Just as she did with The Orchid Thief, Orlean tells a true story that has the page-turning appeal of great fiction. This time her focus is a devastating fire that struck the LA library in 1986, and it serves as a launchpad for a riveting journey into the history of LA, public spaces, and the vital role of libraries themselves. Recommended By Lucinda G., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Susan Orlean's bestseller and New York Times Notable Book is "a sheer delight...as rich in insight and as varied as the treasures contained on the shelves in any local library" (USA TODAY) — a dazzling love letter to a beloved institution and an investigation into one of its greatest mysteries. "Everybody who loves books should check out The Library Book" (The Washington Post).
On the morning of April 28, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. The fire was disastrous: it reached two thousand 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 "delightful...reflection on the past, present, and future of libraries in America" (New York magazine) that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.
In the "exquisitely written, consistently entertaining" (The New York Times) 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; brings each department of the library to vivid life; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.
"A book lover's dream...an ambitiously researched, elegantly written book that serves as a portal into a place of history, drama, culture, and stories" (Star Tribune, Minneapolis), Susan Orlean's thrilling journey through the stacks 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.
"Like an amble through the rooms and the stacks of a library, where something unexpected and interesting can be discovered on any page." NPR
"Captivating . . . A delightful love letter to public libraries . . . In telling the story of this one library, Orlean reminds readers of the spirit of them all, their mission to welcome and equalize and inform, the wonderful depths and potential that they — and maybe all of us, as well — contain." Christian Science Monitor
"This is a joyful book, and among its many pleasures is the reader's ability to palpate the author's thrill as she zooms down from stratospheric viewings of history, to viscerally detailed observations of events and people, and finally to the kind of irresistibly offbeat facts that create an equally irresistible portrait of the author herself." San Francisco Chronicle
"A book lover's dream . . . This is an ambitiously researched, elegantly written book that serves as a portal into a place of history, drama, culture, and stories." Minneapolis Star Tribune
About the Author
Susan Orlean has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1992. She is the author of seven books, including Rin Tin Tin, Saturday Night, and The Orchid Thief, which was made into the Academy Award-winning film Adaptation. She lives with her family and her animals in upstate New York and may be reached at SusanOrlean.com and Twitter.com/SusanOrlean.