26 June 2013
The World's Strongest Librarian
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.
The World's Strongest Librarian caught my eye because a) memoir of books and reading and b) it was on the Discover shelf at the store. And, well, c) it is also a memoir of faith. So lots of interesting things to mull over while reading.
It seems wrong to say this was a very fun book to read - particularly since some of the chapters about his treatment and crisis of faith are so serious - but it was a fun book. Hanagarne has a great voice - very matter-of-fact, straightforward, and cheeky without being too self-deprecating. He's had a very interesting journey both with his Tourette's and within in his faith (this is a good book to contrast with the LDS-is-terrible books; Hanagarne is maybe questioning aspects of his faith but it is clear that he had a good experience within the church). I wish he had dwelt a bit more on his librarian days but those are much more recent - LOVED how he opened each chapter with a Dewey Decimal heading (a real one or three) that noted what subjects were going down in that chapter.
PS: Hanagarne occasionally writes for Book Riot!