The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Publication Date: October 16, 2018
Format: eBook, Book, Audiobook
Who it’s for: Teens, Adults
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. The Library Book reopens the unsolved mystery of the 1986 fire at Los Angeles Public Library’s Central Library—the most catastrophic library fire in American history—and delivers a dazzling love letter to libraries as an institution. 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. Along the way, she reveals how these buildings provide much more than just books — and that they are needed now more than ever.
I was using Netgalley for the first time and needed a book to familiarize myself with how Netgalley works. Since I got this copy from Netgalley, I have a lil introduction from the publisher about the book and author, which is neat because it gave me needed info. I did not remember what the book was about only that the title was on my TBR list. I also did not know the author but her name sounded familiar. My initial reaction to this book after reading 3 chapters or so was “Ooo, fire! Ooo, books!” Orlean’s writing feels like fiction not dry facts. I really enjoyed her writing. The Library Book starts with the author’s love of libraries as a child, which switched to her love of buying (instead of borrowing) books when she became an adult. She then rediscovers her love of libraries when she has her own child. This part made me nostalgic. She then she describes the LA Central Public Library, the collections, the art, the people, and the building. All of it sounded very cool and now I want to visit it. I think book lovers will really enjoy this book for many reasons.
After those beginning chapters, she describes the fire. On one the hand my heart hurts at the damage done by the fire and water. On the other hand the fire is so very cool, so very large, and so extraordinary. I also loved the description of how the city of LA came together to help the library: “They formed a human chain, passing the books hand over hand from one person to the next, through the smoky building and out the door. It was as if, in this urgent moment, the people of Los Angeles formed a living library. They created, for that short time, a system to protect and pass along shared knowledge, to save what we know for each other, which is what libraries do every day.”
Another aspect of the book I found delightful are book titles with their library info at the beginning of each chapter. You can guess what the chapter will be about from the books listed. I appreciated how Orlean goes back and forth with the time in each chapter. One chapter she is following librarians of the LA public library around in present day, the next chapter she is interviewing folks about the fire or describing the fire, and the next chapter she is giving us anecdotal library history. I found the history of library fires fascinating; although it did make me sad. She also tells stories about notable folks that were involved with the library. The past directors of the LA public library were some characters!
The question of whether or not Harry Peake started the fire, was there on the day of the fire, or was just lying for attention and was innocent is not answered. Read the book and tell me your conclusion. Personally, I think Harry was there but did not start the fire on purpose or accidentally.