Title: The World’s Strongest Librarian
Author: Josh Hanagarne
Genre: Adult Non-Fiction
Reviewer: Emily Bedwell
Summary via Goodreads:
Josh Hanagarne couldn’t be invisible if he tried. Although he wouldn’t officially be diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome until his freshman year of high school, Josh was six years old and onstage in a school Thanksgiving play when he first began exhibiting symptoms. By the time he was twenty, the young Mormon had reached his towering adult height of 6’7” when—while serving on a mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints—his Tourette’s tics escalated to nightmarish levels.
Determined to conquer his affliction, Josh underwent everything from quack remedies to lethargy-inducing drug regimes to Botox injections that paralyzed his vocal cords and left him voiceless for three years. Undeterred, Josh persevered to marry and earn a degree in Library Science. At last, an eccentric, autistic strongman—and former Air Force Tech Sergeant and guard at an Iraqi prison—taught Josh how to “throttle” his tics into submission through strength-training.
I will freely admit that I don’t read a lot of non-fiction. It’s not because I don’t enjoy it, but because it’s much harder to get lost in the world of non-fiction than fiction. I tend to enjoy reading as a hobby/passion, not because I want to think too hard. That being said, I found Hanagarne’s memoir to be a poignant, challenging, inspirational story. Hanagarne lived with undiagnosed Tourette Syndrome for years before he was properly diagnosed. A diagnosis is only one part of the battle, though. After he knew what caused his ticks, he still had to learn how to live with them, instead of letting them rule his life.
What happens is a rarely seen look into the world of someone afflicted with Tourette Syndrome and how it can affect and control every part of his life. Almost by accident, Hanagarne finds himself in one of the world’s “quietest” professions, serving as a librarian in Salt Lake City. Through his early adulthood, he is in and out of school, trying to figure out what he really believes about his Mormon faith & upbringing and trying to learn how to control this thing that has always controlled him.
Hanagarne writes with unabashed humor and wit, holding nothing back. He writes about his first ticks, his first love and meeting the trainer that changed his life with the same sense of honesty and urgency. Even when he admits that he questions his faith, he does it in a way that is not alienating to his readers, regardless of their faith and beliefs.
Overall, I found “The World’s Strongest Librarian” to be an interesting book, full of the sage advice of someone who has been there before. As a future librarian, I understood many of his jokes and descriptions of what it really means to work in a library in a way others might not fully appreciate. The only shortcoming I felt was the way his strongman training almost seemed to be a non-point in the book. My understanding is that there is a lot more of that on his blog, but I felt like that segment of his story was a little too rushed.
4 out of 5 bookmarks. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a good read and worth at least checking out from your local library.