He has to wake a woman up, comfortably curled under her blanket, who is surprisingly indignant that he disturbs her nap. Normally, it would be considered rude to wake up someone in the midst of a pleasant snooze, but the woman is resting between the library’s stacks, and he is a librarian trying to work.
On any given day, he has to remind someone to watch their children who are destroying books with their mighty little fingers. Or during storytime, he ends up tracking down an owner who lets their dog run amuck as it bounds with unrestrained joy through the library.
“The World’s Strongest Librarian” by Josh Hanagarne begins with amusing anecdotes about working in the Salt Lake City library. After engaging us with his sense of humor, unfailing kindness and passion for books, we learn a little more about his life.
Being a librarian is not all there is to Josh Hanagarne. He grew up as part of a close-knit family in the Mormon faith. He also grew up with Tourette’s.
In an effort to not make a problem out of something Hanagarne feels he can deal with, his parents don’t address the tics from his Tourette’s until he requests they go to a doctor. He begins a lifetime of fighting, questioning and adjusting.
Hanagarne tries many methods to deal with the tics. He tries ignoring them, he tries praying, and one day, his dad introduces him to weight lifting. The weight lifting seems to help for a while, but new tics appear, and he has to constantly search for fresh answers.
Though this is his most constant struggle, his memoir not only addresses Tourette’s but his evolution of belief in his faith, his journey to having a family of his own and his love of books and all the possibilities they provide.
The story is a bit random in a wonderfully human way. Hanagarne doesn’t define himself by any one aspect of his life. He is a librarian, a weight lifter, a father, a Mormon, a son and a skeptic. As he meets and faces each new challenge, he tries to answer many of the universal questions we all ask ourselves every day.
He questions whether there is a God, whether he is strong enough to face the trials in his life and why certain events happen to those who don’t deserve it. Like most of us, he struggles to understand the ‘whys’ of his life when it begins to feel overwhelming.
“The World’s Strongest Librarian” is a sweet, funny and moving memoir. Reading Hanagarne is like sitting down with a friend for a long conversation that leaves one feeling lighter and more hopeful.
Afterward, we feel like maybe anything is possible, if we just take it one day at a time.