HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Running the Books: The Adventures of an…
Loading...

Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian (original 2010; edition 2010)

by Avi Steinberg

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5463718,349 (3.61)48
Member:bostonbibliophile
Title:Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian
Authors:Avi Steinberg
Info:Nan A. Talese (2010), Hardcover, 416 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:AJL, ARC, Jewish, libraries, nonfiction

Work details

Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg (2010)

  1. 20
    Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing by Ted Conover (vnovak)
  2. 10
    Free For All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert (meggyweg)
  3. 00
    Pym by Mat Johnson (kara.shamy)
    kara.shamy: It's the only other book that reveals the same beautiful, weird, brilliant, absurd wit in it the authorial voice. There may be other examples (countless, even) that aren't coming to mind.
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 48 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
I liked the book. The day after I could not remember a thing. Weird.
It is an easy read. But going though it once more, the only memorable thing is Yehuda Amichai's poem. ( )
  siddartha | Sep 1, 2014 |
Running the Books offers uneven writing and poor editing. I was surprised to see the publisher is a Doubleday imprint. Countless times as I was reading it, my roommate interrupted me to ask what I was laughing at. A few examples follow.



In reference to an inmate employee partaking in a vicious assault: "How, I wondered, was a person so concerned about hurting paperback books able to commit such violence to another human being? I personally didn't know too many vegetarians who were capable of that." hE OBVIOUSLY MY CAT TURNED ON THE CAPS LOCK, SORRY He obviously hasn't met me, or looked me up on any pertinent Clerk of Court websites. I can answer his question, though: because we don't attack books or eat people.

Regarding an inmate who wants to become a master chef when he gets out: "I considered bringing in some basic herbs and spices for Chudney. Kick things off with some fresh basil, rosemary, thyme. But I quickly nixed the idea. I could already see Officer Chuzzlewit's report: Sir, today at 1450, I did see the facility's librarian hand inmate Franklin 0506891 an unmarked plastic baggie full of a green, leafy substance. They did proceed to exchange a handshake usually used by gangs. He'd buy off three inmates to testify that I'd sold them Oxycontin in the library, that I'd delivered it in a hollowed-out James Patterson novel. I'd be in handcuffs before supper." Because Oxy, in its street form, is a leafy green substance. (This idea of "three inmates" backing up an accusation of him selling, specifically, Oxycontin, is part of a particular paranoia Steinberg has, and surfaces multiple times in the book as part of his fears involving a feud with a CO.)

Describing the day he "cracks": "Because of my bad back, I hadn't slept the night before and was already in a state. It was 7:40 a.m. Twenty minutes until the day's first inmates were due in the library. Not enough time to get my cereal: looked like I'd be having revenge for breakfast." This last sentence seems to have been written without irony.


Steinberg isn't a bad writer, he's not a bad prison librarian, and he's definitely not a bad guy. There are some nice passages in the book (apparently I didn't bother to mark any of those with a shredded Winnie-the-Pooh sticky note -- only shit that made me laugh out loud), and he definitely conveys his inner conflicts and his true character, which can be difficult to do. The book was just wildly uneven, the editing so bad the reader has to edit in her head as she goes along in order to make sense of the pages, and all this makes it an unpleasant experience for the consumer. ( )
  dysmonia | Apr 15, 2014 |
Running the Books offers uneven writing and poor editing. I was surprised to see the publisher is a Doubleday imprint. Countless times as I was reading it, my roommate interrupted me to ask what I was laughing at. A few examples follow.



In reference to an inmate employee partaking in a vicious assault: "How, I wondered, was a person so concerned about hurting paperback books able to commit such violence to another human being? I personally didn't know too many vegetarians who were capable of that." hE OBVIOUSLY MY CAT TURNED ON THE CAPS LOCK, SORRY He obviously hasn't met me, or looked me up on any pertinent Clerk of Court websites. I can answer his question, though: because we don't attack books or eat people.

