by Susan Orlean
“The Library Book” is a fascinating story of the library, not just a library, but the library as an institution across the world and across time. Susan Orlean is the author of this comprehensive book. Susan is a superb writer. Susan is a stupendous researcher and writer who has the ability to make virtually any subject interesting. In this book, she managed to accomplish what is actually a powerful piece of investigative journalism, full of factual information, in a form that begins as and continually evolves as a wonderfully engaging story. In Orlean’s entertaining and absorbing The Library Book, the story of the fire is interwoven with the library’s history, its diverse patrons and their sprawling city, the impressive past and creative hope of tomorrow’s libraries, a cast of dedicated and endearingly eccentric librarians, the science of book burning and salvage, and the author’s early memories of visiting the library with her beloved mother.
Orlean’s usual talent for empathy, imagination, and solid research glows here, luring you inside a subject you never thought you’d be curious about but are delighted to have discovered. This is a terrific book, Orlean at her considerable best. Libraries, books and how individual people and communities are affected and influenced by them is the main theme. Through her words, she conveys the significance of books and libraries as sources of comfort, diversion and most significantly, the knowledge vital to a democratic society. She tells the story using the tragic Los Angeles main library fire as the central focus. It is a complex account that Orlean makes understandable and compelling by her weaving of human heroics and foibles with facts of the history of the library and the consequences of the fire. We recommend it highly both as a very pleasurable literary read and as a source of what is most important in our lives as humans in a democratic society beleaguered by current challenges of virtually every kind.