The Library Book: Book summary and reviews of The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The Library Book

by Susan Orlean

The Library Book by Susan Orlean X
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
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Book Summary

Susan Orlean's thrilling journey through the stacks reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country.

On the morning of April 28, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. The fire was disastrous: it reached two thousand degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?

Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a "delightful…reflection on the past, present, and future of libraries in America" (New York magazine) that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.

In the "exquisitely written, consistently entertaining" (The New York Times) The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries; brings each department of the library to vivid life; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What has your relationship with libraries been throughout your life? Can you share some library memories from childhood to adulthood?
  2. Were you at all familiar with the Los Angeles library fire? Or any library fire?
  3. How would you describe the fire's impact on the community? How about the community's rebuilding efforts?
  4. In chapter 5, Orlean writes that books "take on a kind of human vitality." What role do books play in your life and home, and do you anthropomorphize them? Have you ever wrestled with the idea of giving books away or otherwise disowning them?
  5. What is your impression of John Szabo? How does his career inform and shape your understanding of what librarians do?
  6. Libraries today are more than just a building filled with ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

"By turns taut and sinuous, intimate and epic, Ms. Orlean's account evokes the rhythms of a life spent in libraries ... bringing to life a place and an institution that represents the very best of America: capacious, chaotic, tolerant and even hopeful, with faith in mobility of every kind, even, or perhaps especially, in the face of adversity." - The Wall Street Journal

"Everybody who loves books should check out The Library Book." - The Washington Post

"[A] sheer delight…as rich in insight and as varied as the treasures contained on the shelves in any local library." - USA TODAY

"A book lover's dream…an ambitiously researched, elegantly written book that serves as a portal into a place of history, drama, culture, and stories." - Minneapolis Star Tribune

This information about The Library Book shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Susan Orlean

Susan Orlean has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1992. She is the author of seven books, including Rin Tin Tin, Saturday Night, and The Orchid Thief, which was made into the Academy Award–winning film Adaptation. She lives with her family and her animals in upstate New York and may be reached at SusanOrlean.com and Twitter.com/SusanOrlean.

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