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 PostOn The Morning Of April A Fire Alarm Sounded In The Los Angeles Public Library The Fire Was Disastrous It Reached Two Thousand Degrees And Burned For Than Seven Hours By The Time It Was Extinguished, It Had Consumed Four Hundred Thousand Books And Damaged Seven Hundred Thousand Investigators Descended On The Scene, But 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 BeforeIn 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 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 Than Just Books And Why They Remain An Essential Part Of The Heart, Mind, And Soul Of Our Country 4.5 stars Hundreds of thousands of books were burned to nothing but ash and hundreds of thousands of books were damaged enough to bring chills up the spine of any book lover reading this book about the fire at the Los Angeles Public Library that occurred on April 29, 1986 The research and the writing here are impeccable The descriptions of the fire, the librarians reactions, and the many, many volunteers who wanted to help it s as if it s being reported in real time The book, however, covers so much than the story of the fire, although it s the main focus It is in many ways a tribute to libraries and librarians and what they stand for and the importance of the library now and in the future It is a personal testament to Orlean s love of libraries and her early experiences going to the library as a young child with her mother I loved her reminiscing because it made me remember my own history with the public library in the neighborhood where I grew up I remember the hours I spent there and some of the books that I read and the fond memories of when I worked there as a library page in high school and through college This is also a fascinating history of the LA public library and the library directors, the City Librarians, over the years It s the story of the people who use the library It s the story of the volunteers who after the fire worked for the next three days around the clock..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, people, the people of Los Angeles formed a living library They created for a 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 I was also struck by the stunning words of a librarian, Jill Crane who helped with the cleanup and wrote in a poem We held charred and water soaked chunks of books in our hands, history, imagination, knowledge crumbing in our fingers we packed what was left She also gives us Harry Peak s story, arrested but never charged with starting the fire and describes the difficulty of proving arson and proving that he was responsible So much is contained in the book and I felt at times that it was a little scattered moving from the fire to her experiences, to the history and then to the fire and the investigation But ultimately it was an an emotional book for me as a retired librarian, although not a public librarian, but mostly as a book lover The scenes described of the burned and damaged books got me in my gut and the coming together of volunteers to do what they could got me in my heart and then when several years after the fire, the library reopened This fabulous book is an ode to librarians and the public library, which represents the fabric of our society in so many ways I received an advanced copy of this book from Simon Schuster through NetGalley. This is absolutely brilliant nonfiction and a book about books about libraries In April 1986, there was a large fire in the Los Angeles Public Library so large, in fact, that over four hundred thousand books were burned completely and seven hundred thousand were damaged Initially, the thoughts were that this was arson, yet no one has been convicted, and a mystery still surrounds the act The Library Book accomplishes several things First, Susan Orlean has researched the history of the LA Public Library, and believe me, it s intriguing and page turning.When examining the fire, Orlean presents a key player Though he is a suspect, actor Harry Peak denies any involvement Susan Orlean tells his backstory and presents the evidence clearly and with tension in such a way that it could be on 48 Hours or Dateline Susan Orlean lovingly places her endearment for books on every page of this wonder Her love for libraries and their vital role in communities is also resonantly conveyed I don t want to say too much in this review because this book is all about the discovery It s unique and heartwarming, even in the midst of a tragedy that would hurt any bibliophile s heart More than anything, it s an ode to books and a gift to those who love them Thank you to Simon Schuster for the ARC All opinions are my own My reviews can also be found on my blog www.jennifertarheelreader.com An ode to libraries past and present To the importance of books, and how they are used by malignant governments, book burning, to control and frighten their citizens Although the main focus in on the library in Los Angeles and the fire that destroyed it and so many of their materials, this book is so much The way libraries have had to change and adapt in light of our electronic obsession, in order to stay viable in our communities In a engaging manner, she takes