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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Book Review: The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family, by Josh Hanagarne

The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of FamilyThe World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family by Josh Hanagarne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Josh Hanagarne is a librarian at the Salt Lake library who power-lifts in efforts to control his Tourette's, who was raised Mormon but isn't always sure what he believes, and who is devoted to his family--including his extended family. What an interesting perspective for a memoir. Josh's fascinating life story meanders through all of his subheadings: "Tourette's, faith, strength, and the power of family." I think the last time I ever wanted to write a letter to an author was probably after reading a Beverly Cleary book in grade school, but this book has me seriously thinking about it! It gave me so much to think about!

Josh's voice is so gut-level honest and even ordinary that it is easy to forget at times how remarkable his narrative is. He bravely volunteers his imperfections and holds them up for us to examine. In memoir, and maybe the problem lies in memory, writers tend to veer toward black and white. Someone is a villain or a saint. This is a terrible event or the best thing that ever happened. I'm still marveling at the way Josh deftly handles those in-between realities. Compared to Joanna Brooks's snarky romp through childhood, this was so refreshing. Finally a Mormon author who can (somewhat irreverently at times) lead readers through his world without making them feel like weirdos for being outsiders. Thank you, Josh, for keeping it real and accessible. (Yes, I am an active Mormon.)

His book recommendations are interesting, and some of his stories of experiences at the library are truly laugh-out-loud funny. I love the clever use of Dewey decimal topics at the beginning of each chapter instead of a chapter title.

Josh's obvious love of his parents is so tender. The scene where he tells his mom he is struggling in his faith is sweet and heartbreaking. So is his experience with infertility and the adoption process. I just wanted to reach through the pages and give him a hug. Yeah, sappy, I know.

I appreciated his candor and his efforts to keep trying in every facet of his life. It would be easy for some to give up or grow bitter in similar difficulties, but he keeps his heart open, working on progressing, understanding, loving, and believing. We would all do well to follow that pattern.

Reading this book made me feel like I really know Josh. I sincerely wish him all the best in life and in his efforts to find what he is looking for.

This quote is so lovely to me. I just keep thinking about it.
"The church put us together constantly, and this is still miraculous to me: Whether or not following the doctrine meant that we'd be together in Heaven, the family-centric aspects of the gospel led to a family that I wanted to spend eternity with."

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