The Library Book

The Library Book

Book - 2018 | First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition.
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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: 027.479494
Characteristics: 317 pages : illustraions ; 25 cm


From Library Staff

On April 29, 1986, a fire broke out at the Los Angeles Public Library and burned for more than seven hours. By the time the flames were doused, four hundred thousand books were lost and more than seven hundred thousand were damaged. More than thirty years later the question still remains: did som... Read More »

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mazinwhistler Jan 13, 2019

An excellent read! A must for lovers of libraries...make you feels so appreciative for libraries and what they stand for and contribute to communities.

Jan 05, 2019

Just one of the best books I have read in quite a while...I wondered why I have never heard of this fire, being a supporter of libraries, then realized it was overshadowed by Chernobyl...

The writing is excellent, the details explored are amazing and the work done by the staff and the public to heal this tragedy is inspiring.

I know if you use this service to review your reading, you are a real fan of libraries, and I urge you to get on the waiting list and enjoy the read. It will be worth the wait.

I feel I did not say enough about the history and the stories of the librarians that founded the LA Library...from very competent people to colorful "characters" it all a vital aspect of the Library.

Jan 05, 2019

I really enjoyed reading about the LA Library fire I had no idea it had even happened. I also really appreciated how thorough the author was in describing the Los Angeles County Library system how it began to what it is today and the services that they offer. Overall, it was an excellent read.

Jan 01, 2019

This is a must read for librarians, those of us who love our libraries, and the generation of non-book readers. From the fire to the story of the "lady librarians" to how libraries and their diverse communities can come together for the betterment of all - this well-researched book does it all. Since Orleans writes for the NYer she does one very annoying thing - every person gets a 1-2-3 description ala the NYer. Small complaint but started to do it myself whenever I met someone new in the book. The LA County and LA City librarians these days are rock stars in the library world - would be interesting to find out what they do and "bring it home." I believe that libraries can do so much more to foster community but their piece of the Bellinham budget is so limited it's hard for them to do all that I know they dream about doing.

Dec 15, 2018

This book is the fantastic representation of the lives and politics (even the peanut politics) of the library world. It covers the perspective of patrons, library workers such as clerks, librarians, etc... It also covers the issues involving serving the public with little means or a lot of means for libraries. Working at a library is not easy work and it's a not place to work if you love to read or love books, it's a place that deals with countless intricacies of various kinds. At first I almost dismissed this as 'another person that loves to read and loves books' when the author talks about how she started going back to the library once she had children. In the library world that is nice to know, but we don't want to lose patrons because they feel it's a place solely for students and parents with small children/grade school learning. A must read for people that appreciate libraries but don't know how they work as far as work load, skills needed, and the office politics. I also enjoyed the interview/insight of the digital vendors that work with libraries for streaming content and listening to downloadable audio.

Dec 14, 2018

I wish our library would purchase more copies, particularly some in large print if available.

Dec 11, 2018

An amazing book detailing the value of libraries. Should be required reading for all city politicians and civic senior managers.

IndyPL_EmilyC Oct 23, 2018

The author offers an insightful view of the enduring value of libraries to the community and the ways they can continue to inspire and assist anyone who walks through their doors. Truly an amazing must-read to anyone who loves their library.

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!

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