the reader through history, past libraries like that in Alexandria, that burned than once Book burnings, and Bradbury s writing of Farenheit 451, as a warning to the future Books mean so much, contain so much, as do libraries, readers, authors, they are the benchmark and the means of holding and spreading ideas, knowledge and yes of course entertainment A story with a focal point but one that goes back and forth, with so much interesting tidbits in between Read it The fire in Los Angeles and it s effect on their librarians and patrons A community pulling together to raise money to replace what they could The man suspected of starting the fire, his past, as well as those of the people responsible for running this library system. Susan Orlean was speaking with the Los Angeles Times about this book before its release I enjoyed listening to her speak on NPR as well.When talking about her interest in writing about a big city library this is what Susan said I could have done that anywhere I like the idea of doing it in L.A., out of this contrarian idea that people don t associate libraries with L.A., which made it kind of delectable That said, the 1986 fire forgive me , was a spark The reason I find Susan s comment about folks not associating libraries with Los Angeles.is because I never really thought about it, but she s absolutely right She s so right it wasn t even in my consciousness, at all , and I live in California with family throughout L.A I also never heard of this fire shows you how asleep I was and every L.A person in my life too My youngest daughter was a year old in 1986 Everything in this book was new to me This past year I ve used the public library system daily a zillion times in one year at age 66.than ALL my past years combined Some readers might be appalled aghast at such horror I m only telling the truth I wasn t much of a reader as a kid I remember some lovely walks I took alone or with a friend to the library as a child to listen to the storytelling lady but reading wasn t encouraged in my family Not really Actually nothing was encouraged other than good behavior at school and elsewhere Many of you have heard this before I m a very late bloomer passionate reader I fell in love with reading for pleasure accidentally as an adult the year the book The Glass Castle , by Jeannette Walls came out in the year 2006 I ve already shared my reading process in my Glass Castle review..Point is..I didn t come close to having the experience that Susan Orlean had with books and reading as she did I don t have mom me reading memories to draw on and my dad died when I was 4 I m sincerely grateful to Susan Orlean other authors with similar writing skills to my long time reader friends hearing their childhood memories are a treasure for me All that said..I liked MUCH of this book I LEARNED A LOT about libraries in general not ONLY in L.A but my fear is I ll forget many details too I don t own this book I listened to Susan read her book as an Audiobook It s a GORGEOUS PHYSICAL BOOK I think I d continue getting value if I owned it I can t possibly hold all the details from the Audiobook alone I took notes..The parts I found interesting I remember Some parts of her book she lost me I just don t know what she was talking about so then of course I felt stupid like why haven t I heard of that book or person..Everything about the fire was fascinating. of course devastating in reality HORRIFIC but the THEN WHAT The examination of this nightmare was fascinating and ALL THAT FOLLOWEDbooks going to restaurants into freezers learning about water damage all the volunteers and learning all the logistics of WHAT WE NEED TO KNOW..in case. such devastation should ever happen again And better ways to avoid it EVER HAPPENING AGAIN Lots and lots of details answer questions I didn t even know I had The pure knowledge was eye opening Susan s Family was inspiring to me.her INCREDIBLE love for books, goes without saying Her research was top notch She gave us history mystery in the similar way Erik Larson did in The Devil in the White City.She gave us personal history. We got a great education on how libraries run and their importance for our communities We were given history on the arson investigation.TONS TO GREAT INFORMATIONBut.honesty I had mixed feelings about the ENTIRE PROCESS of Susan burning a book. just to have the experience from her three week prior agony as to which book to choose to the NAILS ON A CHALKBOARD description of every detailphysically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually in burning that book My stomach was churning..and not because I m a book protecting police saint although I treat books with respect and cherish them as a live entity,too, somewhat but because Susan s book burning story was a little over the top dramatic for me Something about it made me want to rebel from the general greatness from where this book comes from..which is A LOVE TRIBUTE TO OUR PUBLIC LIBRARIES 4.5 stars rating up.this book deserves it I personally didn t enjoy every part of it, but I did most of it and my appreciation is much bigger than my small gripes. Susan Orlean is a true genius at bringing seemingly any subject to life in a manner which is utterly