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

In December 2008, twentysomething Jill Grunenwald graduated with her master’s degree in library science, ready to start living her dream of becoming a librarian. But the economy had a different idea. As the Great Recession reared its ugly head, jobs were scarce. After some searching, however, Jill was lucky enough to snag one of the few librarian gigs left in her home stat...

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

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

  • Cari

    Absolutely loved this book. Review to come in Booklist.

  • 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.

  • Megan Palasik

    I read this book in 3 days, which is quite the feat for me! It was hard to put down.

    Jill writes an easy to read narrative of her adventures as a newly minted librarian working in a prison. Her style is conversational, as if you are sitting over coffee and updating a friend on your life (with humorous Harry Potter references and asides). This style will make you laugh out loud at times and gasp at others.

    At the beginning of each chapter, the reader is given an example of a prison rule in place

    I read this book in 3 days, which is quite the feat for me! It was hard to put down.

    Jill writes an easy to read narrative of her adventures as a newly minted librarian working in a prison. Her style is conversational, as if you are sitting over coffee and updating a friend on your life (with humorous Harry Potter references and asides). This style will make you laugh out loud at times and gasp at others.

    At the beginning of each chapter, the reader is given an example of a prison rule in place for the safety of the inmates. There are a lot of rules; and subsequently a lot of stories to tell about inmates pushing the limits of said rules. However, this book isn't just about being a prison librarian, it is about her life at the time. She graduated at the time soon after the recession and jobs were scarce, so she took what she could get, as we all do.

    This was an enjoyable, quick read and I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in what it's like to be a librarian and/or work in a prison.

  • Julianne2girls

    I wasn't sure what to think going into this book, but it intrigued me. I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Other than one or two small typos and one grammar error, this book was a very quick read and hard to put down. I started Wednesday morning before work and was done by Sunday night.

    "Reading Behind Bars" is a fantastic memoir that shows how Jill (the author) grew with her first librarian position after college be one in a Correctional Facility. It shows ths reader how both the inmates

    I wasn't sure what to think going into this book, but it intrigued me. I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Other than one or two small typos and one grammar error, this book was a very quick read and hard to put down. I started Wednesday morning before work and was done by Sunday night.

    "Reading Behind Bars" is a fantastic memoir that shows how Jill (the author) grew with her first librarian position after college be one in a Correctional Facility. It shows ths reader how both the inmates and Jill interacted, reminding us that inmates have feelings and are human. It also shows how inmates and the outside world can actually interact peacefully with each other, both in and out of jail. If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend it to every avid reader.

  • Evelyn Cronin

    I have waited to get my hands on this book because I love Ms. Grunenwald's perspective on her life and the world around her. I'm not sure I was aware that prisons had libraries until reading Ms. G's bio and I love that this memoir gives those on the outside an honest look into prison life and what is required to work in one - the ability to let go of bias and assumptions and too see people for who they are and not what they've done.

  • Melinda

    The author describes the ins and outs of life in prison from an unlikely place- the prison library. For these inmates, the library is more than a place with books, it’s a haven. This book is an easy read that’s both enjoyable and thought provoking, and one fact is very clear throughout- Ms. G is definitely a gangster.

    I received an advance copy from the publisher and Edelweiss. This is my honest review.

  • 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.

  • Emmy

    What a fascinating book! When I first picked this up, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I've read books about prison experiences before, including

    and

    , but I think this was my favorite. Perhaps it was because the story takes place in a library. Or maybe it was just Grunenwald's writing voice. Regardless of the reason, I found this a very hard book to put down.

    The beginning was a bit slow, and there was a moment when I thought I mig

    What a fascinating book! When I first picked this up, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I've read books about prison experiences before, including

    and

    , but I think this was my favorite. Perhaps it was because the story takes place in a library. Or maybe it was just Grunenwald's writing voice. Regardless of the reason, I found this a very hard book to put down.

    The beginning was a bit slow, and there was a moment when I thought I might put the book down for something more interesting. But, soon, I found that I could not stop. I just had to find out what would happen next! And I love that Grunenwald manages to strike the perfect balance in how she presents her story. It's about her, certainly, but she focuses even more on the prison and the people. I like how protective some of them are of her, and how at other times, she has to defend herself and does a pretty good job, too.

    As a librarian myself, dealing with creeps and their inappropriate commentary is a part of the job. I think that this is a profession that puts you into a special position--you want to help and provide access to information and resources, but also have to learn to balance out that helpful spirit with one that is a bit more skeptical. If you give too much, you often get taken advantage of. While I haven't had to deal with many of the things outlined in this book (mostly because I don't work in a prison library) there were many times when I found myself nodding along, or remembering similar moments in my own library career. Very relatable.

  • 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

    ➕➗ 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!

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