Reading Behind Bars
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 state of Ohio. The catch? The job was behind bars as the prison librarian at a men’s minimum-security prison. Talk about baptism by fire.   As an untested twentysomething woman, to say that the job was out of Jill’s comfort zone was an understatement. She was forced to adapt on the spot, speedily learning to take the metal detectors, hulking security guards, and colorful inmates in stride. Over the course of a little less than two years, Jill came to see past the bleak surroundings and the orange jumpsuits and recognize the humanity of the men stuck behind bars. They were just like every other library patron—persons who simply wanted to read, to be educated and entertained through the written word. By helping these inmates, Jill simultaneously began to recognize the humanity in everyone and to discover inner strength that she never knew she had. At turns poignant and hilarious, Reading behind Bars is a perfect read for fans of Orange is the New Black and Shakespeare Saved My Life.

Reading Behind Bars Details

TitleReading Behind Bars
Author
ReleaseJul 2nd, 2019
PublisherSkyhorse
ISBN-139781510737068
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Writing, Books About Books, Biography Memoir

Reading Behind Bars Review

  • Kate ☀️ Olson
    January 1, 1970
    ➕➗ Review math:.5 ⭐ for the prison library topic3 ⭐ for the actual writing2 ⭐ 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 topic3 ⭐️ for the actual writing2 ⭐️ 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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  • Jenna
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Allison Carmola
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Alexandra Robbins
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Cari
    January 1, 1970
    Absolutely loved this book. Review to come in Booklist.
  • Melinda
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Emmy
    January 1, 1970
    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 Behind the Gates of Gomorrah and The Maximum Security Book Club, 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 Behind the Gates of Gomorrah and The Maximum Security Book Club, 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.
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  • Chrissy
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 stars! I loved hearing Jill's experiences at the library and related to her love of both books and organization sooo much. This book made me want to change my major to library science! The reason it isn't five stars is because I had a hard time sometimes when reading about her personal struggles, even without comparing her situation with the inmates. I started to get especially peeved every time she complained about the early alarm at 5am, but that's probably because that's been the normal w 4.5 stars! I loved hearing Jill's experiences at the library and related to her love of both books and organization sooo much. This book made me want to change my major to library science! The reason it isn't five stars is because I had a hard time sometimes when reading about her personal struggles, even without comparing her situation with the inmates. I started to get especially peeved every time she complained about the early alarm at 5am, but that's probably because that's been the normal wake up time for most of my jobs or even the start time. I would have preferred to hear more about the conflicts at the prison; towards the end she mentioned some problems with her supervisor and that would have been interesting to read more about it (although I can imagine legal barriers?). I also must admit I cringed repeatedly at the "Ms G stands for Gansta" lines, but I think we were supposed to lol. But besides those things, super entertaining read and though I took a break halfway through for a couple days it was a relatively quick book too! Definitely recommend if you like libraries, prison systems, or want to be more empathetic towards incarcerated populations. I enjoyed hearing about the inmates that worked with Jill.
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  • Megan Palasik
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Julianne2girls
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • L G
    January 1, 1970
    I enjoyed this book very much. There are sentences and passages which faintly convey restraint, of the author holding herself to a familiar script. I wanted to hear more about what happened to the dog which was curled up asleep at her feet. Of the man who discouraged his friends from getting into the elevator with her. Other parts of the book give me an invitation to think about a subject I certainly never otherwise even considered. This is great and I hope Grunenwald continues to write with a c I enjoyed this book very much. There are sentences and passages which faintly convey restraint, of the author holding herself to a familiar script. I wanted to hear more about what happened to the dog which was curled up asleep at her feet. Of the man who discouraged his friends from getting into the elevator with her. Other parts of the book give me an invitation to think about a subject I certainly never otherwise even considered. This is great and I hope Grunenwald continues to write with a confident exploring voice.
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  • Evelyn Cronin
    January 1, 1970
    Another homerun book!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.
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  • Lesley
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Danielle
    January 1, 1970
    When Jill Grunenwald graduated from library school in 2008 library jobs were in scarce supply, so she wound up working in a minimum security men's prison. She shares her stories of working the prison for just under 2 years. There were some interesting stories, but the book definitely felt like an amateur memoir and over-familiarly written.
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  • Lynn
    January 1, 1970
    A compelling look inside a prison library, with a nod to Avi Steinberg's *Running the Books*, this time narrated by a young woman, which gives a whole new perspective to a whole new set of situations.I read this EARC courtesy of Skyhorse Publications and Edelweiss. pub date 07/02/19
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  • Kelly Mannion
    January 1, 1970
    This is a fun and interesting read about the library process in jail. It is a unique take on life in prison.
  • Deborah
    January 1, 1970
    It was a bit repetitive. And there were numerous errors missed by proofreaders. But it was an interesting subject that held my interest.
  • Emily
    January 1, 1970
    An interesting read. It gave me some new insight on prison libraries.
  • Mary Drayer
    January 1, 1970
    A one day read... great insights into prison readings-a quick read with good info
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