The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne

Publisher: Gotham Books
Publication Date: May 2013
Categories: Personal Memoir
Source: Gotham Books

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.

My Thoughts:

Tourette Syndrome, strength training, Mormonism, and literature. Doesn’t that sound like the craziest combo of topics you ever heard of? Guess what? It absolutely works. It all comes together beautifully in one of the best memoirs I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

Hanagarne has a comedic gift. None of the topics that he covers are supposed to be funny but I found myself snort laughing throughout much of this book. The section in which he describes putting the stud in bible study nearly made me fall off my chair. Hanagarne faces his medical condition and other obstacles with humor and inspiring grace.

As I read this book I kept trying to read sections aloud to people around me. “Listen to this!” “Oh! Let me read you this section about his parents!” (I seriously want to take his folks out to dinner, they sound like marvelous people.)

I’m not a Mormon. I don’t have Tourette Syndrome. Yet I felt such a connection with Josh Hanagrane. It might be his love for the written word. It might be that he also read Stephen King when he was much too young to do so. He’s a regular guy that loves his family and wants to do the best he can by them. We can all relate to that. In addition, he can tell a damn fine story.

It was a privilege to read The World’s Strongest Librarian. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

34 thoughts on “The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne

  1. I didn't know this syndrome, or at least not for its name! I see you loved the book.Last year I made my practice lessons to be a secondary scool teacher in a class in which one of the boys had tics, and I saw he was very shy and introvert.But I thought this kind of things disappear when people grow up.I'll look for the book when it is published.


  2. Hee you can always tell it's a good book when you're trying to force bits of information from it onto unsuspecting others!


  3. Consider it done! But this is the very last book I am buying until payday… I'm not kidding… really… no joking.


  4. Sounds excellent. The Religion, literature, Tourette's together doesn't sound so out there, but with the strength training, yes, very unusual, but for that completely intriguing. The title is great, very fitting pun not intended.


  5. I'm fascinated! I love it when you're reading something and you want to read tidbits aloud. That is the sign of something awesome. I need to read this one!


  6. Sounds like a great read and adding it to my to-read list. I'm trying to read more non-fiction so this is a good fit for the inspiring memoir category! Thanks for the suggestion. I love reading about how people overcome their challenges and differences, we've all got em!


  7. Loved your review! I also laughed at so much of this one! I would have liked more library and less Mormon faith, but I can see that writing a memoir about a place that you're currently employed at could be more than a little tricky!


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