From Guest Blogger, Josh Hanagarne

As promised, a post from author, Josh Hanagarne who will be signing his new book, The World’s Strongest Librarian on May 11.  The New Yorker posted this review (definitely worth a read).  You can also follow his blog at


Hey there, fans of Left Bank Books!

Josh Hanagarne

Meet Josh on May 11 at the St. Charles City-County Library!

I’ve been tasked with bringing you a list of spring/summer reading recommendations.  I’m all too happy to do so.  Relieved, even. This might surprise you, but even though I’m a librarian, I don’t get to talk about books at work very often.  Most people just don’t ask, they just want to be escorted to the Internet, which breaks my bookish heart.

I’d guess that 80% of what I read is either recommended to me by other bookworms, or it just happens to cross my desk at the library. I never know what I’m going to find. It’s kind of how I feel when I’m browsing an out-of-the-way bookshop and I head down the next aisle.

If a book looks remotely interesting, I grab it.  I definitely have my favorite authors, genres, and subjects, but my constant exposure to unfamiliar books means, happily, that I read outside of my comfort zone quite often.

I tend to think in stories, and the more stories I read, and the broader the scopes and subjects of the stories, the more connections I can make.  A mind that can is familiar with a greater variety of subjects is going to be more adaptable.

Now then–you wouldn’t be on this website if you weren’t a fellow book nut, so I’ll try and reward your curiosity with the latest and greatest books that have jumped out at me.

The Boys In the BoatThe Boys In The Boat:  Nine Americans And Their Epic Quest For Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

Before this book, I didn’t have any stories or ideas tied to rowing.

In fact, before reading The Boys In The Boat, if you’d asked me, “What’s less interesting than competitive rowing?” I would have said, “Nothing! What else can we talk about?”  But I had similar thoughts about horse racing before reading Seabiscuit, about running the mile before reading The Perfect Mile, about running in general before reading Bowerman And The Men Of Oregon, and about the history of Formula 1 racing before reading The Limit.  

 But of course, these books were great not because of the sports they profiled, but because of the people involved.

Not only is Brown’s book interesting, It’s thrilling, and he’s a fantastic writer.  The people in the story are a pleasure to know.  I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a book about sports and competition this much.  If you like stories about scrappy underdogs beating the odds, this is the book for you.

The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Ocean At The End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Someone recently asked me what the best part of being a debut author with an upcoming book.  “Getting a sneak peek at Neil Gaiman’s new book,” I said immediately. And truer words have never passed my lips.

If I’d read The Ocean At The End of the Lane as a child, I don’t know if I ever would have recovered.  This book contains what might be the most terrifying scene I can think of for a young boy.  When you get to the bathtub scene, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  My favorite thing about Gaiman is that he tells stories of impossibly strange worlds, while hinting at worlds behind the stories that are more unusual yet.  Ocean is a masterpiece of potent, concise thrills.

This is Neil Gaiman, so…you’re probably going to read it no matter what the story is. But okay, the plot:  A young boy unleashes a creature from another world and gets into a world of trouble.  That might sound like a story that could have come from any writer, but if you know Neil, you can guess that it’s not.

The Never List by Koethi Zahn

I read The Never List in one night and stayed up too late doing so. In the early pages, two women are abducted.  They awaken in a cellar, shackled to the walls with two other women.  Three years later, our narrator escapes.  The story picks up years after that and involves her abductor’s potential parole, the letters he is sending to her and his other victims, and a cult that would have fit right into a season of Dexter. The Never List  reminds me of Chelsea Cain but not as gruesome, and Gillian Flynn without the sick humor.  If you can have fun with an ugly, nasty story, check this out. You know who you are.

GulpGulp by Mary Roach

In her inimitable style, Roach has previously tackled the cadaver, the soul, sex, and everything you wanted to know about space travel but were afraid to ask.  With Gulp, she goes down the hatch.  This book contains just about everything you’d never want to know about what’s happening inside of you.  It’s fascinating, disgusting, and as Roach fans will already know, hilarious.  My only complaint?  I can’t believe she took this internal tour and never even mentioned the tapeworm.

I could go on and on and on, but now I’d like to turn it over to you.  I’d be grateful if you’d head over to my blog or send me a Tweet.  Let me know what you’ve read and loved lately! (please)

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