Reading Behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian

Reading Behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian

“A fascinating look into a world many of us never see, and a powerful story about one woman’s journey to find her own strength, with a clear message of the importance of books and information for all.” —Booklist (American Library Association), starred reviewIn December 2008, twentysomething Jill Grunenwald graduated with her master’s degree in library science, ready to...

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Title:Reading Behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian
Author:Jill Grunenwald
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Reading Behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian Reviews

  • Alexandra Robbins

    There is not enough literature representing librarians – the guardians of books – or the incarcerated, who are under constant guard. Grunenwald amiably gives voice to both in an important, interesting memoir that celebrates the liberating power of literature and the right to the freedom to read.

  • Jenna

    I found this to be an incredibly enthralling read. I read almost all of it over the course of a weekend. I simply couldn’t put it down.

    I'm a big library nerd. I've always been pretty active in my own libraries. One of the first steps I take when moving to a new town is getting my library card. I just love being in libraries.

    But prison libraries are something that I never really gave much thought to. Neither did Jill prior to landing a job at one, it turns out. Throughout the book, you’ll learn

    I found this to be an incredibly enthralling read. I read almost all of it over the course of a weekend. I simply couldn’t put it down.

    I'm a big library nerd. I've always been pretty active in my own libraries. One of the first steps I take when moving to a new town is getting my library card. I just love being in libraries.

    But prison libraries are something that I never really gave much thought to. Neither did Jill prior to landing a job at one, it turns out. Throughout the book, you’ll learn about Jill’s experiences – both the good and the bad – as a prison librarian at a low-security prison.

    I learned a lot about prisons in this book. There are a lot of aspects surrounding prison life that I never even considered, and it’s interesting to read about them from the perspective of a staff member who isn’t a correctional officer.

    In the prison Jill worked at, the library was unique in that it was the only space in the prison where inmates could go that didn’t have an on-duty guard. Because of this, it was the one space where inmates could go and almost forget that they were prisoners while they were inside it.

    Because of my fascination with libraries, I will read literally anything about libraries or librarians. But this book is about more than just a library, it’s about the patrons and the value that the library brings them.

  • Neelam Babul

    I love reading and every time I see the words book, library, book club, reading I have to read that book.

    Jill writes an impressive narrative of her role as a librarian working in a prison. At the beginning of each chapter, the reader is given an example of a prison rule in place for the safety of the inmates as well as the staff working there.

    The book also talks about her life during her tenure as a librarian in prison. She accepted the job since jobs were scarce during those times and

    I love reading and every time I see the words book, library, book club, reading I have to read that book.

    Jill writes an impressive narrative of her role as a librarian working in a prison. At the beginning of each chapter, the reader is given an example of a prison rule in place for the safety of the inmates as well as the staff working there.

    The book also talks about her life during her tenure as a librarian in prison. She accepted the job since jobs were scarce during those times and recession was hitting hard in the economy. Jill was grateful for the opportunity and made the most of it, by nourishing the joy of reading and books amongst the inmates.

    It is an intriguing account and I recommend everyone should read it.

  • Allison Carmola

    Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for this advance copy.

    I enjoyed this book. Full disclosure, I am a librarian so I like reading about librarians, but I do think this book has a wider appeal. It starts a little slow, and especially near the beginning there were things about the writing style that annoyed me. But the characters and situations are interesting, and I was fully engaged by the end.

  • Kate ☀️ Olson

    Review math:

    .

    5 for the prison library topic

    3 for the actual writing

    2 for the voice

    .

    Overall = 3.3333 and worth reading if you are a MAJOR library nerd like me and want any library memoir you can get your hands on. If you only ever want to read ONE book about libraries, try THE LIBRARY BOOK by Susan Orlean.

    .

    I just didn’t love the super casual, irreverent and often profane tone and I think there could have been several more rounds of editing to eradicate some repetitions of content. But most

    ➕➗ Review math:

    .

    5 ⭐️ for the prison library topic

    3 ⭐️ for the actual writing

    2 ⭐️ for the voice

    .

    Overall = 3.3333 ⭐️ and worth reading if you are a MAJOR library nerd like me and want any library memoir you can get your hands on. If you only ever want to read ONE book about libraries, try THE LIBRARY BOOK by Susan Orlean.

    .

    I just didn’t love the super casual, irreverent and often profane tone and I think there could have been several more rounds of editing to eradicate some repetitions of content. But most of the trade reviews have been great and the cover quote by NYT states “a stylish and sparkly writer” so it may just be me and my personal taste 😊 Lots of new-to-me info about prison libraries, which was awesome!

  • Kelly Magro

    Satisfied my curiosity of what a prison librarian's job might entail. Interesting behind the scenes look at a low security prison. Definitely not a page turner and was slow and boring in a lot of areas. I wanted more from this.

  • Lesley

    Hard to finish, to be honest. The content was fine, but the writing style was irritating in that it definitely felt written from the perspective of someone who hadn't had a friend/loved one incarcerated or done enough anti-oppression self-work to effectively build a class/race narrative for solidarity with patrons. Prison libraries have a pretty incredible, revolutionary history and I just wasn't feeling that reflected in this.

  • Elizabeth

    Kept my interest and I learned a bit about prisons. A little too much profanity out of the librarian’s mouth. Could have done without that and it certainly wasn’t necessary at getting the point across. Proof reading was lax throughout, but to a small extent.

    I thought it was funny she said the most requested books were by JD Robb and Nora Roberts. Romance books were very popular even though this was a men’s prison.

    Oh another tidbit I found interesting.. the prison library could only carry

    Kept my interest and I learned a bit about prisons. A little too much profanity out of the librarian’s mouth. Could have done without that and it certainly wasn’t necessary at getting the point across. Proof reading was lax throughout, but to a small extent.

    I thought it was funny she said the most requested books were by JD Robb and Nora Roberts. Romance books were very popular even though this was a men’s prison.

    Oh another tidbit I found interesting.. the prison library could only carry paperbacks as hardcovers could be used as a weapon.

  • Christina Autumn

    Read a hundred pages. I'll read anything about libraries, but the author is a poor writer and she's obnoxious. I would love to read a book on this topic by someone else!

  • Heather

    When I read the synopsis of the book trying to determine if it was worth checking out at the library (irony), I had thought it would be more about a real human experience with these inmates. Instead, I felt like I was just reading about someone's job, like, literally, anyone could write a book about their time on their job. Where was the meat? The real human experience? I didn't get it. I think her best writing was in the epilogue and wished that bit of deepness would have carried through the

    When I read the synopsis of the book trying to determine if it was worth checking out at the library (irony), I had thought it would be more about a real human experience with these inmates. Instead, I felt like I was just reading about someone's job, like, literally, anyone could write a book about their time on their job. Where was the meat? The real human experience? I didn't get it. I think her best writing was in the epilogue and wished that bit of deepness would have carried through the book. I didn't even really connect with the author who wrote this in first person. Okay, you're an atheist, liberal librarian who's an introvert. Well, that's pretty much a given. And, that's about all I got. But, I did stick with it hoping to get that meat on the bone only to be left still hungry at the end.

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