The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne

July 1, 2013 Coming of Age, Memoirs 34

How Now, Bookworms?

Y’all know how much I love a good humorous memoir. David SedarisJenny LawsonTina FeyRachel Dratch, Mindy Kaling? I love hearing about real people’s lives. I am voyeuristic and nosy. I’ll own up to it. Thus, when I was offered a copy of The World’s Strongest Librarian by Johs Hanagarne, I couldn’t pass it up.


Full Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was offered a copy by a literary agent through NetGalley, which made my ego soar because I AM NOT INVISIBLE. That said, the price of my integrity is a lot higher than an unfinished galley copy of a book, so you need not worry about me lying about liking or hating a book. Expensive soul, right here. (It would take like 4 real unicorns, a flock of housebroken penguins, a time machine, and eleventy billion dollars to get me to lie about a book… At that point nobody would believe anything I said anyway though, thanks to the unicorns…) 

Sometimes I think I should write a book about my life. Then I realize it would be like “hey look at me! I’m pretty average! I’m so average it’s actually boring… Sometimes there were tutus?” The trick to writing a great memoir is having a good story, and Josh Hanagarne has lived a fascinating life.

First things first. Josh has Tourette’s Syndrome. There’s a pretty lame stereotype floating around that portrays people with Tourette’s running around spouting outbursts of profanity. It’s so much more than that, and most vocal tics don’t manifest as curse words…  It’s involuntary muscle spasms. Twitches. Vocal tics of nonsense words. Hanagrarne describes the tics as being similar to the buildup of a sneeze. Can you imagine how frustrating that would be? Constant sneeze buildups? Oh my WORD! Despite his struggles with Tourette’s, Hanagarne had a happy childhood. The Hanagarne family ADORES and SUPPORTS Josh. Sure, there was some teasing in school, but the feeling of home as sanctuary was palpable. Now, I’m not saying that EVERYONE has horrifying parents like Jeanette Walls did, but most of the real life parents I’ve read about certainly have some shortcomings. While the Hanagarne parentals did have a few quirks, they all combined to make them fantastic parents. It was sweet, but not in an annoying way. It just made me want to hug them all and want to be invited over for dinner.

The title of this book makes me think of old timey strong men. That is one glorious mustache. Source

The title of this book makes me think of old timey strong men. That is one glorious mustache. Source

Hanagarne was raised in the Mormon church. Like anyone else, I’ve known people of the LDS faith, but I avoid discussing religion as a general rule. Theological debate makes me uncomfortable (only because it tends to make people defensive and/or confrontational, and I don’t like arguing), so I prefer to learn about other faiths from behind the safety of a book.  I got a whole new perspective on what being a Mormon is all about, and how potentially difficult it could be for someone who was experiencing a crisis of faith. Hanagarne showcases the positive and negative aspects of his experience with honesty and balance.

There’s also stuff about weight lifting and exercise and how that helped/hindered the treatment of the Tourette’s. Dude is HUGE! He’s like super tall and trains like a boss with weights and kettlebells. He even does those awesome highland games competitions where they wear kilts and throw giant rocks. It’s kind of awesome.

Finally? LIBRARY LOVE! Hanagarne has a love affair with the library starting from a very young age. He also had a crush on Fern from Charlotte’s Web which is quite possibly the most adorable thing I’ve ever heard. He’s a literature junky his entire life and ends up working in a library! This book contained everything a good memoir should: humor, humility, joy, sadness, frustration, and acceptance. FEELINGS! I’ve got them. So does Josh Hanagarne… Only he is more articulate than I could ever be. Hats off to you, sir. Keep on keeping on.

So, Bookworms, I must know. What would the title of your memoir be?

34 Responses to “The World's Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne”

  1. Kelly

    I looooved this memoir, so glad you did too! If you write your own memoir, it NEEDS to be called “Sometimes There Were Tutus”.

    Possible titles for mine, based on significant life events, would probably be “Pools Are Not For Pole Vaulting”, “Blue Pleather Is Never The Answer”, or “Let Me Tell You About My Perm”.

    • Words for Worms

      OMG you have such great names for your memoirs! Let Me Tell You About My Perm sounds like something I would absolutely pick up. Everybody’s got a bad perm story!

  2. Megan M.

    I second that… Sometimes There Were Tutus is a fabulous title.

    I worked with a girl who had Tourettes at a restaurant when I was a younger. She was the hostess. For the first few days I worked with her she would make these high-pitched yelps right in the middle of a sentence and then she would just keep right on like nothing happened. I was all WTF? But I never said anything. Then I heard someone else say she had it and I was like, Ohhhhhh.

    My memoir title could be something like Adventures in Neurotica? Not sure about that.

    • Words for Worms

      Megan, your facebook comment just made my year. <3 I don't know that I've ever met anyone with Tourette's, although there was a made for TV movie about a guy who had Tourette's and became a teacher. He went to my college (before I was ever there, but still.) I would absolutely read Adventures in Neurotica. Most of the time I think I'm too neurotic to exist, and yet, I DO! (I think, anyway.)

      • Megan M.

        Well, I totally meant it. I only threw in the smiley in case you thought I was a creepy stalker. LOL I do not have a real life, as you may have ascertained.

        I am too neurotic to exist and I have the test scores to prove it! I wonder if I haunt my Tests & Measurement professor’s dreams.

  3. Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader

    Oh how I LOVED THIS BOOK! His parents! I just wanted to give them big giant hugs, such neat people 🙂 I love the way Josh talks about the library and his love for books. LOVED this book, did I say that already??

    • Words for Worms

      You did say it, and you should get the credit for introducing me to this book because the agent contacted me after seeing my interest on a comment on your blog post. I seriously love the parents so much! I bet their holiday dinners are the BEST!

  4. Brooke

    Yes! This book sounds fantabulous. And the cover, gorgeous. For some reason, I’m extremely fascinated by Mormons. I’ve found myself surrounded by them time and time again. My last job was a company started and run by Mormons with only a handful of us exceptions – an interesting environment for sure. As for my memoir – something ridiculously selfish like ‘Yay! Me!’ would probably fit the bill nicely or perhaps an ode to childhood, “Butter Beans and Muscle Cars’.

  5. Leah

    Want to read! This sounds like such a good book! Plus, I’ve never known any Mormons, so it would be interesting to hear about his experiences with the church. Also, weight lifting and librarian-ing? That is a magnificent combination.

  6. Kelly

    I actually have an MFA in Creative Nonfiction and did start writing a memoir! It’s called 60 Seconds, about growing up with a minor case of cerebral palsy (but, success story! Because graduated 3 colleges and married for 6 years with two kids!) I only recently picked it up again this year after dropping it when I graduated in 2008. But I do intend to finish one day!

  7. Ashley F

    I picked this up the other day, can’t wait to read it.

    My memoir would probably be the name of my blog. Not necessarily laughing WITH you 😉

    • Words for Worms

      YES! I mean, it’s not like the whole book is about Josh wearing a kilt (that’s why we have OUTLANDER) but there is DEFINITELY some kilted rock throwing.

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