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The Library Book

de Susan Orlean

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3,6972282,706 (4.09)217
Susan Orlean re-opens the unsolved mystery of the most catastrophic library fire in American history, and delivers a dazzling love letter to the beloved institution of libraries.
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» Mira també 217 mencions

Anglès (225)  Alemany (2)  Castellà (1)  Totes les llengües (228)
Es mostren 1-5 de 228 (següent | mostra-les totes)
This pleasant read reminds me of the works of Simon Winchester, another author who specializes in picking obscure topics & bringing them to life. In this case, Orlean's ostensible topic is a library fire that destroyed much of the Los Angeles Central Library back in the 1980s, but mostly this is an excuse for a leisurely riff on a range of related topics, to include:

* An exploration of the full scope of library operations, from the folks who check out the books to the folks who package them up to deliver to other libraries throughout the system; from the folks who add the hashtags to cataloged photos, to the reference librarians who answer even the most ridiculous questions with grace and restraint; from teen librarians working to create safe spaces for adolescents to community outreach directors racing to invent & implement programming to meet each community's unique needs.

* LA history, from rough-and-tumble ranchers to orange trees to Hollywood to Compton and beyond. It's kind of wonderful how the head librarians of the library channel each era, from the hard-working women directors of the 1800s who opened the library to the masses, to the delightfully eccentric Charles Lummis (think Teddy Roosevelt meets Oscar Wilde) who oversaw the library during LA's wild years, to the building's current, unapologetically liberal director

* A quick survey of libraries past, present and future, from a riff on the Library of Alexandria to a much more somber and provocative exploration of how libraries have, over the years, become the target of oppressors (Nazis, etc.) intent upon eliminating not just their enemies, but entire cultures and ways of life.

* Lots of weird library trivia - like the fact that con men used to cut pictures out of library books to create faux pamphlets, that people used to leave messages for each other in the margins of books, and that orchestras borrow orchestral scores from the library but they like to keep their upcoming programs furtive so librarians have to be careful to conceal which orchestras are performing which texts.

*There's even a fairly interesting discussion of the history of arson investigation, which seems to suggest that everything we know about investigating arson is probably hooey.

Mostly, though, the book invites us to contemplate the role of libraries and literature in our lives, in our communities, and in our culture. I probably shouldn't have been surprised that every member of my book group had a personal story about libraries that they were eager to share, which gradually turned into a discussion of how we use libraries now and how we imagine libraries may be used in the future. Our happy conclusion: in spite of ebooks and streaming services and the internet, libraries keep finding ways to make themselves essential, and that isn't likely to wane any time soon. ( )
  Dorritt | May 3, 2022 |
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I find the author's fascination with obscure people, or events, to be very interesting. She is a good researcher, and writes in a way which caught me immediately.

I literally plucked this book off the shelf in a small public library near where I live. I started reading right a way and could not put her down.

