Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Group Review: The World's Strongest Librarian

Summary: An inspiring story of how a Mormon kid with Tourette’s found salvation in books and weight-lifting. 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. Today, Josh is a librarian in the main branch of Salt Lake City’s public library and founder of a popular blog about books and weight lifting — and the proud father of four-year-old Max, who has already started to show his own symptoms of Tourette’s. The World’s Strongest Librarian illuminates the mysteries of this little-understood disorder, as well as the very different worlds of strongman training and modern libraries. With humor and candor, this unlikely hero traces his journey to overcome his disability — and navigate his wavering Mormon faith — to find love and create a life worth living. ~powells.com

Alice's Review:  Thanks to Julie for suggesting we read this memoir together, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  By the time I was done, my copy was dog-eared and highlighted.  I love when that happens.

There are so many things I really appreciated reading The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family.  The first is how comfortable I instantly felt with Josh Hanagarne.  Within the first few pages, he drew me into his life and we became fast friends.  The second is that is some weird way, Josh reminded me of the character of Alan in Adi Alsaid’s Somewhere Over the Sun.  (Maybe it’s the ease in which both told stories.)  The third is how much I learned about Tourette Syndrome and Mormonism.  I could fit my knowledge of both in a teacup.  To be honest the only thing I knew about Mormons was that there are a lot of them in Utah and there was a Mormon girl named Julie on the Real World: New Orleans who left her family for a life of sin on MTV and was pretty much an embarrassment to her faith.   Yes, I will admit I was highly misinformed.   I knew even less about Tourette’s.  Josh showed me I had a lot to learn. 

I have so much respect for writers who are strong enough to share a part of themselves that has caused them pain or misery.  I am in awe of the strength that comes from allowing everyone to peek into their lives knowing that we will pass judgment on their experiences instead of their aptitude with words.  I am amazed the human spirit is so resilient.  And that is what Josh is, resilient, and funny, and so much more.  I loved his family, especially his karate-chopping mom.  The more I learned about his life, the more admiration I felt for his parents and their child rearing ways. 

The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family is the kind of memoir I know I will pick up again and again and know that each time I read it, I will gather something else from it.  This time, my focus was on my struggle with faith and the knowledge that my answers will come to me.  In the meantime, I will be a good person, learn as much as I can and continue to read good books like this one.

Alice's Final Take: 5/5

Julie's Review: If you read this blog with any regularity you know that I read memoirs few and far between. They just aren't up my alley. Having said that there are on occasion one or two that catch my attention. The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family is one of them. It seemed unique to me. As I read it, I realized that Josh is a unique voice and he's also honest and funny.

I can't imagine living with the affliction that Josh has and he does. Through is all he persevered but not before going through significant struggles. I found it inspiring that he tries different ways of overcoming his Tourette Syndrome including Botox injections into his vocal chords!

One of my most enjoyable moments in the book were when he met and "trained" with Adam. I found it intriguing the way that Adam pushed Josh to think outside of the box when it came to treating himself. It ends up working for a little a while and helps him to think about his body and to get his body "re-trained" as well.

What I found interesting is as Josh tried to control his tics in one manner they got worse in another way. When he did the vocal chord procedure instead of yelling or having sounds, he had more physical tics. Even at his worst I never felt that he gave up. He always tried. Maybe that's what all readers of this book can take away from it, to never give up. Even if your problem seems insurmountable. I understand Josh's fear about his son having Tourette Syndrome but we all fear passing on our traits to our children. I know that Josh will teach his son how to overcome anything but shear determination.

While there isn't any cure, it's obvious that Josh won't stop trying to overcome his Tourette's.

If you are a memoir fan then you don't want to miss this. If you aren't, you still don't want to miss Josh's inspiring story.

Julie's Final Take: 4.25/5

Thanks to Farin at Gotham Books for our ARC for review!



Pooja Mittal June 18, 2013 at 6:04 AM  


Nice post...
Would you like to follow each other on bloglovin and GFC!!!
Have a gr8 week...
Keep in touch,

Farin June 20, 2013 at 12:17 PM  

Hooray! I'm so glad you both enjoyed.

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