I will admit that books and their titles are my weakness, then the cover, and finally, word of mouth about how good a book will sometimes get me. I love books and have since a young age. I fell in love with books a long time ago. My father was an avid reader, whatever he could get his hands on is what he read and he taught me to have not only a love of reading but to respect books too. I colored with Harold, was wild with Max, sat on a New York City fire escape with Nelly, traveled the world with Lestat, the most beautiful vampire and so many other lives lived and adventures taken because of books I have read. The cover of “The Library Book” is a stark contrast to what I usually read. The jacket is ordinary, and the title is perhaps a bit, well, ordinary. I am not sure why I picked this book or rather why it picked me but it did. I started to read it and could not put it down. I did not even mind the books listed by the Dewey Decimal System and just what they meant to the story. The stroll down memory lane caused by the author, Susan Orlean was able to take me back to the day I got my first library card. I was transported to my own childhood library and almost able to recall the scent of old books and how exciting it was to be in this wondrous place that let us borrow books.
Orlean takes the reader on a journey, she tells of her love for books, her visits to libraries with her mom, trips she takes with her son nowadays, and bits of world news that seemed to eclipse this major true-life mystery: Who started the fire in the library? I can remember that I myself was a junior in an all-girls Catholic high school here on the Northwest side of Chicago, and the world watched Sally Ride die in the explosion of the Challenger rocket, and let’s not forget the Chernobyl accident that we all thought would end the world as we knew it. The events flashed before us and seemed to play out in slow motion but somewhere buried beneath the news of the Challenger explosion and the meltdown at Chernobyl there was a fire on April 29, 1986, that destroyed the Central Library of Los Angeles, California. The fire claimed 400,000 books and another 700,000 were damaged. People literally watched, smoke first, and then all at once a raging inferno. The building’s design was the perfect storm, so to say, and just what caused such a massive loss for the library.
The library reopened months later and the “Save the Books” charity was able to raise funds for the library. Sadly, insurance covered the building but not the books. If you are a book lover it is hard to think of highlighting in a book, dog-earring a page of the said book so as not to forget your place, or worse yet folding a book in half cracking the spine but the thought of lighting a book on fire is even that more troublesome. That April day hundreds of people came together to try and save what they could, comfort each other, and to provide hope like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the library would be back.
If you love a heartfelt walk down memory lane, true crime and biographies then this book is for you. I was not able to stop reading this book, it is a page-turner. Pick up a copy and enjoy the behind scenes of a library, the series of unfortunate events, and a person’s love for books as it all seems to be brilliantly captured in Orlean’s book. I give the book four bookmarks.