Review: The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne

2nd May 2013

pg1*I received this from the publisher Gotham Books in exchange for an honest review.

Josh Hanagarne needs strength – both literal and figurative. Diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome in high school, Josh battles his ever-increasing tics without success for much of his life. Crediting his dad for getting him to hit the gym, and his mom for the introduction to the library, Hanagarne relates his journey thus far in The World’s Strongest Librarian.

From a young age, Josh appreciated books, eating marigold flowers in an attempt to mimic a hungry gopher in a children’s book. His mother took him to the doctor, explaining:

“A story went to his head,” Mom said….

“He likes books,” she said. “They give him ideas, though.”

“That’s the point, right?” said the doctor.

Once his tics develop, Josh becomes more and more self aware and angry at his uncontrollable body, until discovering strength training and oddly enough, revisiting the library.

Though I tend to approach memoirs with one eyebrow raised significantly, The World’s Strongest Librarian is the best of memoir writing. Hanagarne doesn’t know the answers. In fact, the memoir feels significantly like an exploration of himself instead of an explanation, and Josh tackles his syndrome, his Mormon background, and his experiences at the library in this improbable tale, making this quote from his friend Frankie Faires both apt and intriguing:

“We get better at what we do. If your body is your biography, then you are, at any given time, a perfect representation of all of your resolved and unresolved stresses.”

As much about the strangeness of a library as it is about the strangeness of a life lived with Tourette Syndrome, The World’s Strongest Librarian is one you should add to your Goodreads shelf.

  • I’m glad you liked this, it’s one of my recent favorites 🙂 It was so darn funny, I had many laugh out loud moments while reading it.

    • It really was funny – and heartfelt.

  • So glad you enjoyed this one. I did, too!

    • It’s just a great book, but specifically for book people.

  • I certainly got some strange ideas from books as a kid.

    • Haha! Me too…

  • Interesting. I never responded to the offer of this one. Mainly for the same reason you stated, that raised eyebrow thing over memoirs. I am so picky about reading them.

    • Honestly, the only reason I accepted is because of the publicist. I’ve met her, and I take her recs seriously. I was suspicious…but I’m glad I accepted.

  • Charlie

    I’m yet to read a bad review of this, and love the different themes included in it. Definitely one to look out for.

    • That’s such a great compliment for a memoir, too, I think. They’re usually subject to the mixed bag sort of reviews.

  • I just got this book in the mail and am excited to pick it up!

    • I hope you enjoy it!

  • this one goes directly to my “to read” list

    • Awesome! I hope you enjoy it.

  • This one has been on my radar for a while…sounds like I should add it to my wishlist!

    • Do it! Do it! 🙂

  • I really want to read this. I hadn’t even heard of it until a couple of few ago, but all the buzz I’ve seen has been positive.

    • Exactly – and as I said below, that’s pretty atypical for a memoir. He’s apparently a blogger, too, and his book developed from that.

  • Lovely review. I really liked this one too!

    • Thanks, Kim! It’s so rare that I unreservedly like a memoir.