Book Review: The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne (4/5)

24 May

My husband and I did a long weekend trip to Cleveland a few years back and we couldn’t help but notice a bookstore down the street from our hostel. Horizontal Books drew us in immediately with its pricing structure. But 1- 50% Discount. Buy 2- 60% Discount. Buy 3 or more- 70% Discount. Clearly, we needed to buy at least three books. This was one I picked after we’d both selected one and someone had to split the middle. It seemed like stealing at those prices! I guess I was intrigued by the title (granted, the cover I have doesn’t seem to be the final and the subtitle has changed). Mine is subtitled ‘A Book Lover’s Adventures’ but the final subtitle seems to be apter.

Cover image via Goodreads

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

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

I love a good memoir and I’d gone through a dearth before this book. And religious memoirs are even more my speed. This was a great combination of a book lover’s story, a fitness journey, and a religious memoir. It hit all my buttons. Plus, the super sarcastic voice and great narration helped. I liked how the chapters started with Dewey Decimal numbers to tease what was coming. I liked his honesty and the way he talked about his Tourette’s. I just liked this book.

Hanagarne is very truthful about his flaws. He talks about being unable to hold down a job, his wavering faith in the LDS church, and his ticks. I’m not sure how realistic the other people in his life are portrayed. His mother, father, siblings, and wife all seem to be pretty perfect and I’m sure they’re great, but everyone has flaws. In a memoir, the focus is on the writer and having perfect side character’s isn’t as important so I can forgive Josh that one. Though Adam seemed really well-developed and I hope his characterization was right on.

Janette was one of my favorite side characters. The amount of patience that woman has is amazing! First, her patience to wait for the right man to show up in her life, her patience for Josh to find a career, for them to start a family, and for Josh’s ticks. When things went well for Josh, she was able to celebrate. When things went poorly, she still supported him and helped him find answers. She was an amazingly supportive spouse and a great mother.

While it’s nothing like Tourette’s, Josh’s struggles to find answers to his condition reminded me of a year in my life when I was struggling to get a diagnosis and treatment for a hip injury. I remember the frustration when I went through different treatments and as my diagnosis changed. Medical conditions with no easy solution are frustrating. There’s something wrong and you just want to know how to make it go away but you have to go through rounds of treatments before you find what works for you. I understood Josh’s frustration and I’m glad he was able to find something to help control his symptoms.

Image via the Oregon ALA

The story of their struggles to conceive really struck me. Their desire to have a child was so strong as they overcame miscarriages, adoption, and their final pregnancy and parenthood. Josh was very honest about the process he and Janette went through and I appreciated his honesty about a period of time that must have been clearly stressful.

There wasn’t a part of the book I disliked, per say. Josh did a great job of keeping the focus of his book on the three things he set out to cover; faith, family, and Tourette’s. I felt he blended these well together and never lost focus. There were parts I was slightly less interested in, but nothing I disliked.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Stephen Thorne. I thought he did an amazing job of voicing the sarcastic undertones of Hanagarne’s writing. He also gave proper tenderness to the parts of Josh’s story that were emotional and hard. I also adored how he read Adam. Overall, it was a great performance.

Josh set out to talk about three things and I think he covered them wonderfully. We see his progression from a boy with Tourette’s to a man living with it to a man controlling it and growing into a father. He talked about his faith, growing up with a mother and father who encouraged him to grow in his faith to a man who went out to preach and convert. His illness seemed to deter him from his belief and I appreciated his honesty about how he struggled with his faith. His family took leading roles in both of these other aspects, having a great influence over his faith and supporting him through his treatments. It was a great combination of topics.

Writer’s Takeaway: Being able to laugh at yourself is so important when you face hardships. Making light of a tough situation, when appropriate, can help reduce stress and help you enjoy life. Josh had some very tough times in his life and he didn’t make light of all of them. Misty’s return late in his life and the struggles he and Janette faced to have children were never made into jokes. But he was able to make light of living with Misty and his struggles with faith; things still very important but ones he’d deal with for a long time to come. I appreciated his way of looking at himself and the world, it made for a good read.

I enjoyed this memoir a lot. Four out of Five Stars and a high recommendation.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
The World’s Strongest Librarian, by Josh Hanagarne | Blogging for a Good Book
The World’s Strongest Librarian | When I Couldn’t Get Crab Apples I Used Horse Chestnuts
The World’s Strongest Librarian | Beck’s Books

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6 Responses to “Book Review: The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne (4/5)”

  1. anovelglimpse May 24, 2018 at 10:58 AM #

    I didn’t realize this was a memoir for some reason. It sounds really interesting!

    Like

    • Sam May 24, 2018 at 12:37 PM #

      For sure. Josh was very open and honest about his life and it made for a great read. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. beckylindroos May 24, 2018 at 2:07 PM #

    I read the book some time ago – quite enjoyed it – nicely written and kind of fun.

    Like

    • Sam May 24, 2018 at 3:43 PM #

      I’m glad you liked it as well. I enjoy memoirs and this was a fun one despite serious subjects. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hunida May 24, 2018 at 5:38 PM #

    I love memoirs. I’ll definitely check this one out! Sounds really good!

    Like

    • Sam May 24, 2018 at 5:40 PM #

      It was and o hope you enjoy it. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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