The Library Book|Susan Orlean


Click Here for the December 2019 Book Club Discussion Questions
Susan Orlean's bestseller and New York Times Notable Book is "a sheer rich in insight and as varied as the treasures contained on the shelves in any local library" (USA TODAY)--a dazzling love letter to a beloved institution and an investigation into one of its greatest mysteries. "Everybody who loves books should check out The Library Book" (The Washington Post).

On the morning of April 28, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. The fire was disastrous: it reached two thousand degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library--and if so, who?

Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a "delightful...reflection on the past, present, and future of libraries in America" (New York magazine) that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.

In the "exquisitely written, consistently entertaining" (The New York Times) The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries; brings each department of the library to vivid life; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.

"A book lover's ambitiously researched, elegantly written book that serves as a portal into a place of history, drama, culture, and stories" (Star Tribune, Minneapolis), Susan Orlean's thrilling journey through the stacks reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books--and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country.


  • ISBN-13: 9781476740195
  • ISBN-10: 1476740194
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publish Date: October 2019
  • Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.62 pounds
  • Page Count: 336

Book Clubs: November 2019

★ The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Susan Orlean offers an homage to libraries while investigating a mystery in The Library Book. Orlean delivers a riveting account of the 1986 Los Angeles Public Library fire, which burned for over seven hours, was extinguished with roughly 3 million gallons of water and damaged or destroyed approximately a million books. In recounting the aftermath of the disaster, Orlean chronicles the investigations that ensued and the eventual arrest of an arson suspect—a disturbed young actor named Harry Peak. Along the way, she tracks the history of the Los Angeles Public Library and interviews librarians about their duties and the challenges they face on the job. This intriguing title is also a touching meditation on the author’s lifelong love of libraries and the invaluable services they provide to society.

Queenie by Candace Carty-Williams
Queenie, a young woman of Jamaican British background, tries to forget her white ex-boyfriend as she reenters the complicated world of interracial dating in this smart, briskly paced novel that explores issues of gender and relationships.

Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken
Local eccentric Bertha Truitt opens a bowling alley in Salford, Massachusetts, in the early 1900s. The alley stays in her family for generations, becoming the foundation for a quirky, compelling narrative about inheritance, connection and tradition.

The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer
After learning about photography from the artist Man Ray, model Lee Miller embarks on a career in Europe, pursuing art and love to their ultimate ends. Skillfully blending fact and fiction, Scharer makes an impressive debut with this bold historical novel. 

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker
For dystopian fiction full of provocative questions but light on the violence often present in the genre, try Walker’s haunting portrait of a community torn apart by a mysterious, airborne sleeping sickness.