Updated: Nov 13, 2018
Library and book lovers will find this expertly delivered book enlightening
On the morning of April 28, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Central Library. The patrons and staff that had been cleared out of the building soon realize this was not the usual fire alarm. This fire was intense and disastrous. It reached 2,000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished it had consume 400,000 books and damaged 700,000 more. Investigators descended on the scene immediately, but more than 30 years later the mystery remains: did someone purposely set fire to the library, and if so, who? Librarians remember seeing a blond young man who was somewhere he wasn’t supposed to be, a closed section of the library. But since all evidence was consumed the investigators found it very difficult to prove arson.
“Usually, fire is red and orange and yellow and black. The fire in the library was colorless. You could look right through it, as if it were a sheet of glass. Where the flame had any color, it was pale blue. It was so hot that it appeared icy.”
Susan Orlean skillfully transports us to the library stacks where we can still smell the smoke and feel the intense heat from the flames. THE LIBRARY BOOK showcases the history of the building as well as many of the notable past and current librarians who have help make the library vital and relevant. New York Times best-selling author SUSAN ORLEAN’s detailed research is evident in the stories about the library, it’s history and it’s past champions. The writing was smart and all library and book lovers will find this one enlightening. One of my favorite parts was when, as part of her research, Orlean decides to burn a book. As a book lover she found this to be a difficult task. She profoundly states:
“The pages burned so fast that they barely crackled; the sound was soft, like a sizzle, or the crinkly light sound of water spraying out of a shower. As soon as it was over, I felt like I just jumped out of an airplane, which is perhaps the natural reaction to doing something I’d resisted so mightily—there was the elation at overriding my own instincts, elation at the fluid beauty of fire, and terrible fright at the seductiveness of it and the realization of how fast a thing full of human stories can be made to disappear.”
Thanks to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Published October 16, 2018