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The Library Book

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  3,861 ratings  ·  1,111 reviews
On the morning of April 28, 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 mor ...more
Hardcover, 317 pages
Published October 16th 2018 by Simon Schuster
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Ro Wilson Absolutely. I believe that any high school senior who has a real interest in books & reading would thoroughly enjoy this fascinating account.

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Angela M
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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, co
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
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 more 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 hi
Elyse Walters
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 comm
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers, book-lovers, historians, fire buffs
“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 bureaucr
Nov 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 more 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 Angel ...more
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 exam ...more
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: me-the-reviewer
My favourite hangout place is the Library. I so very much love going around through various bookshelves in the Libraries, especially the Central Library. It feels so relaxed and calming when I am in the Library. It feels like, I am among many learned and wise souls, who are in all these books. These souls care for me even though we are, in some cases, hundreds of years apart…

“A library is a good place to soften solitude; a place where you feel part of a conversation that has gone on for hundred
Jul 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Some of the fondest childhood memories I have were of my Mother taking me to the library. I held my Moms hand as we walked in and as so as I saw my section, I begged to let go of her hand as I nearly ran to grab new books that my parents and I would read together. My Mother’s arms were full of mysteries, best sellers, biographies, cookbooks and of course, my books. I loved seeing my Mom stack the books on the counter and then that sound. The sound of the library clerk stamping the library card w ...more
Nov 15, 2018 rated it really liked it

My Rating: 4.5 stars

Have you ever come across a book that felt like it was meant for you to read and then afterwards occupies a permanent place in your heart due to the special connection you feel with it? Well, for me, Susan Orlean’s The Library Book was definitely THAT book (the reasons why will become more clear later on in this review).

I’ve had my nose in a book ever since I learned how to read at 5 or 6 years old (though my mom likes to tell people that I might have well been born with a
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
. . . if she could have chosen any profession in the world, she would have been a librarian.

December 6, 2016 was one of the greatest days of my life. It was the day I started work in the children's department of my local library. To this day, I still get a thrill every time I walk in the building via that special "Employees Only" entrance. I think to myself, "I can't believe I work at The Library," and I consider myself very, very lucky.

I'm sure by now you know that Orlean's latest book is about
Oct 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
How can a lover of books resist a book about books? Such was my own dilemma with The Library Book by Susan Orlean. This one is a bit out of my normal go to reads being that it is non-fiction but occasionally I can’t resist when the book is about something that interests me and this one fit the bill wonderfully.

The bones of the story in The Library Book is centered around the biggest fire to ever hit a library that happened on April 29, 1986 at the Los Angeles Public Library. But along with learn
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it

Library lovers will find this expertly delivered book enlightening.

On the morning of April 28, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Central Library. The patrons and staff that had been cleared out of the building soon realize this was not the usual fire alarm. This fire was intense and disastrous. It reached 2,000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished it had consume 400,000 books and damaged 700,000 more. Investigators descended on the scen
Diane Barnes
Oct 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
In April of 1986, the Los Angeles Central Library burned, losing hundreds of thousands of books and almost destroying a historic building; it was determined to be the work of an arsonist. Susan Orlean takes this incident and turns it into an all encompassing book that reads like a novel. We get a tale that includes the history of the library in general, and this one in particular. We get the story of the accused arsonist, the librarians, the effort to save as many books as possible, and communit ...more
Ron Charles
Oct 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
The largest library disaster in American history is the furnace at the center of Orlean’s story, which is fueled by regular additions of memoir, biography, history and science. In one particularly sobering chapter, she reminds us, “People have been burning libraries for nearly as long as they’ve been building libraries.” The number of books deliberately consigned to the flames is in the billions. “I sometimes find it hard to believe there are any books left in the world.”

But amid such gloom is m
In The Library, Susan Orlean has written a book that takes an institution we all are familiar with, most of us intimately from our own lives, then moves both inward to a closer look at Los Angeles Central Library and outward to the history of libraries in the United States and, more recently, the world.

As she begins with the Goodhue Library in L.A., the focus initially is on a disastrous fire which began on the morning of April 29, 1986. The fire was devastating but serves as a springboard for
Sean Gibson
Dec 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
So, it turns out that people in LA do more than drink kale smoothies, have inventive but wholly unnecessary plastic surgery (“I just had my appendix done and it looks FANTASTIC on an MRI!”), and be impossibly (albeit generically) attractive while waiting tables hoping for their big break. In addition to doing those things, they also go to the library.*

A while back, I wrote about libraries, the internet, and probably something scatological (knowing me), but the lens of that piece was very much my
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-bookstores
[3.5 stars] The Library Book is chock-full of fascinating information. Orleans focuses on the Los Angeles public library system and jumps from the 1986 library fire, to the history of L.A's libraries, to several personal stories about librarians, to a discussion about homelessness, to the future of libraries and more. My own interest jumped around as much as the book did. I gobbled up parts of it and skimmed some of the dryer history chapters including those about the accused arsonist (an unwant ...more
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have to confess that I'm a huge fan of Susan Orlean: from The Orchid Thief to Rin Tin Tin, she has a way of making the ordinary into something extraordinary and facts into stories as spellbinding as fiction. The Library Book is not only no exception, it is my favorite so far.