Regarding an inmate who wants to become a master chef when he gets out: "I considered bringing in some basic herbs and spices for Chudney. Kick things off with some fresh basil, rosemary, thyme. But I quickly nixed the idea. I could already see Officer Chuzzlewit's report: Sir, today at 1450, I did see the facility's librarian hand inmate Franklin 0506891 an unmarked plastic baggie full of a green, leafy substance. They did proceed to exchange a handshake usually used by gangs. He'd buy off three inmates to testify that I'd sold them Oxycontin in the library, that I'd delivered it in a hollowed-out James Patterson novel. I'd be in handcuffs before supper." Because Oxy, in its street form, is a leafy green substance. (This idea of "three inmates" backing up an accusation of him selling, specifically, Oxycontin, is part of a particular paranoia Steinberg has, and surfaces multiple times in the book as part of his fears involving a feud with a CO.)

Describing the day he "cracks": "Because of my bad back, I hadn't slept the night before and was already in a state. It was 7:40 a.m. Twenty minutes until the day's first inmates were due in the library. Not enough time to get my cereal: looked like I'd be having revenge for breakfast." This last sentence seems to have been written without irony.


Steinberg isn't a bad writer, he's not a bad prison librarian, and he's definitely not a bad guy. There are some nice passages in the book (apparently I didn't bother to mark any of those with a shredded Winnie-the-Pooh sticky note -- only shit that made me laugh out loud), and he definitely conveys his inner conflicts and his true character, which can be difficult to do. The book was just wildly uneven, the editing so bad the reader has to edit in her head as she goes along in order to make sense of the pages, and all this makes it an unpleasant experience for the consumer. ( )
  dysmonia | Apr 15, 2014 |
Running the Books offers uneven writing and poor editing. I was surprised to see the publisher is a Doubleday imprint. Countless times as I was reading it, my roommate interrupted me to ask what I was laughing at. A few examples follow.



In reference to an inmate employee partaking in a vicious assault: "How, I wondered, was a person so concerned about hurting paperback books able to commit such violence to another human being? I personally didn't know too many vegetarians who were capable of that." hE OBVIOUSLY MY CAT TURNED ON THE CAPS LOCK, SORRY He obviously hasn't met me, or looked me up on any pertinent Clerk of Court websites. I can answer his question, though: because we don't attack books or eat people.

Regarding an inmate who wants to become a master chef when he gets out: "I considered bringing in some basic herbs and spices for Chudney. Kick things off with some fresh basil, rosemary, thyme. But I quickly nixed the idea. I could already see Officer Chuzzlewit's report: Sir, today at 1450, I did see the facility's librarian hand inmate Franklin 0506891 an unmarked plastic baggie full of a green, leafy substance. They did proceed to exchange a handshake usually used by gangs. He'd buy off three inmates to testify that I'd sold them Oxycontin in the library, that I'd delivered it in a hollowed-out James Patterson novel. I'd be in handcuffs before supper." Because Oxy, in its street form, is a leafy green substance. (This idea of "three inmates" backing up an accusation of him selling, specifically, Oxycontin, is part of a particular paranoia Steinberg has, and surfaces multiple times in the book as part of his fears involving a feud with a CO.)

Describing the day he "cracks": "Because of my bad back, I hadn't slept the night before and was already in a state. It was 7:40 a.m. Twenty minutes until the day's first inmates were due in the library. Not enough time to get my cereal: looked like I'd be having revenge for breakfast." This last sentence seems to have been written without irony.


Steinberg isn't a bad writer, he's not a bad prison librarian, and he's definitely not a bad guy. There are some nice passages in the book (apparently I didn't bother to mark any of those with a shredded Winnie-the-Pooh sticky note -- only shit that made me laugh out loud), and he definitely conveys his inner conflicts and his true character, which can be difficult to do. The book was just wildly uneven, the editing so bad the reader has to edit in her head as she goes along in order to make sense of the pages, and all this makes it an unpleasant experience for the consumer. ( )
  dysmonia | Apr 15, 2014 |
Fascinating insight into the world of a prison library. ( )
  PennyAnne | Jul 30, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
Avi Steinberg’s memoir, “Running the Books,” about his job as a prison librarian at “the Bay” — the Suffolk County House of Correction in South Bay near Boston — gets off to an obnoxious start.

