The Library Book

The Library Book

Book - 2018
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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.
Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, 2018.
Edition: First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition.
ISBN: 9781476740188
Branch Call Number: 020 ORLE
Characteristics: 317 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


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May 08, 2019

I had seen this book on a few "must read" lists recently so I snagged my spot in line at the library (the wait-list was in the double digits when I joined it) and waited patiently. This was the first book I've read by this author, but I know it won't be my last. This was a story that was part mystery, part history. I really enjoyed it. Although I've lived in Southern California for over 13 years, I've never heard about the Los Angeles Public Library Fire in the late 80s. It burned for over 7 hours, had a heat of over 2000 degrees and damaged over a million books. Talk about a sad day in LA! The story did jump around a bit from chapter to chapter, but I really enjoyed how the book titles at the beginning of each chapter described what could be expected (super clever!). A few of the sections on past employees of the library seemed to drag a little longer than I would have liked, but otherwise I stayed interested and engaged the entire time. Shoot, it even motivated me to look and see if there were any positions available at my local library (AND APPLY TO ONE THAT WAS CURRENTLY OPEN!). I love how the research the author did for this book rekindled a love for physical books (especially in the age of e-readers) and the library as a whole. I fell in love with the library a couple years ago, so this book is right up my alley! I would give it a 9 out of 10.

May 06, 2019

Full of interesting characters, including the most interesting main branch of the Los Angeles public library.

May 01, 2019

Entertaining,informative . Also a mystery of sorts about the LA library fire.

All you wanted to know about libraries but were afraid to ask. 5 stars

Orlean is an interesting writer.

May 01, 2019

When my book club suggested this I thought it was a true crime novel. But it was a lot of history and it didn't have the flow of an Erik Larson novel. I skimmed, then I skipped entire chapters. This book was a bore.

Apr 26, 2019

Standing in applause, the research alone is worth 5 stars and Orlean’s writing is top-notch, worthy of many accolades and choice awards.

Second time around - Kindle
Downtowner's Book Group Read, Kansas City, MO
Loving this book more than the first time around as my son took me to the Downtown Central Library in Los Angeles for a docent-led-tour on my birthday. All of the participants were from out-of-town and came after reading Susan Orlean's book which created a more attentive audience as many places/items were discussed in the book.

Apr 24, 2019

This was a delightful surprise. Although it started by capturing my attention with the massive 1986 fire at the LA Central Library, it quickly moves to giving you the history of the library, a glimpse into the leadership and the present day librarians. What an imaginative group of librarians were involved in the library over the years as they expanded its services, books, and other media. I had to go visit my own community library right away after finishing it. Perfect for a book club topic.

Apr 21, 2019

📚🔥 It’s every librarian’s nightmare. A devastating loss to a vibrant city’s collective culture and memory. In 1986, the same week as the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown crisis in Russia, the Los Angeles Central Library was set ablaze by an arsonist. The fire spread quickly through the old building and incinerated everything in its path, reaching temperatures of 2500 degrees Fahrenheit. Hundreds of thousands of books and priceless archival items were reduced to ash. Hundreds of thousands more were irreversibly damaged or severely threatened by water and smoke damage. The next day, thousands of volunteers converged on the building and formed a human chain, handing waterlogged books out of the building and rushing them to local commercial freezers to prevent mold from destroying them forever. An extraordinary paean to the glory of libraries and their uniquely important place in the American social edifice. Author Susan Orlean combines a detailed journalistic style with her characteristically vivid and evocative prose to do more than simply tell the tale of a devastating fire and rebirth. Along the way, she rekindles her (and our) love for the American public library, and illustrates why this beloved institution perpetually rises from the ashes, again and again. 📖

Apr 17, 2019

I wasn't sure what this book was about when I began it, but I was pleasantly surprised and loved it. Some parts were a little dry and almost felt unnecessary, but overall the details were good and didn't slow the plot down at very much. I had no idea there even was a library fire then, but now I want to go to LA and visit their new building.

Apr 13, 2019

Fantastic read. From the way the blurb read I thought I was picking up a mystery or even a thriller. The Library Book is a non-fiction, but Orlean tells such a great story you are entertained from the first words.

Chapter one filled me with nostalgia -- her words about going to the library with her mother took me back to my own child and young adulthood when every Wednesday night -- the night our local library was open late -- we traveled into town to pick out our reads for the next week. Both my parents were avid readers and they had a collection of books -- my dad had a collection of the "Worlds Greatest Literature" and a full set of Charles Dickens from his just childhood in the early 1900's -- like 1920's and forward.

Orlean then introduces her readers to the earliest librarians in Los Angeles's Central Branch and the man suspected of setting fire to the library. Chapters on great libraries, libraries destroyed in war or in an effort to destory history as we know it. The people who built them and how the library is more than just books.

This is a must read for anyone who reads. And if you aren't a reader, and you find your way to this review, do check it out -- it will make you one.

Apr 10, 2019

A must-read for library lovers and bibliophiles. Yes, there is a lot of disjointed motion across completely different subjects, and the crime itself is only a tiny dab of glue trying to hold the three books together. But the crime of the library arson (book 1 within) is horrific to the central audience, the library history of the L.A. Public (book 2) is its own well-told narrative, and the basic overview of current Library operations (book 3) can be revealing to all interested in libraries today. Wisps of personal memoir float above the complex of these other narratives, the "love letter" that Orlean wants to write to this most American kind of institution.

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Mar 19, 2019

"When I first learned that the library had a shipping department ... I couldn't think of anything a library needed to ship. I came to learn that what gets shipped ... [are] books traveling from one branch to another. The shipping department at Central moves thirty-two thousand books - the equivalent of an entire branch library - around the city of Los Angeles five days a week. It is as if the city has a bloodstream flowing through it, oxygenated by books." (p. 61)


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