Recommended to those who find American culture and history fascinating. ( )
  maggie1944 | Apr 15, 2022 |
"The Library Book" by Susan Orlean fascinated me and kept me reading hungrily from beginning to end. The "hook" that caught my attention to get me to read this book was that it was the all too real story of the massive fire at the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986, an even unknown to many because it occurred simultaneously with the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, USSR, but was th library equivalent of a nuclear disaster of its own. 400,000 books were totally destroyed, 700,000 severely damages, full collections of various media and special items were lost forever in a fire that lasted 7 hours and required 300 firefighters.
The arson squad determined that the fire had been set by human hands and "The Library Book" includes chapters about the prime suspect interwoven with other chapters about the grand and elegant LA Library, its functions and operations, and its place in the history of Los Angeles.
Beyond that story, however, Orlean weaves in everything you would ever want to know about libraries in general and the LA Library specifically. From its history, to its mode of operation, to mini-biographies of the various librarians it has had and, best of all to me, a beautiful description of its architecture and interior art and design.
In fact, her story and especially her descriptions of the art and architecture made me make a special trip across the LA basin to go see it. It is a very special building, a temple to knowledge while also being a cozy and inviting escape for readers, students, researchers and just plain folks.
This is a great book about a great library, and a tribute to the importance, essentialness, really, of public libraries.
Now, if we could only get politicians to quit reducing their funds and more Americans to actually read! ( )
  PaulLoesch | Apr 2, 2022 |
I was an adult when the Los Angeles Central Library was destroyed by fire in 1986. I really have not recollection of it even though it kind of made national news. It happened the same week as Chernobyl and was overshadowed just a bit. This one of the tidbits you learn in Orlean's book on the fire. At first, I thought she was all over the place and wondered if I remembered liking The Orchid Thief as much as I thought I did. Then I began to enjoy the little side trips she took into the history of LA, librarianship, the LA public library, arson investigation, etc. I love how she began each chapter with book titles and their Dewey Decimal classification number related to the chapter's content. As I read, I tried to figure out how they related. Interesting read. ( )
  Dairyqueen84 | Mar 15, 2022 |
I thought this book was going to be about the LA Central Library fire, and parts of it were, but much of it was a mixture of research on libraries in general, the history and the destruction of..., LA history, a history of that library and its employees, and Orlean's experiences while researching for this book. At first I was disappointed, as it seemed erratic in its approach, but as I accustomed myself to the changes in venue, I found it interesting. When I was first reading it, I thought it a 4 star, and then finished by thinking of it as a 3 star, but after thinking about it more and more after, I put it back to a 4 star. ( )
  Wren73 | Mar 4, 2022 |
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On 29 April 1986 Los Angeles Central Library went up in flames. ... Susan Orlean has a knack for finding compelling stories in unlikely places. ... Orlean uses the fire to ask a broader question about just what public libraries are for and what happens when they are lost. You might not perhaps have LA pegged as the most bookish city, yet right from its inception in 1873, the central library attracted a higher proportion of citizens through its doors than anywhere else in the US. By 1921 more than a thousand books were being checked out every hour. The reason for that, Orlean suggests, is that LA has always been a city of seekers – first came the gold prospectors and the fruit growers, then the actors and the agents, and then all the refugees from the dust bowl prairies. No one was as solid or as solvent as they liked to appear, everyone was looking for clues about how to do life better.

This was where the library came in, providing the instruction manual for a million clever hacks and wheezes. In the runup to prohibition in 1920 every book on how to make homemade hooch was checked out and never returned. Five years later a man called Harry Pidgeon became only the second person to sail solo around the world, having got the design for his boat from books borrowed from the LA public library. More mundanely, the library quickly became the chief centre for free English language classes in the city, a service that it continues to provide for its huge immigrant population today.

It is this sense of a library as a civic junction that most interests Orlean. ... Or, as she puts it: "Every problem that society has, the library has, too; nothing good is kept out of the library, and nothing bad."
afegit per Cynfelyn | editaThe Guardian, Kathryn Hughs (Feb 16, 2019)
 
“The Library Book” is, in the end, a Whitmanesque yawp, 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.
afegit per tim.taylor | editaThe Wall Street Journal, Jane Kamensky (Web de pagament) (Oct 11, 2018)
 

» Afegeix-hi altres autors

Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Orlean, Susanautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
André, EmeliTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Loman, CarlyDissenyadorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Peters-Collaer, LaurenDissenyador de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Schneiter, SylvieTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Trejo, JuanTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Villeneuve, GuillaumeTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat

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Memory believes before knowing remembers.
---William Faulkner, Light in August
And when they ask us what we're doing, you can say, We're remembering.
---Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
I have always imagined Paradise as a kind of library.
---Jorge Luis Borges, Dreamtigers
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For Edith Orlean, my past
For Austin Gillespie, my future
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Even in Los Angeles, where there is no shortage of remarkable hairdos, Harry Peak attracted attention.
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A book feels like a thing alive in this moment, and also alive on a continuum, from the moment the thoughts about it first percolated in the writer's mind to the moment it sprang off the printing press---a lifeline that continues as someone sits with it and marvels over it, and it continues on, time after time after time.
The idea of being forgotten is terrifying. I fear not just that I, personally will be forgotten, but that we are all doomed to being forgotten---that the sum of life is ultimately nothing; that we experience joy and disappointment and aches and delights and loss, make our little mark on the world, and then we vanish, and the mark is erased, and it is as if we never existed.
Taking books away from a culture is to take away its shared memory. It's like taking away the ability to remember your dreams. Destroying a culture's books is sentencing it to something worse than death. It is sentencing it to seem as if it never lived.
Pigeons the color of concrete marched in a bossy staccato around the suitcases.
There was a sense of stage business—that churn of activity you can't hear or see but you feel at a theater in the instant before the curtain rises—of people finding their places and things being set right, before the burst of action begins.
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Susan Orlean re-opens the unsolved mystery of the most catastrophic library fire in American history, and delivers a dazzling love letter to the beloved institution of libraries.

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