Customer Reviews for

Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 review with 4 star rating   See All Ratings
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  • Posted November 3, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Good read

    The author grabs you from the opening lines of this book and draws you in to his story. From the drug addict mother to the pimp with a story Steinberg shows us the human side to convicts. This was a wonderful story and I had a hard time putting it down.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 5, 2010

    Starts slow, but draws you in

    It took me a while to get into this book; it was more than the usual "I'm coming off the feeling of the book I just read and now have to shift gears for this NEW book" ... while well-written, the first 1/4 of the book simply felt like mildly amusing, quirky, loosely-woven antecdotes about how Avi grew up strictly Orthodox, about his footloose and trouble-prone friend Yoni, and about the types of people he meets in the prison library, where he also runs Creative Writing classes for both male and female inmates.

    But THEN, Avi gets personal. He writes about his feelings on finding out that a former inmate has died, and suddenly, the whole novel opens up. We meet a various cast of characters, including:

    * Jessica (whom Avi names "Solitary" in his head) - she sits in his Creative Writing class staring out of the window and barely participating, resulting in the other women in class demanding to be able to sit and look out of the window at the yard (where the male inmates are). Avi resents this until another inmate tells him the real reason why Jessica looks into the yard, and thus begins a tenuous friendship.
    * Chudney - whose idea of a love poem is the recipe for Nestle Chocolate Chip cookies paired with a plate of cookies made by hand along with some flowers. He has a detailed Plan for when he gets out that ends up with him being the host of his own television cooking show
    * Al - the businessman, who made money selling stars to people on the outside
    * C. C. Too Sweet - who enlists Avi's aid in helping him write his story "The Memoir of a Pimp" and who has a flair for writing, as evidenced by the beginning of the following poem:

    In Jail

    Being in Jail is lonely at night,
    It is waiting for letters that no one will write.
    It is depending on people
    You thought were your friends,
    Waiting for letters no one will send ....

    With a dry humor, and astonishingly almost judgment-free humanity, Avi chronicles what happens after he answers a Craig's list ad for a prison librarian, an ad he only answers because it is a union job with job security and benefits.

    As you read through the various vignettes, you will find yourself thinking more and more in Avi's voice as you read, and you will experience both the simple highs and numbing lows , the self-realizations and observations he makes become your own.

    As I closed the book, which ends as most episodes in our lives end, by changing to a "time after", I felt reflective and rather solemn. I wondered where some of our characters ended up, and hoped for the best.

    I'm glad I kept at it after what I felt was a rather shaky start, as I felt "fulfilled" at the end in the way that reading any good story will make the reader feel. With these glimpses into someone else's life, I came away with a slightly changed perspective and with more empathy and understanding.

    Sensitive Reader: There is some profanity and a few sexual references, but not much and not glaring and out of context.


    There seemed to be endless ways to use books. Hardcover books could be fashioned into body armor. Placed in a bag and wielded as a battle lail. Taped together and used as weights. Used to hide contraband. Books could be mined for paper or illustrations, or used to help prop things up around the cell. And for all of these functions, books became an item for barter.

    (I received a copy of this title from the publishe

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 7, 2011

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    Posted April 30, 2011

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    Posted November 15, 2010

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