Tuesday, October 20, 2015

101 in 1001, Round 2 - Update 5

In August I crossed off one of the many books tasks I have on my 101 in 1001 list:

Read a memoir

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 when he first began exhibiting symptoms.  When he was twenty and had reached his towering height of 6'7", his tics escalated to nightmarish levels.  Determined to conquer his affliction, Josh tried countless remedies, with dismal results.  At last, an eccentric, autistic strongman taught Josh how to "throttle" his tics into submission using increasingly elaborate feats of strength.  What started as a hobby became an entire way of life - and an effective way of managing his disorder.  Today, Josh is a librarian at Salt Lake City's public library and a founder of a popular blog about books and weight lifting - and the proud father of five-year-old Max.  Funny and offbeat, The World's Strongest Librarian traces this unlikely hero as he attempts to overcome his disability, find love, and create a life worth living.
~ Summary from Barnes & Noble website ~

This memoir caught my attention because not only was it about a librarian, it was about a librarian with Tourette Syndrome who got into weight-lifting.  I mean, come on, what an interesting combination!

The book started out strong and held my interest as Josh discussed his childhood, the beginnings of his tics, and the treatments he tried after his Tourette's diagnosis.  I learned more about the disorder in general and the specific descriptions Josh gave about his tics were exceptional; I could actually imagine the feelings he described.

I'm sure it comes as no surprise that my favorite portions of the book were those in which Josh talked about his love of reading and his experiences as a librarian.  I love hearing about the books that people not only enjoy, but those that have shaped them as people.  Josh's encounters at the library were very interesting and often laugh-out-loud funny; I never would have thought a librarian could come across such unbelievable people and situations.

I did struggle a bit with the portions of the book regarding Josh's experience growing up in the Mormon church and later his questioning of truly believing and staying in the church.  I felt like his church and faith (or lack thereof) didn't really advance the story in any way and could have been left out of the book almost entirely.  I felt these things interrupted the flow of the book and just added too much "busy work."

Josh really started to lose me during the last quarter or so of the book.  The weight-lifting topic took center stage and I felt the book got really bogged down at that point.  He went into too much detail which I didn't think was necessary.  We understood the basic concept that weight-lifting helped his tics and made his Tourette's manageable; I felt all the rest was just more "filler."  I'm not sure that the details would be interesting to many others unless they were into weight-lifting themselves.

Unfortunately, this book wasn't as good as I was hoping it would be.  I think it would have been much better if Josh had focused on fewer topics.  Hanagarne is a very good writer and I would have liked to see more about books, reading, and his career as a librarian and less (if any) about his church and faith and less of his weight-lifting.  While I didn't personally like every part equally, I thought the book was worth reading and I would recommend it.

As a side note:  I cannot believe that Mitch and I didn't visit the Salt Lake City Main Library (where Hanagarne worked in the book) when we were there a few summers ago.  Look at this incredible building!

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