To see The Library Book on the Boswell website without a staff recommendation pains me, so I’m so glad to say I have kitchen-tested Susan Orlean’s latest at our in-store book club, and we all agreed that anyone who loves libraries and books will love this story, a four-pronged narrative inspired by the great Los Angeles Library fire of 1986. Orlean weaves this story with a history of the library and the many characters that gave it life, a tour of the Los Angeles system, and a little personal memoir too, and her memories of visiting libraries with her mom brought back my own library adventures – I wish there had been more of that. I visited the Los Angeles downtown library shortly after the renovation was complete, and the majesty of the space was breathtaking – it’s worth a visit. It was also the first major library I visited without a physical card catalog, but they built a lovely artistic memorial to those multi-drawered organisms that were such an important part of my life. It’s not a spoiler to make sure you don’t invest too much into the true crime element of the story – the answer is less than satisfying, as it turns out most non-television crimes are. That said, it’s being adapted for the screen anyway!— Daniel Goldin
November 2018 Indie Next List
“There is no one better at investigating the fascinating stories hiding in plain sight than Susan Orlean. The vivid descriptions of the fire that engulfed the Los Angeles Central Library in 1986 are burnished by the meticulous research she did on the history of libraries and on the shocking event that resulted in the destruction and damage of over one million books. The mystery of who would start such a fire is woven between stories of eccentric librarians and the transformation of Los Angeles in the 20th century. From memories of the blissful hours spent in the library of her youth to the historical significance of these repositories of our past, Orlean has crafted a love letter to the importance of the written word and those who devote their lives to its preservation.”
— Luisa Smith, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
Susan Orlean's bestseller and New York Times Notable Book is "a sheer delight...as rich in insight and as varied as the treasures contained on the shelves in any local library" (USA TODAY)--a dazzling love letter to a beloved institution and an investigation into one of its greatest mysteries. "Everybody who loves books should check out The Library Book" (The Washington Post).
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?