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Download Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian, by Avi Steinberg Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,597 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Avi Steinberg Narrator: Dustin Rubi Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Avi Steinberg is stumped. After defecting from yeshiva to Harvard, he has only a senior thesis essay on Bugs Bunny to show for his effort. While his friends and classmates advance in the world, he remains stuck at a crossroads, unable to meet the lofty expectations of his 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.

The prison library counter, his new post, attracts con men, minor prophets, ghosts, and an assortment of quirky regulars searching for the perfect book and a connection to the outside world. There’s an anxious pimp who solicits Steinberg’s help in writing a memoir. A passionate gangster who dreams of hosting a cooking show titled Thug Sizzle. A disgruntled officer who instigates a major feud over a Post-it note. A doomed ex-stripper who asks Steinberg to orchestrate a reunion with her estranged son, himself an inmate. 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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Quotes & Awards

  • “Acidly funny…Mr. 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.” 

    New York Times

  • “A fiendishly intricate moral puzzle, sad and scary, yes, but also—and often—very funny.”


  • “A freewheeling meditation on the nature of incarceration and a moving chronicle of a population that remains, by design, hidden from view.”

    USA Today

  • “Steinberg writes a stylish prose that blends deadpan wit with an acute moral seriousness. The result is a fine portrait of prison life and the thwarted humanity that courses through it.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • A 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book for Nonfiction

Listener Opinions

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 by Loren | 2/8/2014

    " I was interested in the prisoners rather than the author. He lost me when he started filling in his own backstory. I feel bad about admitting I was reading to learn about the prison library, rather than the prison librarian. I stopped reading rather than be frustrated. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Toby | 2/5/2014

    " Now this was a strange and unusual combination - a former Orthodox Jew who ends up as the librarian in a New York prison. The writing is a bit disjointed but the ruminations on the multifaceted role of a prison library and the dilemma of a sympathetic librarian who tries not to cross the line is strangely compelling. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Hubert | 2/4/2014

    " A bit too long and wordy, but this memoir about a Harvard-educated prison librarian is revealing for what it says about social class, the neglected, and humanity. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Jane | 1/21/2014

    " I loved this book. As a librarian, I was at first annoyed that Avi Steinberg referred to himself as a librarian, while admitting that he had no training (formal or informal) as such. However, once I got over that, I found it a fascinating story. It's much more about prisons and people than about libraries. I thought it interesting that the author found that a common factor amongst the prisoners was a lack of maturity - an inability to deal with problems in an "adult" way. I was also amused to note the parallels between the roles and dilemmas of a prison librarian and a school librarian! The book was funny and sad and compassionate and beautifully written. I look forward to discussing it at Book Club. "

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