The Library Book

The Library Book

Book - 2018
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"A constant pleasure to read...Everybody who loves books should check out The Library Book ." -- The Washington Post

"CAPTIVATING...DELIGHTFUL." -- Christian Science Monitor * "EXQUISITELY WRITTEN, CONSISTENTLY ENTERTAINING." -- The New York Times * "MESMERIZING...RIVETING." -- Booklist (starred review)

A dazzling love letter to a beloved institution--and an investigation into one of its greatest mysteries--from the bestselling author hailed as a "national treasure" by The Washington Post .

On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, "Once that first stack got going, it was 'Goodbye, Charlie.'" The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library--and if so, who?

Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.

In The Library Book , Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.

Along the way, Orlean introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters from libraries past and present--from Mary Foy, who in 1880 at eighteen years old was named the head of the Los Angeles Public Library at a time when men still dominated the role, to Dr. C.J.K. Jones, a pastor, citrus farmer, and polymath known as "The Human Encyclopedia" who roamed the library dispensing information; from Charles Lummis, a wildly eccentric journalist and adventurer who was determined to make the L.A. library one of the best in the world, to the current staff, who do heroic work every day to ensure that their institution remains a vital part of the city it serves.

Brimming with her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, The Library Book is Susan Orlean's thrilling journey through the stacks that reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books--and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country. It is also a master journalist's reminder that, perhaps especially in the digital era, they are more necessary than ever.
Publisher: New York : Simon and Schuster, 2018.
Edition: First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition.
ISBN: 9781476740188
Branch Call Number: 027.4794 ORLEAN S
Characteristics: 317 pages : illustraions ; 25 cm


From Library Staff

LPL_DirectorBrad Sep 11, 2018

This book took me back to my days working at Los Angeles Public Library. What starts out as an investigation into whether the massive 1986 fire at the Central Library was arson, Orlean takes that initial story and branches out into multiple stories about LAPL--the fire and the psychological damag... Read More »

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Oct 20, 2018

The author's love of her subject shines through on every page in her latest book. As a resident of L.A., Orlean was surprised to learn about a 1986 fire in the L.A. Public Library that she had never previously known about. In exploring more about the story, her research uncovers the intriguing history of the library in Los Angeles, as well as the pioneering future of libraries worldwide. Beautifully written, packed with real history, even spinning some suspense; I loved this book!

Oct 10, 2018

"Here is my story, please listen; here I am, please tell me your story," says the library. Susan Orlean weaves an amazing tale for us centered around the tragic library fire that devastated the Central LA Branch in 1986.

In this book, the story begins with a depiction of the fire itself then backtracks to tell the story of the LA library system and its many iconic leaders. In between we get updates on the investigation into the fire as well as chapters on the many ways a library is so much more than a storehouse for books.
All of us who love libraries will be uplifted by this love letter to libraries and the way they transcend the mere buildings and physical objects within. Highly recommended!

LPL_DirectorBrad Sep 11, 2018

This book took me back to my days working at Los Angeles Public Library. What starts out as an investigation into whether the massive 1986 fire at the Central Library was arson, Orlean takes that initial story and branches out into multiple stories about LAPL--the fire and the psychological damage it wrought, the relatively fascinating history of LAPL itself, and finally an examination of the current work being done in public libraries at present. The hopping back and forth by chapter works quite well.

As a public librarian, it is humbling and encouraging to see a writer who didn't really know what goes on in modern public libraries become fascinated in our work and tell the story of how crucial public libraries are to what Eric Klinenberg calls the 'social infrastructure' of our communities.

Thank you, Susan Orlean, for this beautiful homage the place I cut my teeth at a reference desk, Los Angeles Public Library! Great reporting and a great thought piece about the role of public libraries in our modern world.

NicoleA_Oshlib Jun 09, 2018

I received an advance reading copy of this book and am enthralled at Orlean's excellent writing, vivid descriptions and meticulous research into the circumstances surrounding the tragic fire at the Los Angeles Central Library in 1986. it is a love letter to all libraries and it is a true crime novel where the victims were hundreds of thousands of books and irreplaceable historical records.


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