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 amiable pimp who solicits Steinberg’s help in writing a memoir. An industrious gangster who dreams of hosting a cooking show titled Thug Sizzle. A disgruntled officer who instigates a major feud over a Post-it note. An 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.
Running the Books is a trenchant personal 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.
"Steinberg writes a stylish prose that blends deadpan wit with an acute moral seriousness. The result is a fine portrait of prison life and the thwarted humanity that courses through it." (Publishers Weekly)
I picked up this Audible book because I thought I might learn something about living and workiing in a prison. The book turned out to be a memoir of a Jewish Harvard graduate and his two years "behind bars" as a prison librarian. You will, however, learn more about prison life and the lives of prisoners than you would expect from a memoir. So I use the term lightly. That said, this is an informative, entertaining, thoughtful, and often funny description of life behind bars. The writing is crisp and the reading of Dustin Rubin is terrific. The book is worth the time for the character studies alone. Enjoy.
I had high hopes for this story. Unfortunately that's as far as it got. I found the writing to be sophomoric and overall a story that stayed at the surface. I never became involved with any of the characters or knew enough about them to care very much what happened to them. I was left wondering what the authors purpose was when he wrote this. It wasn't funny enough to be humorous or introspective enough to make you think about anything deep. Not awful but I'd never recommend it to a friend or relisten to it.
Vibrant story about the life and times of an Ivy educated dude that scored a job as a librarian in a Boston city jail. Some interesting twists and turns, highs and lows.
I listened to a little more than half of this one and gave up. It didn't hold my attention.
A first effort. Are we trying to hard to make the inmates funny? Not funny? Scary to a Jewish kid? Is this about being Jewish in a jail library? Sorry, writing rather college level - lots of unnecessary adjectives. Too big a thesaurus.
Mother of four
I had heard a part of this story on a podcast and my kids had found it interesting. We ordered the book to listen to in the car as a family. The first chapter was too boring to finish so I skipped it and there are way too many curse words. It starts to get a bit more interesting but is still slow going. Which all the cussing We won't be able to finish the book.
This books reads like a high school kids account of "how I spent my summer vacation," except that it covers a longer period of time and, astoundingly, the boring author is a Harvard graduate from whom one might have expected more. The narration is painfully slow and with little or no entertainment value ... to paraphrase it as "adventures" is misleading ... There were no adventures .. just this over-educated kid narrrating too much detail and not enough pesonality. Oh he tried, but his background as a newpaper obituary writer must have overtaken other skills ... I thought I would die waiting for something interesting, compelling, or emotionally charged to happen. No dice. Save your time and $ .. the description reads better than the book.
"Running the Books"
This is a memoir of a former prison librarian. Not only it is very interesting as an insider's view of a prison and a place of books and written word in it, but it is also excellently written -- the author, who grew up in an Orthodox Jewish community but has now become secular(an interesting story in itself), did not go to Harvard for nothing. The audio book version is perfect; the reader does a wonderful job and brings all the different characters to life.
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