The Library Book
I’ve taken a little break from book blogging, but I had to return for one of the best books I’ve read in a really long time: Susan Orlean’s The Library Book.
The premise of the book is an investigation into the 1986 Los Angeles Public Library fire, which was never solved. But it’s so much more than a true crime tale; it’s a love letter to libraries. It focuses on the Los Angeles Public Library — tracing the librarians who led it over the years — and the emergence of the modern library. But really it’s an ode to those who work in libraries and those who love them.
What surprised me most about the book is how deftly Orlean captured the challenges of today’s libraries; mainly, the problem of homelessness. For many homeless, the library is their refuge. There’s free internet, a roof, and a place to be for the day. Librarians, over the years, have turned into social workers, in a sense. As one article in The Millions points out, “A library is supposed to be a place for all people. But how does the library keep its doors open to all?” With nuance and empathy, Orlean answers that question. She captures how libraries are shifting, through the lens of the LA Public Library. (And so much research. Wow. The historian in me was in awe of her!)
As one review pointed out, “this is not a book about books. Surprise, surprise: It’s not really a book about libraries, either. Deep down, what links Orlean’s many pearls together is something about who we are, and what we’re becoming.”
It’s a powerful nonfiction book, and I highly recommend you read it as soon as possible.
Get it here: https://amzn.to/2q1GxTb