public Library, where he works on the third floor. His behind-the-scenes look at a very public place is intriguing and will elicit a chortle or two at least a few times.
His battle with Tourette’s is heartbreaking. Hanagarne shares several of the methods and drugs he tried to help with the tics and other physical manifestations of the syndrome. He ultimately uses strength training as a way to gain greater control over the vocal and physical tics that shadow him — and has more success than any other method. He details his ongoing efforts, the excitement of achieving a minute of stillness and shares his reasoning why certain parts of his training worked and some haven't.
As much about doubt as it is about faith, Hanagarne openly shares his beliefs as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including time served as a missionary and a temple marriage, and how his beliefs have changed toward agnoticism. His book is in no way antagonistic toward the LDS Church.
It also contains frequent profanity throughout. There also some discussions of sexuality and along with a story about what librarians need to do when a library patron is using pornography.
"The World's Strongest Librarian" is involving and the food for thought offered within its pages satisfies brain hunger for days after the back cover closes.
If you go ...
What: Josh Hanagarne speaking and book signing
When: Thursday, May 16, 7 p.m.
Where: Salt Lake City Public Library auditorium, 201 East 400 South, Salt Lake City
When: Thursday, May 30, 7 p.m.
Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City
Josh Hanagarne: 'The World's Strongest Librarian'
Josh Hanagarne, a librarian at the Salt Lake Public Library, shares some of the background of his book "The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength and the Power of Family."
Miranda H. Lotz is a military wife, mother of four, and book lover who currently lives in Colorado Springs, Colo.
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