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The Library Book

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  94,698 ratings  ·  15,274 reviews
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 mor ...more
Hardcover, First Edition, 317 pages
Published October 16th 2018 by Simon & Schuster
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Robert Blumenthal Actually, the theme of each of the books listed appeared in some form in each of the chapters. I think it was just a clever way of showing how we use …moreActually, the theme of each of the books listed appeared in some form in each of the chapters. I think it was just a clever way of showing how we use the library for reference.(less)
Prairie YES! I read it as a high school sophomore and fell in love with it. As a younger reader, I would actually say that this book is particularly appropria…moreYES! I read it as a high school sophomore and fell in love with it. As a younger reader, I would actually say that this book is particularly appropriate for students and younger adults because of the recurring theme of renewal and adaptation within the libraries, but as with any book, the reader in question should be at least a little interested in books and libraries. Regardless, Susan Orlean fills a potentially dry and boring topic with life and new light.(less)

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 ·  94,698 ratings  ·  15,274 reviews

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Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
*chef's kiss* ...more
Jesse (JesseTheReader)
I'm suddenly eager to run off to my local library and check out *ALL THE BOOKS* This book gives a lot of insight on what goes into running a library and has you growing a sense of appreciation for those who put in the the work to keep everything afloat. It's kind of shaped as a true crime book, but evolves into a love letter to books & libraries. At times it was a whiplash experience for me in terms of enjoyment as I didn't always find much interest in some of the things that were being explored ...more
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 t
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
Diane S ☔
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 more. 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 histo
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
Diane Yannick
Nov 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
If I hadn’t read it on my Kindle, I would have considered burning this book after I finished it. Yeah, I finished it even though I was bored senseless. The author did a lot of research so I gave her 2 stars for sticking with it. I could picture her with a Rolodex of notecards with every last fact that she had uncovered about this massive fire and anything else vaguely connected. Then she didn’t stop until she had put EVERY last fact into this book.

I like libraries. I’m sorry this one burned in
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-favorites
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
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 libra
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
May 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
"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
Dec 29, 2018 rated it liked it
It feels as though the author was searching for adequate information to fill this book. It covers so many topics, it spreads itself thin. It has breadth rather than depth. It is not only about the huge fire that destroyed the Los Angeles Central Library on April 29, 1986, but also about the man singled out as having started the fire. Yet you know at the start, his culpability will be left unresolved, and therefore, other topics of interest had to be added. Lots and lots of other information is a ...more
Justin Tate
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 more. 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
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
Lucy Langford
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5* rounded up!

“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.”

This book follows, and is a thorough investigation, into the Los Angeles public library fire. This fire occurred on April 29 1986 and destroyed more than 400,000 books, as well as rare photographs, manuscripts and first editions. However, this was not largely publicised or given as much attention due the overshadowing
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
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"Usually, a fire is red and orange and yellow and black. The fire in the library was colorless. You could look right through it, as if it were a sheet of glass."

Like looking through tears comes to mind. The catastrophic fire that engulfed the Los Angeles Central Library on April 29, 1986 was beyond description. The loss is immeasurable in terms of rare volumes of books defining our human past, our on-going present, and our ever changing stepping stones into the future.

There's a kind of hush whi
The staggering loss and damage of hundreds of thousands of books is enough to pierce the heart of any book lover. LA’s Central Library went up in smoke and fire in April of 1986. This book is an accounting of the fire itself, and the massive volunteer effort to save the books and rebuild the library 3 years later. Books that were salvageable were moved to freezers to prevent mold. Unfrozen 2 years later, it was a complicated process to dry out and restore and rebind.

To this day the cause of the
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
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Hannah Greendale
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
2019 Best Books of the Year [#11 of 11]

Wow. ❤️
Aug 23, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, unfinished
To be perfectly honest, I would have just preferred a tale on the fire in the LA public library from the act, through to the investigation, and its conclusion.

The style of story-telling -in this case the interspersing of other stories with the main story, just did not work or flow. I found it distracting - and rather boring.
. . . 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
The very best books are often the hardest to talk about. 96 of my GR friends reviewed The Library Book. There are 8000+ ratings and over 2000 reviews, with only 3% under 3 stars. Susan Orlean's latest, an ode to the love of libraries, has been favorably reviewed by the best, including Ron Charles for The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Chris Woodyard for USA Today. Perhaps not as gushy were the industry reviews. Still, all in all, positive commentary. So what can I add to the love to en ...more
Carol (Bookaria)
Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a wonderful book about libraries. If you're like me, and borrow almost ALL your books from the local library, then you will like enjoy the fascinating information in it.

Not only does the author describes its history, how they function, interesting facts and figures, but she also focuses on the events surrounding the devastating, large, and mysterious fire that destroyed many titles of the the L.A. Central Library on 1986.

There is a short section devoted to Overdrive, the digital distribu
Aug 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, non-fiction
[4.5 stars] If you didn't admire libraries and the amount of work and passion it takes to run them before reading this, you will after. It's not only an examination of the terrible fire at the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986, but also an ode to the people who work and have worked there, the ones just passing through, and much, much more. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical of this having not had great experiences with Orlean's previous work, but this one is in its own category, in my opinio ...more
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Library GIF - Library GIFs

"A library is as much a portal as it is a place—it is a transit point, a passage."

I guess I'm a bit of an outlier when it comes to this book. It was OK, but nothing remarkable for me. I hate to say that because so many recommended it to me, and I wish I could say I loved it. It wasn't all bad though, not by a long shot. I had actually never heard about the Los Angeles Public Library burning in 1986, was unaware of the tragedy of so many books and items lost in this fire. I am glad to have re
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 wi
Mar 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

“A library is a good place to soften solitude.”

Inspired by the story of the fire at the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986, Susan Orlean has written a book about one particular library which encompasses what libraries are to communities in general. The result is part mystery, part history, part treatise on the roles of libraries in culture; resulting overall in a mostly enjoyable read for anyone who has ever loved the library.
Early in the text Ms. Orlean recalls childhood memories of going to th
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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

Articles featuring this book

There is nothing like reading a history or biography book and being so completely transported to another time and place that you find...
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“In Senegal, the polite expression for saying someone died is to say his or her library has burned. When I first heard the phrase, I didn’t understand it, but over time I came to realize it was perfect. Our minds and souls contain volumes inscribed by our experiences and emotions; each individual’s consciousness is a collection of memories we’ve cataloged and stored inside us, a private library of a life lived.” 123 likes
“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.” 103 likes
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