The Library Book, by Susan Orlean, is simply wonderful. It made me want to go to my nearest library to sit and contemplate and just breathe in the bookish goodness.
It’s ostensibly a non-fiction book about the 1986 fire which destroyed the Los Angeles public library, including over 400,000 books.
Orlean weaves her story of the devastating fire with stories of how the modern day L.A. public library works (she shadowed everyone from the CEO to the truck drivers while researching the book), and the history of the L.A. public library dating back to the 19th century.
What we end up with is a fascinating history of libraries everywhere, plus a history of the reading public of L.A. and a glimpse into the future.
I adored Orlean’s writing style. Her thirst for knowledge, interest in small details and love of books made this a real delight to read.
Side note – a friend told me to watch the movie “Adaptation” (Nicolas Cage / Meryl Streep) as it’s loosely based on The Orchid Thief, another book by Susan Orlean.
This is TERRIBLE advice. I went and watched Adaptation, which is a bizarre meta movie that you will only enjoy if you also like movies such as Being John Malkovich. Nothing like Susan Orlean’s writing style at all.
From the back of the book:
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 fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 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 mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.
Grab a copy from your favourite bookstore or online at:
Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of review. This post contains affiliate links.