Saturday, December 11, 2010

Book Review: Running The Books

Title: Running The Books
Author: Avi Steinberg
Publisher: Doubleday
Pub Date: November 2010
ISBN: 978-0-385-52909-9
Pages: 399

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher for my honest review.

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 tranchant 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.

About the Author:
Avi Steinberg was born in Jerusalem and raised in Cleveland and Boston. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe, the New York Review of Books, Salon, and other publications.

My review:
I love to read book about books or about people that work with books in some way. So, when I saw this book was coming out, I got excited. I thought this is a new twist on working with books and I can't wait to read it. However, once I got my copy and started reading, I was disappointed. The writing is mediocre and I found the details lacking. I wanted more details of his life as a prison librarian and the author only gives an overview of his time in this job. I did like how he connected with inmates and his telling of their stories. The writing of their stories and the emotion he showed in doing so, brought the writing from mediocre to a start of something very good. It seems the author would begin to hit his stride at times and then lose it again. I found myself getting involved in one of the personal stories and thinking that the book had gotten past the slow start and was going to get really good. Yet, the book never really takes off for me.

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