What lover of all things book doesn’t still fret over the destruction of the Library at Alexandria? I know it can’t be just me. And Susan Orlean, with her new exploration of the fire in the Los Angeles Public Library and explanation of just why the event was so devastating explains it all in
The Library Book
“All the things that are wrong in the world seem conquered by a library’s simple unspoken promise: Here is my story, please listen; here I am, please tell me your story.”
And that is the simple premise of a library’s place in society – and just why we need them. Stories to transport, inform, enlighten and perhaps even to start on that tricky path to building a community. I don’t know about you -but libraries have been a place in my life that have always felt like home – from working with my mother and the other ladies on the town’s library committee to clean, refresh and update the lending catalog in the little town library, to losing myself in the stacks at the university, Boston, New York and London public libraries, and always finding something to capture attention and imagination – I have memories of library withdrawals that haunt me.
Susan Orlean tells the story of a devastating fire in Los Angeles in the public library in 1986. Still questions (and effects) survive that fire- damaging or destroying over one million works. One Million. Let that sink in. My heart still hurts to think of the works lost – perhaps someone needed JUST that book at the moment to help answer a question, or propel them along a journey….. But this isn’t simply a book about the fire and an investigation – but a pointed (and often humorous) look at patrons and librarians, history of the prime suspect in the case, and details from different books that play a role in the chapter as well as the overall story arc. If you, like me, are still aggravated by the devastation of the Library of Alexandria, there is so much to love in this book – and taking this further out:, further fixing the need and place for libraries in today’s society.
Told with wit, humor, incredible research and a take on the function, form and place in the world as we live it today, this book manages to provide insight, new ‘oh I didn’t know” moments and celebrates the joy of literature in all forms. Perhaps this may even stir a new desire for you to avail yourself of the joys found in a library – bring your children and let them get a lending card – I know that my daughter could not wait until she was enrolled in first grade to get her card – in fact, we went as soon as her class assignment page was in her hand. Libraries provide words… and words are the key to everything in this life.
Title: The Library Book
Author: Susan Orlean
Genre: Historical Non-Fiction, Setting: American, Sociological Relevancy
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Published on: 16 October, 2018
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 12 Hours: 9 minutes
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Susan Orlean, hailed as a “national treasure” by The Washington Post and the acclaimed bestselling author of Rin Tin Tin and The Orchid Thief, reopens the unsolved mystery of the most catastrophic library fire in American history, and delivers a dazzling love letter to a beloved institution—our libraries.
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 false alarm. As one fireman recounted later, “Once that first stack got going, it was Goodbye, Charlie.” The fire was disastrous: It reached 2,000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed 400,000 books and damaged 700,000 more. Investigators descended on the scene, but over thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?
Weaving her life-long love of books and reading with the fascinating history of libraries and the sometimes-eccentric characters who run them, award-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean presents a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling story as only she can. With her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, she investigates the legendary Los Angeles Public Library fire to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives. To truly understand what happens behind the stacks, Orlean visits the different departments of the LAPL, encountering an engaging cast of employees and patrons and experiencing alongside them the victories and struggles they face in today’s climate. She also delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from a metropolitan charitable initiative to a cornerstone of national identity. She reflects on her childhood experiences in libraries; studies arson and the long history of library fires; attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; and she re-examines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the library over thirty years ago. Along the way, she reveals how these buildings provide much more than just books—and that they are needed now more than ever.
Filled with heart, passion, and unforgettable characters, The Library Book is classic Susan Orlean, and an homage to a beloved institution that remains a vital part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country and culture.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.