fascinating and immensely readable I d even read instruction manuals and Congressional reports if she wrote them Whether it s orchids, Rin Tin Tin, or unconventional travel adventures, her extensive research, writing style and the manner in which she weaves topics and time periods together results in books I recommend to a wide variety of readers Her latest book, The Library Book, is an examination of libraries and their changing and essential place in communities For anyone who wonders about the relevance of libraries when books, magazines, and so much information is readily available on line, Orlean s exploration of their continuing evolution into a community gathering place, a provider of social and cultural services, a place to find an abundance of printed material along with movies, music, and even musical instruments was captivating and very informative Orlean also writes extensively about the extremely devastating fire at the Los Angeles Public Library on April 28, 1986 in which over a million books were either damaged or destroyed Alongside that, she shares her personal experiences with libraries and how important they have been in her life Our visits to the library were never long enough for me The place was so bountiful I loved wandering around the bookshelves, scanning the spines until something happened to catch my eye Those visits were dreamy, frictionless interludes that promised I would leave richer than I arrived It wasn t like going to the store with my mom, which guaranteed a tug of war between what I wanted and what my mother was willing to buy me, because I could have anything I wanted in the library After we checked out, I loved being in the car and having all the books we d gotten stacked on my lap, pressing me under their solid, warm weight, their Mylar covers sticking a bit to my thighs It was such a thrill leaving a place with things you hadn t paid for such a thrill, anticipating the new books we would read Her lyrical and insightful writing about books and how alive they always are should speak to anyone who loves books, reading, and libraries A book feels like a thing alive in this moment, and also alive on a continuum, from the moment the thoughts about it first percolated in the writer s mind to the moment it sprang off the printing press a lifeline that continues as someone sits with it and marvels over it, and it continues on, time and time and time Once words and thoughts are poured into them, books are no longer just paper and ink and glue They take on a kind of human vitality I recommend this book wholeheartedly to all readers and book lovers Not to be missed.Thank you to Simon and Schuster and NetGalley for for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The Library Book by Susan Orlean is a 2018 Simon Schuster publication I couldn t have been happier when this book finally reached the top of my TBR pile I ve been looking forward to reading it for a long time Naturally, I was drawn to the books about books aspect, but was also mortified by the true crime elements Who on earth would deliberately set fire to a public library Susan Orlean attempts to answer that very question, while detailing the rich history of the Los Angeles public library What a fascinating journey it was The author, who is not originally from LA, had not heard about the fire that ravaged the central library back in 1986, until an offhand remark piqued her curiosity Her research unearthed the library s storied past, which is a compelling drama all on its own But she also attempts to shed light on the fire and the primary suspect, Harry Peak Was Peak guilty, or just a consummate liar The book begins on a horrifying note In 1986, the library housed a very impressive number of books and records, which included a large stacks area The building was not up to code either, so it only took a short time for the old dry paper to ignite and spread rapidly Any type of fire which destroys a home or business is difficult to hear about But, of course as a book lover, I was nearly in physical pain reading about the hundreds of books damaged by fire, smoke or water It was also disconcerting that the fire barely made a blip in the press Granted, there were other major news stories going on at the time But, now for the first time, thanks to the amazing work this author did, we can see how the fire effected the city, the patrons, and the librarians We also get a close up and personal look at how a library functions and the important work librarians do What an amazing job Working with the public has its drawbacks, of course, but I was truly impressed with how the librarians handle all the phone calls, answer questions on a myriad of topics, and cope with situations such as how to handle the homeless who often use the library to as place of shelter during operating hours The wealth of information and history surrounding the Los Angeles public library is vast and completely absorbing, especially if you are passionate about books and libraries The mystery surrounding the fire, however, is perplexing and frustrating Orlean presents the facts, and I must agree with her opinion of the prime suspect The book is categorized as True Crime , but than anything I think it