On the surface, a non-fiction tome about libraries would seem to hold great promise as a sleep aid. But, in Susan Orlean's capable hands, it's smart, fun, enlightening and entirely readable. Orlean covers the history and future of the world's libraries generally and of L.A.'s Central Library in particular, including stories about and interviews with present and former librarians. The book's hub is the 1986 fire that destroyed 400,000 books at the Central Library and the mystery around who set the fire - if there was an arsonist at all. As a great fan and user of libraries, I found <i>The Library Book</i> fascinating, both as a reported story and as a tribute to libraries' adaptability and importance in civilizations' and communities' cultures.
Orlean begins with the story of the unsolved 1986 Los Angeles Library fire, but her book eventually becomes an intricately woven analysis of what libraries once were, what they are now, and what they might become. Her meticulous research results in a captivating book that immerses readers in the world of libraries, and in the end, shows us that no matter what technologies the future holds, they will always be an essential part of our communities. I listened to the e-audio edition read by the author. Highly recommended.
I'm a huge fan of libraries, but I could not get more than a minute or two into this book. The author made the mistake of being her own reader and her voice is horrible. My wife agrees with me on this. It's supposed to be a good book, but get the print version, not the audiobook.
Orlean uses the devastating fire at the central Los Angeles Public Library in April 1986 to explore the history and impact of public libraries in America. Part Los Angeles history, part detective story, the author draws the reader in with her stories of colorful library directors, even more colorful library patrons, and the building itself which was designed by Bertram Goodhue after his triumph designing the Nebraska State Capitol. As she follows the trail of Harry Peak, the chief suspect, Orlean also uncovers the Hollywood dream that vanishes early for its many seekers. Although based on the Los Angeles Public Library, the author has written an ode to all American public libraries.
I don't recommend the audio version of this book because she reads out the long cataloging numerals of multiple books that were destroyed or saved from the fire. It is tedious to listen but if I were reading it in printed form, I am sure my eyes would just skim over the numerals. The story might be much more interesting then.
A Listen to This pick. Susan Orlean is a wonderful narrator for her terrific new book—part memoir, part anthem to libraries and librarians—with a focus on the Los Angeles Public Library and the unusual man who may or may not have caused the library's catastrophic 1986 fire.
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