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 review

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.

Title:Reading Behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9781510737068
Format Type:

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

  • Kate ?? Olson

    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 g...

  • 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 ac...

  • 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 ow...

  • 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, ...

  • 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 s...

  • 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, interes...

  • 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!...

  • 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 area...

  • 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 beg...

  • 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 incarcerat...