falls into the history category It is also a book that makes one truly appreciate the importance of libraries I have always supported libraries, and I try to remind people that although Netgalley, Edelweiss, KU, and Scribd, provide thousands of books right there at your fingertips, and I am as addicted to these services as anyone else , the library will never reject you based on the information you provided in your profile , and it doesn t cost you a dime for a library card So, don t forget to take advantage of everything the library has to offer Books both print and digital, audiobooks, music, movies, documents, newspapers, magazines, research material, job information, book clubs, children s story hour, free access to computers and the internet, literacy programs, programs to help learn new skills, community clubs, and a host of other services most of them free There are many ways to support your local library volunteer or donate any books or magazines you don t plan to re read or keep, and if you are in a position to do so, offer a little financial help from time to time You can even deduct it on your taxes Funding for libraries is not always stable or dependable.Obviously, book lovers need to read this one, as well as history buffs While it starts off on a somber note, by the end of the book you will feel as though this eye opening journey was a rewarding adventure I am in awe of the LA public library, and its rich history, and have an even greater appreciation for the importance of libraries in general Orlean did a terrific job with her exhaustive research and it is obvious she put in many hours with those involved with the library and with those associated with Harry Peak The book is well organized, and unlike some non fiction history books, I never zoned out or lost interest If you love books or libraries, history, or True Crime this book is one you won t want to miss out on 4.5 stars Libraries have played a integral part of my life from the time I was a kid My first library was the Bradbury Library where the magical world of reading opened to me and I participated in my first summer reading program I graduated to libraries, a larger world of books, conversations with librarians, and a variety of summer reading programs When I first found out about Susan Orlean s The Library Book, I was naturally intrigued by the title When the description featured the 1986 Los Angeles Central Library fire, I was mortified but still wanted to read what was being billed as true crime in hopes that the Los Angeles police brought the criminals to justice What I found out by reading this book about libraries is to judge a book by its cover, or, in this case, it s reviews Susan Orlean spent a good part of her youth going to libraries with her mother The trips were magical and she could never wait until her next trip to find out what books were in store for her Life happened Orlean became a renown author and a frequenter of book stores rather than libraries for a good portion of her life She also decided that she was done researching for and writing books as the time spent on them took her away from her job and family Then her husband accepted a job in Los Angeles and the family relocated One day, Orlean s son received a school assignment to interview a civil servant He chose to speak with a librarian, and Orlean took her then six year old son to their local branch library As if by magic, her feelings of trips to the library with her mother returned Orlean became a library patron once again Around that time, her mother was diagnosed with senile dementia She decided that she would write another book for her mother and have it focus on libraries The library book may detail the Los Angeles Central Library fire of April 29, 1986, but the book is in part the history of the Los Angeles library system As a history connoisseur, I found this facet of Orlean s research to be fascinating She heads back in time to the founding of the library in the 1870s when Los Angeles was a sleepy town located in the San Bernardino valley The gold rush had passed and Los Angeles was a town of orange groves and avocado trees, essentially a farming community Yet, the migrants who start flocking to California were literary minded and wanted a library similar to ones they used in eastern cities By 1872, the library had been born A good fifty years before women gained suffrage, the first four head librarians in Los Angeles were women, until the times caught up with them These women, highlighted by the impeccable Mary Jones, brought the library to the forefront of national libraries, and eastern cities took note It was not until Andrew Carnegie made libraries his philanthropy of choice that the Los Angeles library modernized Carnegie designated Los Angeles as one of the 1700 sites nationwide that would receive funding for a new building for its central location as well as branch sites This came at a time when Los Angeles had become a leading city in the west, a center of commerce and the motion picture industry People flocked to California from the east, and the library kept expanding as books overflowed from each new location The Los Angeles city council voted that Bertram Goodhue should design the new