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Book Review

‘The World’s Strongest Librarian’ finds humor, faith despite Tourette


BookCourtesy of Beaverdale Books

Review by Sally Wisdom

Gotham Books

 May 2, 2013



291 pp.

Would a book with the title “The World’s Strongest Librarian” appeal to anyone other than a librarian? It would be a shame if not, because Josh Hanagarne has written a warm, funny, heartbreaking yet uplifting memoir about much more than merely a weightlifting librarian.

Hanagarne became a librarian, he says, because he couldn’t do anything else. A lifelong voracious reader, he became a weightlifter because he found strength-training helped to ameliorate the effects of his intractable Tourette syndrome.

His parents first noticed Josh’s uncontrollable tics during an elementary school Thanksgiving play. The tics, yelps and other outbursts grew progressively worse, and neurologists deemed it the most devastatingly severe case on record. But Josh found he was able to find a degree of relief through a grueling regimen of weight-training.

This is not a painfully-dysfunctional-childhood-with-a reasonably-happy-ending kind of memoir. Hanagarne’s parents and siblings are loving and supportive, facing life’s challenges with a good dose of humor. While Josh falls away from the faith as an adult, he is quick to recognize all that is good about the church. Its emphasis on family and service to others helps him to see his life with a remarkable lack of self-pity.

Hanagarne is a delightful writer and everything a public librarian should be: dedicated, inquisitive, encouraging and respectful. If he is able to earn a living as a writer (as he would rather), it will be a loss to the library profession as a whole. CV

Sally Wisdom is a retired librarian of average strength for a woman her age.

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