The Library Book

The Library Book

Paperback - 2018
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Orlean re-opens the unsolved mystery of the most catastrophic library fire in American history and delivers a love letter to the institution of libraries themselves.
Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, 2018.
Edition: First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition.
ISBN: 9781476740188
Characteristics: 317 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

January 2019 pick, Reese's Book Club

The latest from Susan Orlean (The Orchid Thief) is essentially three books in one: a true crime investigation of the fire that burned down Los Angeles Public Library's central library in 1986, a history of LA's public library, and an overview of what libraries and librarians offer in the modern w... Read More »

The latest from Orlean (The Orchid Thief) is essentially three books in one: a true crime investigation of the fire that burned down Los Angeles Public Library's central library in 1986, a history of LA's public library, and an overview of what libraries and librarians offer in the modern world. ... Read More »

From the critics

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Jul 18, 2019

wonderfully written...characters of all types and a curirous author who wants to know their stories...but also willing to show us that there was no cut and dry answer about the cause of the fire , as well as the sad fate of the prime suspect...a cornucopia of information about libraries and their importance to us in the so called information or digital beloved institutions which bring us together in real time as well as virtual sure to look at the inside of the back's a treat

Jul 10, 2019

Best I've read in a long time. Orlean takes the horrendous LA Public Library fire of 1986 and uses it as the catalyst (unintended pun) to share the history of the LAPL and public libraries in general. Mix in true crime, mystery, and humor, and you've got a book that held my attention throughout my four-day beach vacation.

JCLHeatherM Jun 26, 2019

An elegant and heartfelt love letter to the public library system from an author who wrote the book in an effort to retain the memories of her youth visiting the library with her mother (who passed midway through the writing of the book). Orlean's attention to detail and her willingness to delve into every nook and cranny of of the storied Los Angeles Public Library creates a compelling narrative that depicts the ultimate highs and devastating lows of the organization's history.

Orlean champions the good fight that library professionals pursue in order to create fair and equitable services for sectors of the population that may be overlooked.

Jun 25, 2019

It seemed to me that too much time was devoted to the search for a suspect in the April 29, 1986 fire at the Central Library and I was tired of hearing about Harry Peak by the end of the book. The constant jumping back and forth between the history of the library and the search for a suspect detracted from the rest of the book. One chapter on the fire in the appropriate place in the history would have been sufficient. Otherwise, a good book covering the history of the Los Angeles Public Library and the operations and functions of libraries in general.

Jun 16, 2019

Interesting story about the LA Public Library Fire in 1986 but I didn’t enjoy the style. It took too long to reveal the outcome of the arsonist. Some interesting history about some of the people who worked there.

VaughanPLAlison Jun 14, 2019

I'm a librarian, so this book had floated across my radar in our professional circles. What got me officially reading was a recommendation from my mother. This was a fascinating read. If you love libraries, history, personal stories, true crime, and want to celebrate libraries, the places that we gravitate towards for socializing, learning and enrichment, then this will be a read you won't soon forget.

SurreyLibrarian Jun 13, 2019

-Submitted by Kristen-
Read The Library Book by Susan Orlean! It’s an account of a fire in the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986 and its aftermath. It brings together research on arson and a suspected arsonist with a love of libraries and commentary on libraries and society. It’s suspenseful, witty and full of intriguing real life characters.

Jun 07, 2019

I have worked in libraries for over 30 years. When I saw this book arrive in our location, I knew I had to read it. I had no knowledge of this fire and the devastation it had caused. This book was a wonderful read and a mix of the history of the fire and the author's own history and her love of libraries and ready. Well worth the read, you will not be disappointed.

May 28, 2019

Orlean takes an affectionate, engrossing look at the history of the Central main library in Los Angeles; the many unique characters and events involved in its history and operation, and the circumstances surrounding the massive arson fire in 1986 that nearly destroyed it. Woven through the history are chapters detailing what life is like for those who work in the library today and how library service has both completely changed and yet remained the same. The story of the Central Library reflects both the story of Los Angeles itself and the realities of working in a modern library anywhere in the USA. As one of those latter folks, and as someone who grew up in the L.A. area, I took a particular interest in this book and found it quite fascinating.

JessicaGma May 27, 2019

It's both a love letter to the LA library that burned down in 1986 but also a good examination of the issues public libraries are fielding today. A fantastic read. One of my favourites so far this year

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Jul 08, 2019

“Sometimes it's harder to notice a place you think you know well; your eyes glide over it, seeing it but not seeing it at all. It's almost as if familiarity gives you a kind of temporary blindness. I had to force myself to look harder and try to see beyond the concept of library that was so latent in my brain.”

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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