library building The architecture would rival the central libraries in New York and Chicago and would provide Angelenos space enough to house a book collection now numbering in the hundred thousands Andrew Carnegie had cemented Los Angeles as an intellectual hub of the west Through her impeccable research, Orlean describes the Library fire in detail while also interviewing the present and future of libraries with current Los Angeles librarians as well as writing of the entire history of the city library system With all the facets of the story, I was mesmerized as though I had entered a central library building myself What I found most telling is that librarians and Orlean concur that libraries factor than ever in society in today s digital age People want a free space to be able to borrow books, videos, conduct research, attend a variety of programs, and take young children to story hour to introduce them to the magical world of books Orlean weaves the past, present, and future in her story seamlessly as I read through her book over the course of one day Libraries still matter, and Susan Orlean makes that point clear in her touching ode to public libraries everywhere 4 stars In the library, time is dammed up not just stopped but saved The library is a gathering pool of narratives and of the people who come to find them It is where we can glimpse immortality in the library, we can live forever Like nearly everyone else here on Goodreads, libraries have always been like an oasis for me, a place I could escape to and be alone if I felt so inclined, or as part of a community of people that share the same love of books My library card is one of my most treasured belongings It has given me countless hours of pleasure over the years and allowed me to visit extraordinary places and meet remarkable individuals Author Susan Orlean shares the same adoration of books and libraries, and it s quite evident here in this book which is much like an ode of sorts to libraries In 1986, I was still in high school I guess that s why the news of the tragic fire in the Los Angeles Central Library completely escaped my notice I was writing papers and solving algebraic equations rather than listening to the news This book educated me on the subject of this catastrophe in a very engaging manner The real magnitude of the fire, smoke and water damage to the books was staggering to say the least Orlean attempts to unravel the mystery of just how the fire was started, but to this day there is no definitive answer although there was one prime suspect throughout We learn a lot about this suspect and the reasons why he may or may not have committed the crime Arson investigations in general are very difficult crimes to prove and this one no less so This is so much than just a true crime piece, however, and for that I was quite pleased In fact, I found chasing after the suspect to be the least compelling portion of the book Instead, I gobbled up all the fascinating history of Central Library, libraries in general, and librarians across the years Such a diverse group of men and women have been in charge of the library since it was established in 1873 Perhaps the most unconventional individual, at least from what I ve garnered here, was Charles Fletcher Lummis He caught the nation s attention when he walked thousands of miles on foot from Cincinnati to Los Angeles to work for the Los Angeles Times prior to his engagement with the library I found the reason for opposition to Lummis s appointment to be rather comical he never set foot in a library school, wore eccentric corduroy suits and was known to drink and swear on occasion In fact, I have to remember to pass on this little tidbit to the director of my hometown library I m sure he ll find it just as amusing There s so much to be found in the pages of this wonderful book Andrew Carnegie s philanthropy as well as that of Bill and Melinda Gates is also touched upon The changes that libraries have undergone over the years, the introduction of technology, and the initiatives to keep them a vital part of our communities also kept me glued to the page I admire Susan Orleans tremendous effort in researching this book I recommend it to anyone that loves their library I think this book would be best viewed as one about the history of the LA Central Library versus putting the emphasis on the fire The fire is a large and fascinating, but only partial, part of the overall picture here I m rating this 4 versus 5 stars due to the fact I found the jumping around in time and narrative to be a little bit distracting Just a minor complaint considering how much I enjoyed reading this one libraries have persisted, and they have grown, and they will certainly endure Like a library, The Library Book has it all With the mostly forgotten Los Angeles library fire of 1986 as a backdrop, Orlean takes us on a journey that is a mix of true crime mystery, character study, history, political intrigue, tragedy, comedy, romance, and so much The research she reveals about head librarians spanning centuries seems like an impossible record to find but, of course, libraries would hold on to all that information.She structures the book as an even pace, blending the most