The Library Book by Susan Orlean

Staff Pick

In Senegal one talks about a death by saying the person’s “library has burned,” reflecting how each life is an irreplaceable collection of experiences and emotions. This folk saying crystalizes the central themes of The Library Book (Simon & Schuster, $28), Susan Orlean’s passionate and wide-ranging look at the place libraries hold in our culture, our communities, and in our very hearts. Orlean re-discovered how integral libraries were to her personally when she moved to Los Angeles. Introducing her son to the public library, she became absorbed in the tale of the Los Angeles public library system itself. Its most dramatic moment occurred on April 29, 1986, when the main branch caught fire. The building burned for more than seven hours; a million books were destroyed and 700,000 damaged. Orlean recreates the conflagration in unforgettable detail, then traces the investigation. It was “almost certainly” arson (a judgment that’s since been revised), though the library’s aging structure had fire code violations, and the one suspect was never convicted. Meanwhile, how to save the damaged books? They were stored in food warehouses where they stayed frozen for two years, then vacuum dried, cleaned, fumigated, rebound, and shelved—a process that took some thirty-six months. No one questioned the value of this project, and the city partnered with corporations and private citizens to restore the library’s former glory.

The Library Book By Susan Orlean Cover Image
ISBN: 9781476740188
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Simon & Schuster - October 16th, 2018