The World's Strongest Librarian
A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family
By Josh Hanagarne
(Gotham, Hardcover, 9781592407873, 304pp.)
Publication Date: May 2, 2013
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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.
Josh Hanagarne believes in curiosity, questions, and strength, and that things are never so bad that they can’t improve. He is a librarian at the Salt Lake City Public Library and lives with his wife, Janette, and their son, Max, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“Josh Hanagarne is a remarkable man…. In this moving memoir, Hanagarne shows his readers what it is like to live with a severe form of Tourette’s and how, with patience, love, and support from his family, he was able to build a rich, full life. Throughout, his optimism and amusing, self-deprecating sense of humor shine through. An excellent and uplifting story on accepting and coping with lifelong disabilities, of particular interest to librarians.”
“Wildly quirky memoir of facing down his ferocious Tourette’s tics…Hanagarne’s account manages to be very gag-full and tongue-in-cheek…highly engaging…Reconciled with Tourette’s, Hanagarne never let the disease get the upper hand.”
"A sumptuous read, as funny, erudite, and energizing as a chat with a conversational intellectual, as engrossing and moving as a medical detective drama… The book leaves all of us who've read it feeling a little stronger and brighter ourselves."
—Martha Beck, Author of Expecting Adam, Leaving the Saints, and Finding Your Way in a Wild New World
“Just like the library has every funny, beautiful, moving, wise story you'd ever need in it, so too does this book. This is not just your ordinary memoir: it is a soaring, inspiring elegy to the small and big miracles of parenthood and friendship and marriage and how they triumph over the not so small challenges of life. It is a perfect, perfect gem of a read, unputdownable, unforgettable, unmatchable.”
—Pam Allyn, author of What to Read When
"Josh Hanagarne inspires in his pursuit to break the shackles of Tourette Syndrome and live his life to the fullest, as a husband, a father and a librarian. Insightful, heart-wrenching and delightfully humorous, The World’s Strongest Librarian is a triumph!"
—Cory MacLauchlin, author of Butterfly In The Typewriter: The Tragic Life of John Kennedy Toole and The Remarkable Story of A Confederacy of Dunces.
“As a gym rat myself, I can attest to the power of hurling one's sinews against heavy stuff that keeps wanting to slam you back into the floor. The difference with Josh Hanagarne is he has lifted much weightier impediments--Tourette's, loneliness, geekitude, and the calling to be a writer. That he is, and a talent to savor, to emulate, and to be inspired by.”
—Steven Pressfield, bestselling author of The War of Art and Turning Pro
"Josh Hanagarne has an astonishing story to tell, and he does so with insight, humor, grace, and wonder. All human beings suffer and struggle. Through the lens of his own miraculous experiences, Mr. Hanagarne illuminates the path to joy and the infinite possibilities of transcendence."
—Melanie Rae Thon, author of Sweet Hearts
“A truly interesting, engaging, and fascinating memoir.”
—Joe Lansdale, author of Edge of Dark Water
“Josh's special struggles to deal with his own doubts, Tourette's and society give his journey a patina of honesty, resilience, and a flavor of humanity that truly inspires. Josh has a unique voice and I was privileged to read and be empowered by his story.”
—Stephen Abram, VP of Gale Cengage Learning
“A funny, profound, emotionally generous, and wonderfully human story.”
—Lou Schuler, author of The New Rules of Lifting
“Everything about this book is big: certainly it is the story of a 6' 7" librarian with Tourette’s, but it is also the quest for how we know, how we feel and how we love... without reservation. I found it impossible to put down; save a day to read this.”
—Dan John, author of Intervention
“Josh Hanagarne is a giant of a man and a giant of a writer… This guy is the real freaking deal in a very fresh and exciting way."
—Larry Brooks, author of Story Engineering
“Witty and upbeat voice … fun (and inspiring) reading.”
"The whole of this delightfully rich and unconventional gem of a book is even greater than the sum of its parts. Read it and laugh and learn."
—The Washington Post
“Fearless and funny.”
“An inspiring, often funny tale about the power of persistence.”
“Read this book and then go hug a librarian!”
—Anne Holman, The King's English Bookshop
“Joyfully celebrates books and reading.”