intriguing bits with what might otherwise be less riveting cultural context As it is, there s never a dull moment For the millions of us who cherish our local libraries, this is the love letter we ve long held in our hearts but didn t have the words or background knowledge to say it. 5 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 For many people, I imagine libraries are like places of worship everyone is made to feel welcome and part of a greater community.In the case of a library, it s a community not only of readers, but also of people looking for someone to answer their questions, migrants taking literacy classes, people needing help with bureaucratic forms, teens wanting a safe place to hang out, collectors with memorabilia to donate the list is endless although it does eventually end with homeless people seeking a safe place to sit out of the weather If they fall asleep, they may be turfed out The Los Angeles Public Library has had a particularly lively history and some unbelievably colourful people running it Charles Lummis was one of the most charismatic and peculiar men around, I suspect, even in the wilds of Los Angeles in 1885 Lummis was in Ohio when he was hired, and he decided to walk from Ohio to California, ostensibly to find out about America, but really to make an entrance when he got there And he did His tramp was covered by the newspapers and he was famous by the time he arrived It all helps with funding This is him in his sombrero and bright green, wide wale, corduroy suit with red Indian patterned cummerbund which he wore all the time He d fit right in with today s Hollywood photograph of Charles Lummis The author introduces each chapter with the library details of various books that might apply to the chapter The central story is about the LA library and the devastating fire, but the history of early libraries and its own establishment are woven in with the details of the fire and the mystery surrounding the suspected arsonist Susan Orlean is a well regarded author and is also a staff writer at The New Yorker Magazine, so you know you re in good hands What could have been a dry history book is like investigative journalism, with plenty of gossip and innuendo this is Los Angeles, remember Lummis was famous for his drunken parties and wild friends, and his section of the book reads like something out of the hippy days nearly a century later There really is nothing new under the sun.I won t attempt to summarise Orlean s excellent research or the police hunt for the perpetrator, but I do want to mention some of the book burnings she describes She even tried to burn one herself, to see what it would feel like, but she had a terrible time bringing herself to do it Once words and thoughts are poured into them, books are no longer just paper and ink and glue They take on a kind of human vitality The poet Milton called this quality in books the potency of life I wasn t sure I had it in me to be a killer In another part of the world In Senegal, the polite expression for saying someone died is to say his or her library has burned They say that history belongs to those who write it That s true to a point The first recorded instance of book burning was in 213 BC, when Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang decided to incinerate any history books that contradicted his version of the past In addition, he buried than four hundred scholars alive What a frightening thought But then in our own time, during WW2, the Holocaust attempted to wipe out an entire people, including the books Special book burning squads known as Brenn Kommandos were sent out to burn libraries and synagogues By the end of the war, than one third of all the books in Germany were gone Meanwhile, back in the States In the 1940s, for instance, a schoolteacher named Mabel Riddle, with the support of the Catholic Church, began a campaign to collect and burn comic books because of their energetic portrayal of crime and sex many local parishes sponsored their own comic book fires In a few instances, nuns lit the first match Destroying a culture s books is sentencing it to something worse than death It is sentencing it to seem as if it never lived Back to Los Angeles The fire and its aftermath are described in horrifying detail, but the amazing thing is that it s the water from the firefighting that causes so much damage Mould and mildew are as bad as fire Did you know you have to freeze a wet book to salvage it What do you do with thousands of them The fish markets The logistics of packing wet books, moving, storing, freezing, rebuilding the library are extensive and exhausting.Oh, one thing When pseudo science books started becoming popular, Lummis instituted his own Literary Pure Food Act , branded the books with a poison symbol, and added inserts The cards, shaped like bookmarks, said, For Later and More Scientific Treatment of This Subject, Consult______, followed by a blank space for librarians to list better books on the topic More libraries, librarians, sombreros and all Thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for the preview copy of this fascinating bit of history.
- 336 pages
- The Library Book
- Susan Orlean
- 09 December 2018 Susan Orlean