Friday, February 20, 2015

Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg | Book Review

Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian
(Love love love this cover!  The portrait is made up of due date stamps.  How cool!)

Running the Books wasn't exactly what I expected, but it wasn't bad.  I was expecting more humor, but I probably shouldn't have.  People being locked up for heinous crimes shouldn't be funny.

More than just a memoir of his two years spent working as the librarian at Boston's South Bay prison, Avi also intersperses reflections on his life prior to taking the job.  He'll relate an incident from the prison, then relate it back to a life choice that he made.  In this way, he kind of "connects" with many inmates.  He also doesn't shy away from admitting what a hard job it is to work in a prison: he recounts crippling backaches and anxiety.  

I can't really put my finger on it, but something about Avi and the way he tells his story... or maybe some of the life decisions he made... something left me a little less-than-usual respect for him.  For instance, at one point he talks bluntly about purposefully breaking a prison rule.  Is he really so naive that he can't foresee the ramifications?  

Not a bad book, but also not stellar.  The interspersed personal reflections take up space that could be used to tell more about working in the prison, and some of the author's actions made me a little uncomfortable.  But overall, still worth the read.  How else will you ever find out what it might be like to be a prison librarian?

*I checked out my copy of Running the Books from my local library.

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