The Library Book (Large Print / Paperback)
In 1986, the Los Angeles Public Library burned. The fire raged for more than seven hours; over one million books were damaged or destroyed. The Library Book starts off like a gripping true crime investigation into the arson, then transforms. As the narrative picks up steam, Orlean weaves a skein of diverging threads into the plot. Some are personal—parts of the book read like a memoir. Some are told chronologically, others in bits and pieces. And some are there just for the hell of it. Along the way, Orlean dabbles in investigative journalism, packs in plenty of cameos by larger-than-life historical figures, and waxes poetic on the importance of shared public space. In the end, The Library Book emerges as much more than the story of a fire. It’s an ode to librarians, a celebration of stories, and a history of LA through the lens of its libraries. Orlean writes with catching enthusiasm—you'll be engrossed before you know it.
November 2018 Indie Next List
“There is no one better at investigating the fascinating stories hiding in plain sight than Susan Orlean. The vivid descriptions of the fire that engulfed the Los Angeles Central Library in 1986 are burnished by the meticulous research she did on the history of libraries and on the shocking event that resulted in the destruction and damage of over one million books. The mystery of who would start such a fire is woven between stories of eccentric librarians and the transformation of Los Angeles in the 20th century. From memories of the blissful hours spent in the library of her youth to the historical significance of these repositories of our past, Orlean has crafted a love letter to the importance of the written word and those who devote their lives to its preservation.”
— Luisa Smith, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
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.