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The Library Book by Susan Orlean
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The Library Book

by Susan Orlean

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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The Library Book is a groundbreaking journalistic view on the importance of libraries in our past, present, and future culture.

It could stop there.

But Susan Orlean goes further, giving us the narrative of the horrific Los Angeles Public Library fire of 1986, interviewing those who there and lived during this period.

Through these interweaving stories, we learn how the library is not only a place for books, but a force of good for children, the homeless, and those who vouch for the importance of knowledge and learning. ( )
  JaredOrlando | Mar 18, 2019 |
Enjoyed this a lot but I do have a professional interest. ( )
  infjsarah | Mar 9, 2019 |
In 1986, the Los Angeles Public Library's main library burned. Millions of dollars worth of books, items, and archives were lost forever. As librarians, staff, patrons, and the public stood outside and watched smoke billow out of the grandest repository of knowledge in Los Angeles and beyond, rumor had already started to circulate that the fire was intentionally started. Orleans recounts the history of the Los Angeles Public Library and analyzes the evidence behind the fire, as well as Harry Peak, the main suspect in the alleged arson.
Susan Orlean's thorough history of the Los Angeles Public Library gives book-lovers the warm and fuzzies. The interesting and exotic history of the library leaves readers with a wealth of knowledge. Orlean uses her magic to make a dense and factual topic read like a story. She does it again! ( )
1 vote Bibliophilly | Mar 3, 2019 |
"The Library Book" is about the 1986 fire that almost destroyed the Los Angeles Central Library building and collection, but it is really about much more than just that. Susan Orlean has, as it turns out, written a comprehensive history of the Los Angeles library system and the development of southern California over the last century. Along the way, the reader learns a good deal about the men and women who made the Los Angeles library what it is today, how the library collections were built, and what the future holds for the system (apparently it is one of the more successful systems in the country). The author also explores the future of libraries throughout the world and how they are evolving to better serve the needs of today's patrons. Libraries are about more than books these days, and if the Los Angeles library is any indication, the future is bright.

Bottom Line: This one is especially for book and library lovers, a love letter to libraries if ever there was one. More importantly, however, it is a reminder of just how important libraries are to cities and communities all over the world. We would all be much poorer without them, and books like this one remind us of how fragile they are. ( )
  SamSattler | Mar 1, 2019 |
This book centers on the fire at the Central Libray of Los Angeles and ends up being a discourse on the history of and purpose of public libraries. That sounds pretty dull, but it’s fascinating. She goes into the architecture of the Goodhue building, politics (of course), sexism (a competent woman director of libraries was fired on the stated purpose that the head of the library committee decided that a man really should be in charge). The involvement with the homeless, immigrant and educationally underserved communities is a big part of their work. Libraries are one of our few remaining free public spaces. I was surprised that she said it’s possible that the future of reading books is with Overdrive, but libraries will continue to be the future of community support. (Almost all my reading now consists of audiobooks from Overdrive, but my book club meets at the library). ( )
  Citizenjoyce | Mar 1, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 62 (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
Orlean, SusanNarratorsecondary 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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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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