The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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October 28, 2018

The Library Book

I'm a devoted library person {that's an understatement}. I belong to two wonderful public library systems {Massachusetts is generous that way}. I can walk to one from home, and another from work, so I often do.  I have borrowing privileges through work to the university libraries and all their riches, and I even belonged for a time to Boston's venerable and quirky Athenaeum. (That was something I had always wanted to do, and I miss going there, but it's hard to justify the membership fee when I can find almost everything there ... except the atmosphere, a few Persephones and Slightly Foxed ... at the college library. But I'm still tempted to rejoin, and I know I'll give in,)

So, for me, this new book was heartbreaking, fascinating, and very, very hard to put down. It focuses, in part, on a devastating fire at the central Los Angeles Public Library in 1986, which destroyed or damaged more than a million books and caused the building to be shut down for more than five years. Ranging out from that event, the author writes about Harry Peak, the young man suspected of setting the fire (he was never charged, and later investigations cast doubt on whether arson was committed) and the process used to salvage water-damaged books {they're frozen for two years, to prevent mold from growing, then dried}.  But there's much more:  Orlean traces her childhood memories of going to the library with her mother, and her family's relationship with borrowing and owning books, and the history of the LAPL, as it grew and changed along with the city/ She writes about the people who worked and work there, and goes behind the scenes to see how the library works today, 

These story lines intersect and move back and forth between chapters, so this is the perfect book to dip into now and again, but that might be hard to do.  It's very readable, and very engaging, and will definitely be on my list of favorite books for this year.

The Library Book, by Susan Orlean
Simon & Schuster, 2018
Borrowed from the Boston Public Library


JoAnn said...

Can't wait to read this! My daughter heard her speak at the Bryant Park NYPL last week... I was more than a little jealous.

Claire (The Captive Reader) said...

As a fellow library lover, I think this sounds fascinating. And how right that your copy was a library one!

Thank you for visiting!

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