The Library Book

The Library Book

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 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 mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.

In 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 across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.

Along the way, Orlean introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters from libraries past and present—from Mary Foy, who in 1880 at eighteen years old was named the head of the Los Angeles Public Library at a time when men still dominated the role, to Dr. C.J.K. Jones, a pastor, citrus farmer, and polymath known as “The Human Encyclopedia” who roamed the library dispensing information; from Charles Lummis, a wildly eccentric journalist and adventurer who was determined to make the L.A. library one of the best in the world, to the current staff, who do heroic work every day to ensure that their institution remains a vital part of the city it serves.

Brimming with her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, The Library Book is Susan Orlean’s thrilling journey through the stacks that 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. It is also a master journalist’s reminder that, perhaps especially in the digital era, they are more necessary than ever.

Title:The Library Book
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9781476740188
Format Type:

About Susan Orlean

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



How it works:
  • 1. Register a free 7 day subscription
  • 2. Access as many books as you like (Personal use)
  • 3. Cancel the membership at any time if not satisfied
  • 4. High speed access
  • 5. Unlimited access
  • 6. 100% legal
  • 7. No waiting time
  • 8. Secured and Anonymous

    The Library Book Reviews

  • Angela M

    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 ...

  • 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...

  • Elyse Walters

    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 cit...

  • PattyMacDotComma

    5★“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 i...

  • Brina

    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 sum...

  • Tucker

    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 i...

  • ||Swaroop||

    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 t...

  • Jenny

    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 ...

  • Bkwmlee

    My Rating: 4.5 starsHave 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 wit...

  • Melki

    . . . 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 de...