Mr. Steinberg is a self-described “asthmatic Jewish kid,” a young Harvard graduate and a stalled novelist. He applied for the prison library job when he saw it posted on Craigslist. He needed the health insurance. Probably he needed a book idea too.

The early bits of “Running the Books” are as hopped-up as a spaniel with a new rubber ball. The tone is, more or less, “Augusten Burroughs Goes to the Clink.” Here’s a not atypical passage: “It was official. I was now on the side of angels. The Po-Po. The Fuzz. The Heat. The Big Blue Machine.”

But a funny thing happens to “Running the Books” as it inches forward. Mr. Steinberg’s sentences start to pop out at you, at first because they’re funny and then because they’re acidly funny. The book slows down. It blossoms. Mr. Steinberg proves to be a keen observer, and a morally serious one. His memoir is wriggling and alive — as involving, and as layered, as a good coming-of-age novel.

The humor bubbles up organically. When a homophobic prisoner learns about a book called “Queer Theory: An Introduction,” he bellows in agony: “They got theories now?” Mr. Steinberg gets this advice from a prison staff member on how to comport himself: “Don’t smile. This isn’t the Gap.” He listens bemusedly to one inmate’s intricate disquisition on why pimping, he relates, is “the great male art form, the art form to which all others aspired.”

Explaining his relatively pampered Orthodox Jewish background, Mr. Steinberg reports: “My yeshiva high school’s basketball team was named not the Tigers or the Hawks, but the MCATS. As in, the Medical College Admission Test.” . . .
added by PLReader | editNY Times, Dwight Garner (Oct 19, 2010)
 
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
February 19. Hopes?February 20. Unnoticeable life. Noticeable failure.February 25. A letter.-FROM KAFKA'S DIARY, 1922
Dedication
To my family
First words
Pimps make the best librarians. Psycho killers, the worst.
Quotations
What in Flannery O'Connor's countenance met with Solitary's approval?
"I dunno," she said. "She looks kind of busted up, y'know? She ain't too pretty. I trust her."
She also informed me, in praise of her friend, that "hoes make the best librarians." Why? "Because they know how to be sweet but they will bust yo' ass if you get out of line."
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English

None

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385529090, Hardcover)

Avi Steinberg is stumped. After defecting from yeshiva to Harvard, he has only a senior thesis essay on Bugs Bunny to show for his effort. While his friends and classmates advance in the world, he remains stuck at a crossroads, unable to meet the lofty expectations of his Orthodox Jewish upbringing. And his romantic existence as a freelance obituary writer just isn’t cutting it. Seeking direction—and dental insurance—Steinberg takes a job as a librarian in a tough Boston prison.
 
The prison library counter, his new post, attracts con men, minor prophets, ghosts, and an assortment of quirky regulars searching for the perfect book and a connection to the outside world. There’s an anxious pimp who solicits Steinberg’s help in writing a memoir. A passionate gangster who dreams of hosting a cooking show titled Thug Sizzle. A disgruntled officer who instigates a major feud over a Post-it note. A doomed ex-stripper who asks Steinberg to orchestrate a reunion with her estranged son, himself an inmate. Over time, Steinberg is drawn into the accidental community of outcasts that has formed among his bookshelves — a drama he recounts with heartbreak and humor. But when the struggles of the prison library — between life and death, love and loyalty — become personal, Steinberg is forced to take sides.

Running the Books is a trenchant exploration of prison culture and an entertaining tale of one young man’s earnest attempt to find his place in the world while trying not to get fired in the process. 

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:00 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In this captivating memoir, Steinberg, a Harvard grad and struggling obituary writer, spends two years as a librarian and writing instructor at a Boston prison, attracting con men, minor prophets, ghosts, and an assortment of quirky regulars searching for the perfect book and a connection to the outside world.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
207 wanted1 pay1 pay

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (3.61)
0.5
1 4
1.5 1
2 5
2.5 4
3 41
3.5 16
4 33
4.5 10
5 22

Audible.com

An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

See editions

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 92,737,687 books! | Top bar: Always visible