Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

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

Posted by nliakos on January 27, 2016

by Josh Hanagarne (Gotham 2013; ISBN 978-1-59240-787-3)

This book sheds light on two worlds I have no experience with: the world of Tourette Syndrome and the world of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, aka the Mormon Church. Hanagarne grew up and lives in Utah, and he was raised as a Mormon. When he was still in elementary school, he began experiencing the tics that characterize Tourette’s, and as he grew older, they increased in severity and became more diverse. He dealt with them as best he could. He was also a nerdy kid who loved reading perhaps more than anything (although it took him many jobs and many years to discover his calling as a librarian).

Throughout the memoir, Hanagarne describes and explains, simply and clearly, aspects of his faith (including his doubts about it as well as how it was practiced in his family, his town, and his church); how it feels to tic and the many strategies he has tried to gain control of his Tourette’s (which he personifies and calls Misty); what it’s like to be a librarian working in a large public library; and his relationships with two women, Jennie and Janette, the second of whom he married. We experience his and Janette’s struggle to have children and his terror that their children could inherit his disorder. He is extremely open and honest, even when honesty must have been very difficult to achieve. He also writes about much of what he has experienced with disarming humor.

One of my favorite chapters is Chapter 10, in which Hanagarne writes about libraries and why they are essential; he is obviously in love with his job and his place of work. (I also love the way each chapter’s topics are listed according to the Dewey Decimal System, e.g., Chapter 6: 363.163 — Fraud, 613.71 — Bodybuilding, 808.5 — Voice–Social Aspects, 646.726  — Botulinum Toxin–Therapeutic Use. It reminds me of how Christopher numbers his chapters with prime numbers only in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Both books quietly stray from the traditional way of naming and numbering chapters.)

Another interesting thread is how he uses strength training as a way of controlling his tics (Strength). His relationship with his parents is also extraordinary (The Power of Family). It’s all there in the title, and I found it all fascinating. What a courageous, smart, amazing guy.

 

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