Running the Books

Running the Books : The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian

3.5 (3,368 ratings by Goodreads)
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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 more

Product details

  • Hardback | 416 pages
  • 152.4 x 210.82 x 40.64mm | 612.35g
  • Random House USA Inc
  • Random House Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0385529090
  • 9780385529099
  • 456,386

Review quote

"This wonderful memoir is about a prison library, but it’s also about love, religion, Shakespeare, murder, the human condition and Ali G. This is a book for everybody who loves books — felons and non-felons alike." —A. J. Jacobs, bestselling author of "The Year of Living Biblically" and "The Guinea Pig Diaries " “Imagine Kafka as a prison librarian — which may not be such a bad description of Kafka — and you get some idea of the joys this book delivers. Steinberg's profound susceptibility to both absurdity and pathos makes "Running the Books" one of the best memoirs I’ve read in a long while.” —Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of "36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction" ""Running the Books" reads like a cross between Dante's "Inferno," Isaac Babel's "Red Cavalry," and HBO's "The Wire "— a narrative rife with moral compromises, power games, and moments of redemption.  As he navigashow more

About Avi Steinberg

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 more

Rating details

3,368 ratings
3.5 out of 5 stars
5 16% (541)
4 35% (1,192)
3 35% (1,168)
2 10% (344)
1 4% (123)
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