The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Simon & Schuster: 10/16/18
eBook review copy; 336 pages
The Library Book by Susan Orlean is a very highly recommended account of the history of the LA Public Library and the devastating 1986 fire.
Staff and patrons alike were surprised and shocked when the fire alarm
that sounded on April 28, 1986 at the Los
Angeles Public Library was not a false alarm. Once the fire started, it
was a monstrous blaze that burned for more than seven hours. It took
more than 3
million gallons of water to put it out. In the final tally it destroyed
four hundred thousand books and damaged
seven hundred thousand more. Once investigators could examine the scene,
there was an intense arson investigation and it was believed that a
young actor, Harry Peak, started the fire.
The Library Book is a compelling and fascinating book. This isn't
just a book about the arson investigation; it is actually a
history of the library. Orlean covers the engrossing history of the
numerous interesting characters in the history of the LAPL and its role
city since 1872. The construction of the historic Goodhue Building in
1926 is detailed and how views about the building changed. It is clear
that Orlean appreciates the
crucial role libraries play in the community as she covers the myriad of
ways the public library has changed and evolved in order to serve the
community. And, yes, Orlean also looks into the life of Harry Peak, the
suspected arsonist, and the investigation of the fire.
Orlean is, simply put, an extraordinary writer. She has a way of
presenting all of her well-researched facts that makes the whole an
intriguing and captivating account. The historical details and
narratives of various characters in the history of the LAPL create a
total picture that is better than many novels. The text is not linear;
it does jump between time periods, from the history to the fire and
subsequent arson investigation and attempt to save what books they
could. The flow of the narrative is pitch-perfect. A book about a
library might seem like a boring choice, but this account is full of
intrigue, and interesting characters. I found myself engaged from
beginning to end. This will surely make my top ten nonfiction books for
the year as I really loved The Library Book.
My review copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster.