Review: The Library Book by Susan Orlean

5:40:00 AM

The Library Book The Library Book by Susan Orlean
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"In total, four hundred thousand books in Central Library were destroyed in the fire. An additional seven hundred thousand were badly damaged by either smoke or water or, in many cases, both. The number of books destroyed or spoiled was equal to the entirety of fifteen typical branch libraries. It was the greatest loss to any public library in the history of the United States.” 


The Library Book, tells the story of the fire in April of 1986 that damaged or destroyed more than one million books in Los Angeles' Central Library.  It is a sad account to read in the beginning as the author catalogs all that is lost in the fire - the manuscripts , the first editions , the music, and the theater plays recorded in the library that are lost forever. But as I read the book, it also shows the power of books to bring people together and to make a real difference. The book starts with the author first listening about the fire on a tour of the library and she then starts reading more about it. So we get to read about a usual day at the library and what happened on the day of the incident. We get to know of the prime suspect in this case and how the case finally ends. 

The book goes into many tangents - how libraries are run, history of the LA library, its prominent librarians and their contributions to the library, different times when the books were destroyed and burnt as acts of terror or attempt to prove one culture's power over the other. It is like a collection of stories that revolve around books, reading and the growth of LA library from its inception to where it stands today. Along with all this, we also witness some historical lessons and how all systems stand on the shoulders of visionaries who have toiled to make the world a little better. Some of the librarians were inspiring and I felt my admiration for them grow immensely.  

The book might get a little boring in places but then the very next chapter hooks you back to the story. It is not a casual read but it will definitely interest many readers who like to read about books and reading. I had only heard of libraries as a place where we could find books to borrow but before coming to Canada, I never knew what a heaven the library system in Western countries is and how it is a safe community space for all - readers or not.  This book has made me more resolute to build something similar one day in India - even if it starts with a personal library first. 

Here is a youtube video on this fire and the events after that transpired. 

View all my reviews

You Might Also Like

0 bookmarks

Keep reading, keep suggesting, keep commenting