The Library Book

By Susan Orlean,

Book cover of The Library Book

Book description

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…

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Why read it?

6 authors picked The Library Book as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I loved this book because I love (and the book loves) libraries.

Centering on the mysterious fire that ravaged the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986, Susan Orlean ranges widely, both inwardly and outwardly. Inwardly, the book explains the multiple services that libraries offer their patrons and celebrates their staff's dedication, passion, and ingenuity. Outwardly, the book pleads for the importance of libraries to civic life, especially in an era of increasing social isolation and dependence on electronic media.

I find that everything that Susan Orlean writes is worth reading. I cherish this book above all her other fine work.

As an 80s kid, it pains a small part of me to recommend a historical fiction book that takes place in 1984, but this book goes into so much more than simply the tragic fire that destroyed part of the LA Central Library. While I found those aspects compelling, what really drew me in was the history of library sciences and how women played—and got pushed out of—the history of such beloved institutions.

There is also a nice bonus of humanity restored for all those who helped salvage as many books as they could after the tragedy. I found it…

I am a great lover of literary nonfiction, stories of truth that use the elements of fiction to draw us in. Orlean’s book is a brilliant model of the genre as well as an absolute page-turner. The book begins with a massive fire in the Los Angeles Public Library. Orlean begins to look into the fire and discovers, in the process, the depth of her own affection for libraries as well as some serious questions about the person long-believed to have been responsible. A must-read for library lovers.  

From ACF's list on mysteries about books.

It’s the story of a true crime, yes… But Susan Orlean’s fantastic book is also a love letter to one of America’s most incredible, beneficial, and undervalued institutions. I thought I knew what libraries are, what they do, and who they help. Then I read this book and realized that I didn’t have the first clue.

Part memoir, part history, and part true crime story, this non-fiction gem is the author's love letter to the public library -- as a concept, as a gathering place, and as a priceless repository for books and knowledge. She builds her tale around the 1986 arson fire that burned down the Los Angeles Public Library, and the library's subsequent rebuilding and renaissance.

From Dan's list on people obsessed by books.

Interweaving the author’s own life and a historical event is a tricky business, but Susan Orlean pulls it off in the masterpiece of sympathetic and suspenseful writing. Having moved to Los Angeles, Orlean becomes fascinated by a local disaster, the destruction by fire of 400,000 books from the collection of the local public library. At the time this event went largely unreported, overshadowed by the far larger catastrophe at the Chernobyl nuclear power station that occurred almost simultaneously. Along the way, as Orlean introduces us to the leading characters in this still largely unresolved mystery, we learn a great deal…

From Andrew's list on the history of communication.

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