Library Book (Orlean) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
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 - New York Times

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 - Washington Post

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 - Wall Street Journal

[Orlean's] mother’s dementia has made her acutely aware of how memories are doomed to be forgotten unless they’re recorded. This is a persuasive reminder of the importance of libraries, whose… historical treasures [are] built with the common good in mind.
Publishers Weekly

(Starred review) On April 29, 1986, the Los Angeles Public Library went up in a blaze that would be the worst library fire in America's history, destroying more than 400,000 books. Who set the fire, and why?… New Yorker staff writer Orlean decides to seek answers.
Library Journal

Mesmerizing.… A riveting mix of true crime, history, biography.… Probing, prismatic, witty, dramatic,… Orlean’s chronicle celebrates libraries as sanctuaries, community centers, and open universities run by people of commitment, compassion, creativity, and resilience.

[E]ngaging.… [Orleans writes] about [librarians'] jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a "solace in the Depression," and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless.… Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.
Kirkus Reviews

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