After moving to Los Angeles, Susan Orlean became fascinated by a mysterious local crime that has gone unsolved since it was carried out on the morning of 29 April 1986: who set fire to the Los Angeles Public Library, ultimately destroying more than 400,000 books, and perhaps even more perplexing, why?
With her characteristic humour, insight and compassion, Orlean uses this terrible event as a lens through which to tell the story of all libraries - their history, their meaning and their uncertain future as they adapt and redefine themselves in a digital world.
Filled with heart, passion and extraordinary characters, The Library Book discusses the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives.
Exquisitely written, consistently entertaining * New York Times *
Moving . . . A constant pleasure to read . . . Everybody who loves books should check out The Library Book * Washington Post *
Vivid . . . Compelling . . . Intimate and epic * Wall Street Journal *
Mesmerizing . . . A riveting mix of true crime, history, biography, and immersion journalism. . . . Probing, prismatic, witty, dramatic, and deeply appreciative, Orlean's chronicle celebrates libraries as sanctuaries, community centers, and open universities run by people of commitment, compassion, creativity, and resilience. * Booklist (starred review) *
Of course, I will always read anything that Susan Orlean writes - and I would encourage you to do the same, regardless of the topic, because she's always brilliant. But The Library Book is a particularly beautiful and soul-expanding book... It will keep you spellbound from first page to last. -- Elizabeth Gilbert
Engaging . . . Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey. * Kirkus Reviews *
This is a book only Susan Orlean could have written. Somehow she manages to transform the story of a library fire into the story of literacy, civil service, municipal infighting and vision, public spaces in an era of increasing privatization and social isolation... and the central role libraries have always and will always play in the life and health of a bustling democracy. Beyond all that, like any good library, it's bursting with incredible tales and characters. There could be no better book for the bookish. -- Dave Eggers
Susan Orlean has long been one of our finest storytellers, and she proves it again with The Library Book. A beautifully written and richly reported account, it sheds new light on a thirty-year-old mystery - and, what's more, offers a moving tribute to the invaluableness of libraries. -- David Grann
After reading Susan Orlean's The Library Book, I'm quite sure I'll never look at libraries, or librarians, the same way again. This is classic Orlean - an exploration of a devastating fire becomes a journey through a world of infinite richness, populated with unexpected characters doing unexpected things, with unexpected passion. -- Erik Larson