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Interview with the World’s Strongest Librarian

30 September 2009 8 Comments

World's Strongest LibrarianI had the pleasure of interviewing a new rising star in the blogging world by the name of Josh Hanagarne. I got to know him pretty well through another great blogger, Darren Rowse over at ProBlogger. I really enjoy what Josh’s blog is about and his style of writing is quite impressive. Overall, he’s a very grounded and great guy and a guy you’d want on your side, especially if you ever need some back in a fight, because he’s 6’8″ and works-out religiously.

Here’s a little more about him: Josh Hanagarne is the twitchy giant behind World’s Strongest Librarian, a blog with advice about living with Tourette’s Syndrome, book recommendations, buying pants when you’re 6’8”, old-time strongman training, and much more. Please subscribe to Josh’s RSS Updates to stay in touch.

Now for the interview portion:

1. First, could you let my readers know exactly what your blog about and how you came about starting it?

There are two answers to “What is World’s Strongest Librarian about?” 

The first is, “My blog is about a guy who is terrified of being bored.” 

The second, more potentially commercial answer is this: I write about things that will get you stronger, smarter, or help you enjoy your life more.  Every day.  Because I write something every day. 

I write about physical strength training, everything from bodyweight training to conventional barbell training.  My real physical passions are a bit on the fringe: extreme kettlebell training, grip strength, and old time feats of strength, like bending nails and tearing decks of cards.

The blog started as a way just a way for me to keep track of my workouts.  It was a free blog on blogger and contained very little besides my training numbers.  I did this because I kept losing my notebooks and figured I’d never lose a server. 

Then, during a long night (I’m a lifelong insomniac), I wrote a guest post for Scott Bird’s blog, Straight To The Bar.  He responded and said, “Man, you can really write.  You need to do something with this.” 

Scott became a blogging mentor to me.  I moved away from blogger to wordpress, wrote some articles, did some very basic design, and got after it.  But there was never a goal.  I like to write.  I like to be creative.  I never planned on anyone reading it. 

2. I know you enjoy working out with kettlebells. Why kettlebells, and how important is working out for you?

“Enjoy” is not really the word.  Everyone has different reasons for working out.  My primary reason is pure survival.  I have an extreme case of Tourette’s Syndrome, which essentially means I can’t control what my body does.  I twitch, I hit myself, I scream out loud.  This has caused me scream so loud I got a hernia, dislocate my thumb, and nearly gouge my eye out. 

This is where kettlebells fit in.  Until you’ve experienced your body betraying you, you can’t understand what this means to me.  Serious kettlebell work is the most brutal training you can do. It requires extreme focus, a high tolerance for pain, and serious guts. 

The hardest thing I do is normally over by 7 in the morning. After I’ve chosen to put myself through the challenge of a kettlebell workout, my symptoms don’t seem nearly as scary. 

There’s a line in Fight Club where Jack says, “After fighting, everything else has the volume turned down.” That’s how I feel after my workouts. 

Beyond that, kettlebells teach your body how to work properly, as it was intended to.  Used correctly, they fix asymmetries and teach your body how to function as a unit, not as a vehicle to carry around biceps and abs. 

So, again…I don’t “Work out.”  I beat myself into submission to prove that I am in control of my body, if only for a short time each day.  It turns the noise down—particularly when I’m the one making the noises.

3. I really want to know how someone who loves working out ends up being a librarian. How did you connect those two passions to get a blog going on those subjects, since they are on two very different spectrums of interests for most people?

Librarian is a state of mine.  They are the curious people who love stories, knowledge, and want to spend their whole lives learning.  I was a librarian long before I got the Master’s Degree that “proves” it. 

You cannot separate the body from the mind.  As one weakens, so does the other.  When one grows stronger, the other must follow.  Intelligence and strength are not separate spectrums of interest—they are inextricably linked. 

Most people consider them different because it’s easier to rely on a stereotype than to really think about things.  There’s this concept that people who are strong are vain divas who think about muscles all day and grunt when they speak. 

On the flipside, the word “academic” evokes images of pale, thin people with tweed jackets who spend their lives with their noses buried in increasingly irrelevant books.

In ancient Greece, you couldn’t show up to a bodybuilding show and rely on your muscles.  The complete man was smart, strong, and spiritual, just as capable of writing poetry as walking a city block with a young calf on his shoulder.

There is no disconnect between intellectual curiosity and strength development.  It was true then and it is true now.  The people who refuse to reconcile this in their minds aren’t interested in working hard enough in either area.  They are seeing what they expect to see, not reality. That’s not how you reach your potential.

4. I know that recently your blog has been getting some attention. Have you started making money off the success yet?

I will have several paying sponsors in October with offers from several more that I’ll have to think about a bit more. 

