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The Library Book Hardcover – Illustrated, October 16, 2018

4.2 out of 5 stars 2,088 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Moving . . . A constant pleasure to read . . . Everybody who loves books should check out The Library Book. . . . Orlean, a longtime New Yorker writer, has been captivating us with human stories for decades, and her latest book is a wide-ranging, deeply personal, and terrifically engaging investigation of humanity’s bulwark against oblivion: the library. . . . As a narrator, Orlean moves like fire herself, with a pyrotechnic style that smolders for a time over some ancient bibliographic tragedy, leaps to the latest technique in book restoration, and then illuminates the story of a wildly eccentric librarian. Along the way, we learn how libraries have evolved, responded to depressions and wars, and generally thrived despite a constant struggle for funds. Over the holidays, every booklover in America is going to give or get this book. . . . You can’t help but finish The Library Book and feel grateful that these marvelous places belong to us all.”
—Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“A sheer delight. . . . Orlean has created a book as rich in insight and as varied as the treasures contained on the shelves in any local library.”
—Chris Woodyard, USA Today

“Exquisitely written, consistently entertaining . . . A loving tribute not just to a place or an institution but to an idea . . . What makes The Library Book so enjoyable is the sense of discovery that propels it, the buoyancy when Orlean is surprised or moved by what she finds. . . . Her depiction of the Central Library fire on April 29, 1986, is so rich with specifics that it’s like a blast of heat erupting from the page. . . . The Library Book is about the fire and the mystery of how it started—but in some ways that’s the least of it. It’s also a history of libraries, and of a particular library, as well as the personal story of Orlean and her mother, who was losing her memory to dementia while Orlean was retrieving her own memories by writing this book.”
—Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times

“Captivating . . . A delightful love letter to public libraries . . . In telling the story of this one library, Orlean reminds readers of the spirit of them all, their mission to welcome and equalize and inform, the wonderful depths and potential that they—and maybe all of us, as well—contain. . . . In other hands the book would have been a notebook dump, packed with random facts that weren’t germane but felt too hard-won or remarkable to omit. Orlean’s lapidary skills include both unearthing the data and carving a storyline out of the sprawl, piling up such copious and relevant details that I wondered how many mountains of research she discarded for each page of jewels.”
—Rebekah Denn, Christian Science Monitor

“A flitting and meandering masterpiece . . . Compelling and undeniably riveting . . . This is a joyful book, and among its many pleasures is the reader’s ability to palpate the author’s thrill as she zooms down from stratospheric viewings of history, to viscerally detailed observations of events and people, and finally to the kind of irresistibly offbeat facts that create an equally irresistible portrait of the author herself.”
—J. C. Hallman, San Francisco Chronicle

“Vivid . . . Compelling . . . Ms. Orlean interweaves a memoir of her life in books, a whodunit, a history of Los Angeles, and a meditation on the rise and fall and rise of civic life in the United States. . . . By turns taut and sinuous, intimate and epic, Ms. Orlean’s account evokes the rhythms of a life spent in libraries . . . bringing to life a place and an institution that represents the very best of America: capacious, chaotic, tolerant and even hopeful, with faith in mobility of every kind, even, or perhaps especially, in the face of adversity.”
—Jane Kamenski, The Wall Street Journal

“[A] loving encomium to libraries everywhere.”
—Sue Halpern, The New York Review of Books

“A lovely book . . . Susan Orlean has once again found rich material where no one else has bothered to look for it. . . . Once again, she’s demonstrated that the feelings of a writer, if that writer is sufficiently talented and her feelings sufficiently strong, can supply her own drama. You really never know how seriously interesting a subject might be until such a person takes a serious interest in it.”
—Michael Lewis, New York Times Book Review

“A book lover’s dream . . . This is an ambitiously researched, elegantly written book that serves as a portal into a place of history, drama, culture, and stories.”
—Jeffrey Ann Goudie, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“When Susan Orlean fishes for a story, she reels in a hidden world. And so the latest delightful trawl from the author of Rin Tin Tin and The Orchid Thief starts with the tale of the 1986 fire that damaged or destroyed 700,000 books in the Los Angeles Central Library. But The Library Book pans out quickly to the fractious, eccentric history of the institution and then, almost inevitably, a reflection on the past, present, and future of libraries in America. Orlean follows the narrative in all directions, juxtaposing the hunt for the library arsonist—possibly a frustrated actor—with a philosophical treatise on why and how libraries became the closest thing many of us experience to a town hall.”
—Hillary Kelly, New York Magazine

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. She lives with her family and her animals in upstate New York and may be reached at SusanOrlean.com and Twitter.com/SusanOrlean.

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Customer reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5
2,088 customer ratings
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Reviewed in the United States on October 28, 2018
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Reviewed in the United States on November 15, 2018
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Reviewed in the United States on November 3, 2018
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Reviewed in the United States on August 31, 2018
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Reviewed in the United States on October 31, 2018
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Reviewed in the United States on October 28, 2018
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Top international reviews

Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Very enlightening
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 1, 2019
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13 people found this helpful
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Hande Z
5.0 out of 5 stars Library and book, Body and soul
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 8, 2018
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Johannes Bathelt
4.0 out of 5 stars You'll see libraries in a new light
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 3, 2020
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Christina
3.0 out of 5 stars Not particularly exciting, but then libraries sometimes aren't.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 3, 2019
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Cal Peter
2.0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of tea
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 27, 2019
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Benny Kaxter
2.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read, but a bit odd
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 29, 2019
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Kindle Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Very informative
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 1, 2020
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Mrs R.
5.0 out of 5 stars I forgot
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 23, 2019
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Michael Allchin
4.0 out of 5 stars It's about libraries, not library books.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 29, 2020
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Emily T
5.0 out of 5 stars Grab your library card and get this book!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 7, 2019
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Eli
5.0 out of 5 stars A library's role in our lives.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 6, 2019
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marie
5.0 out of 5 stars A lovely book.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 26, 2019
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Barry O'Sullivan
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 9, 2020
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Mrs K.
5.0 out of 5 stars INTRESTING
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 4, 2019
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VS, London
5.0 out of 5 stars Good buy
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 27, 2020
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