By Susan Orlean
Rating: 4/5 Stairs
When I started reading The Library Book, I was expecting a true crime account of the April 1986 library fire at the Los Angeles Public Library. While her investigation of the fire was what drove Ms. Orlean to write The Library Book, ultimately it’s more of a memoir of the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL). The story of the fire and it’s investigation does weave in and out, but this really is about the library and a love of books.
From a true crime aspect, I was a little disappointed. Ms. Orlean’s research guides us through the fire (which she describes beautifully) and it’s investigation. While they had a strong suspect, officially the arsonist remains a mystery. I would have liked to see justice for such a crime, but obviously this is not the fault of the author.
That being said, from a memoir (and book lover’s) perspective, The Library Book is very interesting. As Ms. Orlean leads us through the history of the LAPL, you can tell this book is a labor of love. She introduces us to the past head librarians, many of whom were strong personalities that helped shape the library as it is today. We learn about the architecture and design of the building itself. She takes us through the modern library and it’s daily operations, from the shipping department to the people fielding telephone questions, to cataloging in the map room, to the librarians on the floor. Learning the stories of the people and patrons who collectively make the library the wonderful place that exists today is what kept me turning pages.
The library fire is just one piece of this library’s history. While it’s an interesting event, it’s the rest of the history and the people Ms. Orlean profiles that makes this book an enjoyable read for any book lover.
Many thanks to Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book.