Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian

“Acidly funny. . . . Steinberg proves to be a keen observer, and a morally serious one. His memoir is wriggling and alive — as involving, and as layered, as a good coming-of-age novel.”
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“Hysterical, ingenious, illuminating. I wish I had left yeshiva for prison right away.”
Gary Shteyngart, bestselling author of Super Sad True Love Story

“Running the Books presents [Steinberg’s] experiences working in the prison’s library as a fiendishly intricate moral puzzle, sad and scary, yes, but also — and often — very funny.”

Avi Steinberg is stumped. While his friends and classmates advance in the world, he remains stuck at a crossroads, unable to meet the lofty expectations of his Harvard education and Orthodox Jewish upbringing. And his romantic existence as a freelance obituary writer just isn’t cutting it. Seeking direction—and dental insurance—Steinberg takes a job as a librarian in a tough Boston prison. Over time, Steinberg is drawn into the accidental community of outcasts that has formed among his bookshelves — a drama he recounts with heartbreak and humor. But when the struggles of the prison library — between life and death, love and loyalty — become personal, Steinberg is forced to take sides. Running the Books is a trenchant exploration of prison culture and an entertaining tale of one young man’s earnest attempt to find his place in the world while trying not to get fired in the process.

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