In 1986, the main branch of the Los Angeles Public Library burned to the ground. That is the major story of The Library Book, the hook on which the story hangs. The investigation, the impact, the details of the attempted r
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: libraries
I've had a bit of an inferiority complex about being a librarian almost since I made the decision at the age of 30 to become one. I am a career switcher, a failure at both journalism and (so far anyway) creative writing. While some of my reasons for moving to libraries were good ones--the main good one being that I wanted to serve ordinary people directly--I fret that I made the switch more out of laziness: librarianship, unlike journalism, comes with no 80-hour work weeks, no being on call, no ...more
Cindy Burnett
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Library Book is a must read for every book lover. Susan Orleans chronicles the April 28, 1986 fire at the main branch of the Los Angeles Library which destroyed over 400,000 books and damaged 700,000 more. The cause of the fire has never been determined, and she extensively researches how events unfolded that day to attempt to solve the fire’s origins. However, The Library Book covers so much more than just the fire including the history of libraries, the role they play in a community and wh ...more
Nov 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I saw Susan Orlean interviewed on PBS. Between that interview and the mostly glowing reviews on Goodreads, I knew I had to move it to the top of my TBR list. I'm really glad I did.

I will not retell the main story line as so many readers have already done a great job of that. Whenever I finish a book that I can't wait to tell other readers about I know it has hit the right chord. (This is not a book for all my reading friends, but I know which ones would feel the same as I do.)

Of particular inter
This is really two books in one. The first is a record of the devastating fire at the Los Angeles Central Library on April 29, 1986 and how the city and library service recovered. The second is a paean to libraries in general: what they offer to society, and how they work, in a digital age. One might assume that Book #1 is of most (or exclusive) interest to Californians, but if you’ve read other work by Orlean you’ll know that her delight in history’s oddballs (here, would-be actor and compulsiv ...more
Kasa Cotugno
Susan Orlean first learned of the devastating fire in the Los Angeles Central Library in 1986 years after. Living in New York where the news of the Chernobyl disaster dominated the news, a library fire in Los Angeles didn't get much coverage. As with other library arsons, it was not an act against a person or people, but for reasons unknown, since libraries are burned because of problems with the ideas that might be contained therein.

Library visits were an important part of her life growing up,
Aug 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
I remember when I first heard there was a place where one could borrow all the books one wanted to read.

My elementary school, Philip Sheridan, was brand new and filled with recently published children's books. There was a small library in my second-grade classroom and after the teacher read a book out loud to the class I would borrow it and read the book myself. Then I started to pick up other books, like the biography of Robert Louis Stevenson which I read over and over. I knew his book of chil
Madeline Partner
Aug 23, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5.. mixed opinions on this, but I’ll post something later! It dragged on a bit too much at the end, and as I read, I got more exasperated.
Okay! Time to explain myself.
In The Library Book Orlean aims to offer a well-rounded discussion of libraries, rooted by the story of the Los Angeles Library fire in 1986. When I read the summary of this book, there was a lot of emphasis placed on the library fire, which really drew me in. I was curious to learn more about it, and hoped this book would provi
Chris Wolak
Loved this book. It's primarily about the LA public library fire in 1986, LA library history, and the present reality of libraries with an eye toward the future. Sprinkled throughout is Orlean's own experience with and love of libraries. Library lovers will definitely want to add this to their TBR.

If you’re in need of a positive injection of bookish enthusiasm, read The Library Book now. You’d think a book about a fire that destroyed 400,000 books and damaged another 700,000 would be depressing,
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
I worked at the Los Angeles Public Library's Gardner Branch as a page in the late 1970s and it remains one of the trippiest jobs I've ever had. The library system seemed to take pleasure in staffing each branch with the least likely people for the location's demographic, which was pretty funny. The patrons--mostly Holocaust survivors, gays, seniors, and struggling middle classers, adored the African American clerk with the towering platforms, huge Afro and a gift for recommending the right book, ...more
Peter Tillman
A good but scattered book. Her narrative hook was the great LA library fire of 1986 and the arson investigation that followed. She also gives a short history of the Los Angeles Public Library and its people, and a biography of the accused arsonist and his milieu.

With 440-some reviews here already, I will be brief. Orlean writes well, but I didn’t like how she structured her narrative, in three parallel strands, which I found very confusing. In particular, there are a lot of characters, and I had
Although a great deal of this book is about the fire that burned the Central Library of Los Angeles in April of 1986, destroying almost half a million books, and about the young man who many thought started the fire, it is really an ode to books and libraries in general. Just about every aspect is covered, from the history of libraries and books to their challenging future.

I adored every minute spent with this book and thank the publisher for granting me the privilege of reading an arc via Net G
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The worst thing about experiencing a fire (assuming all living things are safe and outside) is the waiting, not knowing what survived, if anything. Then there are the worries about smoke and water damage. People don’t really think about water damage but that can be even worse than the smoke. Because of my own fire experience, my love of libraries and books and the fact that I live in Los Angeles, I was interested to read Susan Orlean’s The Library Book. This non-fiction work deals with the 1986 ...more
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Obsessed with Tru...: The Library Book by Susan Orlean 4 26 Oct 22, 2018 06:52PM  
I'm the product of a happy and uneventful childhood in the suburbs of Cleveland, followed by a happy and pretty eventful four years as a student at University of Michigan. From there, I wandered to the West Coast, landing in Portland, Oregon, where I managed (somehow) to get a job as a writer. This had been my dream, of course, but I had no experience and no credentials. What I did have, in spades ...more
“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.” 18 likes
“All the things that are wrong in the world seem conquered by a library’s simple unspoken promise: Here I am, please tell me your story; here is my story, please listen.” 15 likes
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