The goal was never to monetize the blog, because there was no goal at all.  But now in month five, I’m averaging over 1400 unique visitors a day.  It’s only going to increase.  I’d be crazy not to start making money off this.  It’s a hell of a lot more fun than work. 

My book reviews also bring in some decent commissions from Amazon.  I’m becoming more of an authority on the literary blogging front.  As traffic continues to rise, so will the money, provided the conversion rates stay the same.

The most exciting attention has been this:

Seth Godin noticed the blog back in month two and thought I should be writing a book.  He put me in touch with his agent.  That agent became my agent.  We wrote a book proposal.  I can’t get into details right now, but the chances are good that you’re going to be able to read a memoir called The World’s Strongest Librarian in the near future. 

It’s very exciting, very scary, and this process hasn’t been boring, that’s for sure.

5. Now, I’ve submitted my book “Civilized Savages in the Mad World” to you for review and though you wrote me what you thought about it, could you elaborate a little for my readers.

Sure.  “Civilized Savages” is a nasty book about nasty people doing nasty things.  It’s very well written and most people will absolutely hate it.  That has nothing to do with the quality of the book.  It has everything to do with the mood of the book.  Most people aren’t looking for ugly downers and sadistic killers in their pleasure reading. 

But I applaud you for writing something that doesn’t compromise.  It made me feel exactly how it was supposed to.  I’m sure you’d be very confused if I told you that Civilized Savages made me feel warm and fuzzy all over.

I’m a big fan of Chuck Palahniuk, Irvine Welsh, and Harry Crews.  Your book visits some very similar territory to their work, both thematically and stylistically. 

It’s no small chore to write a book.  It says a lot about you that you committed to the project and finished it.  Whatever happens, nobody can take that away from you. 

I do believe that readers of your blog will enjoy being readers of your book.  Absolutely.

Big thanks to Josh for sharing his thoughts and opinions on both my novel and the questions I asked him. Don’t forget to check out his blog, World’s Strongest Librarian.


  • Jakon said:

    Great interview! Thanks for it, and best of luck to the both of you in your writing endeavors.

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  • Drake said:

    Great interview, I really liked some of the funny answers. You both have cool looking blogs and I like that you don’t over-advertise like some websites. It’s clean looking themes and enjoyment to read. Keep up the great content.

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  • Jenny said:

    Great post and about a favorite blogger of mine. I look forward to seeing the book when it hits the shelves. Also enjoyed seeing how the “Q&A post opportunity” works.
    .-= Jenny´s last blog ..Shameless Promotion Tactics: A Couple Updates =-.

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  • Josh Hanagarne said:

    @Jakon: Thanks. Robby and I have been bumping into each other a lot lately. I think we’ll be around for a while.

    @Drake: Thanks! I’m pretty paranoid about over-advertising. It may cost me $$$ in the long run, but I just don’t care. I can’t stand a blog that I can’t look at for too long.

    @Jenny: I appreciate it, Jenny. Glad you’re not sick of me yet. Your post today is great, in case you didn’t know:)
    .-= Josh Hanagarne´s last blog ..Be Careful Who You Pretend To Be =-.

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  • Gayze (Gazehound's Animal Communication) said:

    Excellent interview! Wishing you great success with “Civilized Savages”. It sounds intense!

    Josh always manages to say something that makes me leap out of my own head for just a second and do a doubletake. In this interview, of all things, it was

    “just as capable of writing poetry as walking a city block with a young calf on his shoulder.”

    My first thought was, “Heck, *I’ve* done that!” Meaning both. And not a city block, but I’ve carried a newborn calf in my arms (not on my shoulders, though) many a time. LOL

    Weird, the associations the addled brain makes….
    .-= Gayze (Gazehound’s Animal Communication)´s last blog ..Infinite Maybes (Reflections On Human Nature) =-.

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  • Josh Hanagarne said:

    Gayze, the old story from Greece was that this guy named Milo carried a calf around until it was full-grown. His muscles and strength adapted slowly but at a pace that kept up with the calf’s growth. Weight-heads tell this story all the time to talk about the importance of always lifting heavier weights. It has flaws, but it’s a cool story.
    .-= Josh Hanagarne´s last blog ..Guest Post Ultra-Marathon Update Three =-.

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    Gayze (Gazehound's Animal Communication) Reply:

    Milo, Dude! That’s impressive, considering some calves grow to a thousand pounds plus. Excellent analogy, though! Me, I’m upping the steps I can take without falling on my arse. But I definitely can relate to the gradual increase concept!

    … I once had a full grown Jersey cow jump into my lap. It put me in the ER for a night, though, so I don’t think it counts, huh?….
    .-= Gayze (Gazehound’s Animal Communication)´s last blog ..Infinite Maybes (Reflections On Human Nature) =-.

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