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The Library Book by Susan Orlean
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The Library Book (edition 2018)

by Susan Orlean (Author)

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1,321848,998 (4.22)89
Member:jhowell
Title:The Library Book
Authors:Susan Orlean (Author)
Info:Simon & Schuster (2018), Edition: First Edition, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:non-fiction

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The Library Book by Susan Orlean

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» See also 89 mentions

English (83)  German (1)  All languages (84)
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
If you love libraries and especially if you work for a library, read this book. It centers around the devastating fire that destroyed thousands of books and important documents at the Los Angeles library in 1986. The book gets into the arson investigation but much of the book is about the inner workings of the library and the role of libraries with a strong personal essay from the author in the last chapter. Orlean raises questions about the one and only arson suspect (never charged) and even wonders at times if the fire was arson. ( )
  LJCain | Jun 17, 2019 |
If you love libraries and books, you need to read this book. It is a great. ( )
  RobertaLea | May 30, 2019 |
interesting documentary treatment of the Los Angeles Central library fire of 1986 - but also a thoughtful treatment of all things libraries: how they emerged in importance in American 20th century communities, how they have served so many various needs over the century, historical examination of key librarians who helped the Los Angeles library system what it is today, etc. Fascinating, moving back and forth in time between various key individuals and events, but never boring... even a chapter on OverDrive headqtrs in the midWest - that was a fascinating rabbit trail for me! Highly recommended ( )
  BDartnall | May 18, 2019 |
I would say this was really more of a 3.5 for me, and it's because some of the writing she does about books worships the book-object so much it's like... grating to me. The chapter where she burns a book made me roll my eyes so hard, and it's because I, as a child of two librarians and the grandchild of another, know that sometimes books need to be thrown in the trash!

Otherwise the book was a really interesting, and if you're not super familiar with all the services a library offers, this is definitely a read for you! Really good arguments against the folks who say libraries are outdated, and that no one uses them. (I, for example, borrowed this book from my local public library!) If you're more connected to the present reality of library uses, the history parts are pretty interesting. It definitely kept me engaged, and maybe if I was a little more sentimental about books-as-objects I would find it less grating. (Her engagement with issues of homelessness is also uh kind of iffy, though she does finally kind of admit it in the end, as if you couldn't tell from the way she writes about it before that moment.) But definitely well-researched, well-written, full of interesting tidbits and little pieces that don't end up feeling extraneous to her overall story. ( )
  aijmiller | May 12, 2019 |
This book alternates between a loving account of the library as an enduring institution and the story of the great fire in the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986. The contrasting stories reminded me a bit of Derek Larson's Devil in the White City, a book that had dueling stories of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and a serial murderer operating at the same time (and I also highly recommend this book). Those of us who have completed research with the aid of librarian already know that the library is a place of knowledge magic. (Full disclosure- I am a librarian, late in life to the profession). But it is so much more: a community center; a safe non-judgmental place to get help; and a public portal to the internet just to list a few.

The author depicts the history of the LA Public Library from its beginnings. There are pioneers in library service who led the LA Public Library. For example, in the 1880s one of them proposed lending things other than books; this is now a common practice. My library lends everything from phone chargers to video cameras. The author offers a compelling argument why the library will continue to endure, whether or not its role as book lender, or the use of the physical book itself, diminishes.

The story of the fire is a tragedy. The principal suspect, Harry Peak, was truly a Los Angeles character. He came to LA to become an actor and drifted around seeking attention. No one could tell if there was any truth to any of his varying accounts of where he was the day of the fire, but he reveled in the telling of his stories and the attention they brought.

This book is a great read. Buy it, borrow it from the library in physical form or on OverDrive. ( )
1 vote cohenja | May 7, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
On 29 April 1986 Los Angeles Central Library went up in flames. ... Susan Orlean has a knack for finding compelling stories in unlikely places. ... Orlean uses the fire to ask a broader question about just what public libraries are for and what happens when they are lost. You might not perhaps have LA pegged as the most bookish city, yet right from its inception in 1873, the central library attracted a higher proportion of citizens through its doors than anywhere else in the US. By 1921 more than a thousand books were being checked out every hour. The reason for that, Orlean suggests, is that LA has always been a city of seekers – first came the gold prospectors and the fruit growers, then the actors and the agents, and then all the refugees from the dust bowl prairies. No one was as solid or as solvent as they liked to appear, everyone was looking for clues about how to do life better.

This was where the library came in, providing the instruction manual for a million clever hacks and wheezes. In the runup to prohibition in 1920 every book on how to make homemade hooch was checked out and never returned. Five years later a man called Harry Pidgeon became only the second person to sail solo around the world, having got the design for his boat from books borrowed from the LA public library. More mundanely, the library quickly became the chief centre for free English language classes in the city, a service that it continues to provide for its huge immigrant population today.

It is this sense of a library as a civic junction that most interests Orlean. ... Or, as she puts it: "Every problem that society has, the library has, too; nothing good is kept out of the library, and nothing bad."
added by Cynfelyn | editThe Guardian, Kathryn Hughs (Feb 16, 2019)
 

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Orlean, Susanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Loman, CarlyDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Peters-Collaer, LaurenCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Memory believes before knowing remembers.
---William Faulkner, Light in August
And when they ask us what we're doing, you can say, We're remembering.
---Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
I have always imagined Paradise as a kind of library.
---Jorge Luis Borges, Dreamtigers
Dedication
For Edith Orlean, my past
For Austin Gillespie, my future
First words
Even in Los Angeles, where there is no shortage of remarkable hairdos, Harry Peak attracted attention.
Quotations
A book feels like a thing alive in this moment, and also alive on a continuum, from the moment the thoughts about it first percolated in the writer's mind to the moment it sprang off the printing press---a lifeline that continues as someone sits with it and marvels over it, and it continues on, time after time after time.
The idea of being forgotten is terrifying. I fear not just that I, personally will be forgotten, but that we are all doomed to being forgotten---that the sum of life is ultimately nothing; that we experience joy and disappointment and aches and delights and loss, make our little mark on the world, and then we vanish, and the mark is erased, and it is as if we never existed.
Taking books away from a culture is to take away its shared memory. It's like taking away the ability to remember your dreams. Destroying a culture's books is sentencing it to something worse than death. It is sentencing it to seem as if it never lived.
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Book description
The Los Angeles Public Library is at the center of Orlean's tale, and she describes its history with a focus on the horrific fire in 1986. An interesting font of information about libraries, people who influenced their history and the American readers from pre-teen to seniors who benefit in remarkable ways from just plain books.
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