Monday, August 27, 2018

Los Angeles Central Library Fire 1986

The Library Book

Author: Susan Orlean

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Publication Date: October 16, 2018

Length: 336 Pages

About the Author
Susan Orlean has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1992. She is the author of seven books, including Rin Tin Tin, Saturday Night, and The Orchid Thief, which was made into the Academy Award–winning film Adaptation.

Fascinating History of the LA Public Library
This true story begins on April 29, 1986...the day of a devastating fire at the Los Angeles Central Library. Susan Orlean investigates a mystery that has never been solved: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library...and if so, who?

Ms. Orlean shares extensive research in this riveting book about the history of the library, the library architecture, the library employees, library patrons, the library culture and the accused arsonist, Harry Peak.

My Thoughts
I worked as a school librarian for many years, so the title of this book piqued my curiosity. The author tells of her childhood love of reading and her frequent visits to a public library in her neighborhood. She wrote this book as a tribute to libraries and the important role they play in our society.

They say that truth is stranger than fiction, and that is certainly the case with this book. In her quest to investigate the library fire, Ms. Orlean traces the history of the library back to 1926. She explores the library culture and the personalities of the people who held leadership positions at the library and the librarians who spent their days performing the duties required to serve the library patrons. She investigates the challenges the library has faced in recent years and shares her thoughts about the future of the library.

The author can't understand why anyone would intentionally start a fire in the library. She is not convinced that this was actually a case of arson. However, she admits that this is probably a mystery that will never be solved. Harry Peak, the main suspect in the arson case, was arrested but released because of lack of evidence. He later died of AIDS.

I found this book extremely informative, enlightening and even entertaining. The author did an amazing job mixing the intrigue of the fire mystery and the more unremarkable history of the library.

I believe this book will be on the shelves of many libraries and all library enthusiasts will devour the pages and be hungry for more. Highly recommended!


FYI ~ I received a free digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.

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