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The Library Book

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  20,130 ratings  ·  4,368 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, 310 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…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)

Community Reviews

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4.05  · 
Rating details
 ·  20,130 ratings  ·  4,368 reviews

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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
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
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
Hannah Greendale
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Wow. ❤ ...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
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
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
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
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
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 read
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
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
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
Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
I REALLY enjoyed this!!

A word of warning: this isn't really a true crime book. A lot of the marketing messaging around this sells it as true crime about the arson case surrounding the Los Angeles library fire. If you go into this expecting true crime, you're going to be disappointed.

Okay, that said: I loved this.

The book focuses on two questions raised by the LA library fire: why does it matter that a library burned down? Why does it matter that this library burned down. The book reads as 40 pe
Katie B
If you love going to the library, you gotta pick this one up. While much of the book focuses on the devastating fire in 1986 at the Los Angeles Public Library, it's also full of tidbits of all the random things librarians and staff deal with on a regular basis. And by far the thing I loved most about this book was it really gets you to start reminiscing about some of your memories of going to the library as a child. I kept having flashbacks of the Summer Reading program with all the cool prizes, ...more
Dec 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I think I would have loved this book even if I wasn't a librarian.

Susan Orlean's latest subject is about a massive fire at the Los Angeles Public Library in April 1986. 400,000 books were destroyed; hundreds of thousands more were damaged. Fortunately, no one was killed. (If you haven't heard of the fire, you're not alone — it got buried in the news because the Chernobyl disaster happened the same week.)

The Library Book is a beautiful object (gorgeous red cover, gold font, dazzling blurbs from
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
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
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
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  • Footnotes from the World's Greatest Bookstores: True Tales and Lost Moments from Book Buyers, Booksellers, and Book Lovers
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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
“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.” 35 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.” 27 likes
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