Rated Reads

The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family

by Josh Hanagarne

Rated: High

If you’d like to read about what it’s like to live with Tourette Syndrome, read this book. If you appreciate memoirs that talk about family in a positive way (what a refreshing change of pace!), read this book. If you love books and libraries and enjoy reading about what other people are reading, read this book. If you like getting a window on someone’s inner thoughts on faith, read this book. If you just enjoy good, witty, smart writing, read this book.

Now that I’ve read Josh Hanagarne’s memoir about being a librarian who lifts weights to deal better with his Tourette Syndrome, I’ve had to go visit his blog, World’s Strongest Librarian, which started the whole thing. After getting to know him through his memoir, and enjoying the journey so much, I feel a bit like an eager fangirl visiting him online. And having him respond so quickly to my comment on one of his posts just reinforced my fangirl feeling. Squee!

The book is mostly “about” Hanagarne’s experiences dealing with nearly nonstop bodily tics and vocal outbursts since he was quite young. But that story is told within the context of having grown up in a close-knit, loving family with parents who sound real and fun and quirky but super-supportive. And his being raised Mormon, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, plays very heavily into his story. So we hear about how his mother’s faith shaped that of his convert father and the whole family. We read about Hanagarne’s boyish reactions to Sunday school classes talking about different scripture stories (like that of Ammon in the Book of Mormon; if you’re not LDS, here’s a short explanation: it involves a faithful young man who saves a king’s flocks from being stolen by “bad guys” by cutting off their arms), and if you are familiar with the stories already, his way of relating them is particularly entertaining.

Hanagarne just talks about his life and how he’s approached his own particular challenges, and it’s witty, warm, and informative. It’s inspiring without being at all mushy. He talks a lot about how he’s struggled with faith and belief, and rather than be negative about religion in general or the LDS Church (as seems to be too often the case with memoirists who were raised LDS, who seem to then bash the church and/or religion or faith), he just honestly explains his own experiences and feelings. He’s thoughtful and a seeker of truth. It’s really interesting to go along with him, whether you’re Mormon or not.

The only downside? For some reason, he felt the need to quote people using the f-word fairly frequently. I think that in most cases it could have been left out just fine while still allowing us to get the gist of the people’s personalities or the situations. Oh well. Nearly perfect.

Rated: High, for 14 uses of strong language and some other uses of milder language, including a few crude terms. Sex and heavy making-out are addressed as topics but there aren’t really any details.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for more than 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

One Response to The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family

  1. […] feel compelled to recommend it to a lot of friends, for all kinds of reasons. I’ve written a full review on my review website, Rated Reads, but I’ll share a bit more […]

  • The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family
  • by Josh Hanagarne
  • Rated: High
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Reviewer: