Saturday, December 07, 2019

THE LIBRARY BOOK


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

The Library Book, Susan Orlean, Simon & Schuster, 2018, 310 pp
 
If you love libraries chances are you will enjoy this book. It includes American library history, true crime coverage of the Los Angeles Public Library fire of 1986, a history of that library, and more.
 
The main suspect in the LAPL fire was an enigmatic fellow by the name of Harry Peak. Orlean opens the book with him and in alternating sections continues his story along with the investigation into the fire. That investigation failed to prove that he started the fire or even to prove that it was arson that started it. I learned that a surprisingly high percentage of arsonists are firefighters. What?

It is a wonder that we still have a main branch of our library in downtown Los Angeles. The destruction of the building and of so many books was devastating. Librarians, the public, and some very savvy people all contributed to its survival and rebuilding. A heartwarming tale of people working together.

Some of my reading group members were less than thrilled by the way Susan Orlean put the book together. It does skip around but it worked fine for me. She plays on the love of libraries that those of us who were taken there by our mothers from a young age will never forget.

She also does a great service to our culture by showing how important they are as repositories of knowledge. I had no idea of the many records libraries hold, especially the main libraries of cities. The records go beyond books to include music scores, maps and dozens of other arcane references.

I was also struck by the many services libraries provide to all ages and peoples, including immigrants, illiterates, and the homeless. Librarians, even the strict and sometimes crabby ones, are a liberal bunch who believe in the power of writing, in privacy, and rights for all. They recognize each other as "library people." I love that! I love libraries. I use mine even more than I do bookstores.

20 comments:

  1. I have wanted the read this ever since I saw Orlean on Book TV. I am sure that I have a lot to learn about what things other then books libraries hold. It all sounds fascinating. I also did not know that about arsonists and firefighters.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brian, I am sure you will find lots in this book that fits with your views. You will feel encouraged!

      Delete
  2. Sounds EXCELLENT! I have a deep love of libraries (although I don't get to visit any much these days) and always smile when I see one flourishing. This is definitely on my 'To Read' list.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You will find plenty to love in this book!

      Delete
  3. I need to get back to this book, which I had to return midway into it. I enjoyed it -- and found it informational and also a bit humorous in places. The audio of the author reading it is wonderful. Glad you enjoyed it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think I enjoyed the last parts of the book the most!

      Delete
  4. My younger daughter's Masters is in Library Science and she spent a few years as a librarian at the Houston Public Library (wonderful place!) before moving on to the University of Houston, so I definitely have a soft spot for librarians and libraries. We are all "book people" in my family.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very cool. Book people and library people go together!

      Delete
  5. I am so so so glad that you recommend this one, I loved it!! It is one of my fave reads of the year!

    ReplyDelete
  6. A very serious cover... Cheers

    ReplyDelete
  7. A high percentage of arsonists are firefighters?! How does that even make sense? Weird!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually she kind of explains it in the book.

      Delete
  8. i will read this... my mind wouldn't let me not do that... tx...

    ReplyDelete
  9. I like this author and since working in libraries for 15 years was 1 of 2 careers, I really want to try this one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How many bloggers do we know who worked in either bookstores or libraries? Might explain a few things about us. LOL. I hope you like The Library Book!

      Delete
  10. I'm with Carrie in that I found it weird to learn 'a high percentage of arsonists are firefighters'. Who would have guessed!?

    Nice review for The Library Book! I still want to read this book at some point.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Lisa. You will love it, I am sure.

      Delete