‘The Library Book’ by Susan Orlean

I wasn’t able to make the book club discussion in October due to work but I felt like I should still write a review about this book, even if it is a few weeks late. Even more so because I am still thinking about it.

I wasn’t expecting to like this book. I was excited when it had first come out and then I saw that it was nonfiction. For some reason, I immediately thought it was going to be a snoozer. It didn’t help that I saw mixed reviews about it, some of which said that it was hard to get through.

Well yet again, book club wins. I swear I am more and more appreciative that I am in book club because I feel like every month I am saying that if it wasn’t because of book club I wouldn’t have read the book. I absolutely loved “The Library Book” and with Orlean’s descriptive writing style, I kept turning the pages for more.

“The library is a gathering pool of narratives and of the people who come to find them. It is where we can glimpse immortality, in the library we can live forever.”

-The Library Book

Through little snippets like the one above, Orlean shows her appreciation for libraries and what they stand for. While “The Library Book” focuses on the San Franscisco Library fire of 1986, Orlean weaves her personal experience with libraries into the narrative. She delves into its operations, not just at the checkout counter, but behind the scenes, from the process of bringing in new books to keeping track of the inventory to the process that goes into shipping books between branches as well as the myriad of other services a library has to offer.

More importantly, Orlean highlights how critical libraries are to the community and why the fire of 1986 was so devastating to the staff, the community and even the city. She even goes into the financial aspect of a library. While the local city does contribute to the funding of a library, it is a constant negotiation to get more funding to support the services they offer.

In each chapter, Orlean provides new information about the fire and its aftermath, the hunt for the guilty party and then when you begin to tire of the history lesson, she segways into either a story about going to a library when she was growing up or a generalization about the affect libraries have on the areas they reside. It leaves you with a newfound respect for the institution.

I will say after reading this book I definitely wanted to go out and support my local library.


Have you read “The Library Book”? What did you think? Let’s discuss!

2 thoughts on “‘The Library Book’ by Susan Orlean

  1. I put this on my TBR when it came out and it has languished there ever since. I still hope to read it eventually and it is reviews like yours that make me want to get to it sooner rather than later.

    Liked by 1 person

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