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  • Location: Los Angeles

The Library Book

The Library Book

Why a Booktrail?

1986, 2000s: Why did a library burn down in 1986? One woman searches for the truth

  • ISBN: B07CYM488X
  • Genre: Fiction, Mystery

What you need to know before your trail

After moving to Los Angeles, Susan Orlean became fascinated by a mysterious local crime that has gone unsolved since it was carried out on the morning of 29 April 1986: who set fire to the Los Angeles Public Library, ultimately destroying more than 400,000 books, and perhaps even more perplexing, why?

With her characteristic humour, insight and compassion, Orlean uses this terrible event as a lens through which to tell the story of all libraries – their history, their meaning and their uncertain future as they adapt and redefine themselves in a digital world.

Travel Guide

BookTrail your visit to Los Angeles Public Library

From the library website:

“The library was open when an audio smoke detector alarm rang at 10:52 a.m. on April 29, 1986.  Within five minutes, all 400 patrons and employees were out of the building. None were hurt. And the firefighters were there minutes later. ”

Initially, firefighting efforts were focused in the northeast stacks.  Then fire in the walls and the concrete and dense design of the building began to build up heat quickly…..By 1 p.m., fire was visible in the west windows of the Patent Room then located on the west end of the building on the mezzanine level. The fire extended almost 300 feet on the second floor through the building….Temperatures were estimated at higher than 2000 degrees F…..

“Out of over 1.2 million books that were in the library at the time of the fire only 350,000 received any fire or water damage. The more important fact is that 85% of the total value of the structure and contents were saved. Today, the library’s holdings are 2.5 million items (books, music, movies, magazines, and books on tape or CDs including more than 100,000 digital items.)

From the novel:

“Our visits to the library were never long enough for me. The place was so bountiful. I loved wandering around the bookshelves, scanning the spines until something happened to catch my eye. Those visits were dreamy, frictionless interludes that promised I would leave richer than I arrived. It wasn’t like going to the store with my mom, which guaranteed a tug-of-war between what I wanted and what my mother was willing to buy me, because I could have anything I wanted in the library. After we checked out, I loved being in the car and having all the books we’d gotten stacked on my lap, pressing me under their solid, warm weight, their Mylar covers sticking a bit to my thighs. It was such a thrill leaving a place with things you hadn’t paid for; such a thrill, anticipating the new books we would read.”

Trail Gallery

Booktrailer Review

Susan: @thebooktrailer

The fire of 1986 at the LA public library was tragic, yet this book is all about  hope and an homage to the power that libraries have. It also shows  the love the author has for libraries and the people they serve. It’s an ode to books, reading, community and the fire and rescue services of course.

Highly recommended!

Read the full review on the BookTrail blog

BookTrail Boarding Pass: The Library Book

Destination: Los Angeles Author/Guide: Susan Orlean Departure Time: 1986, 2000s

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