Continuing to read my”Books about Books” list inspired by Random House, I warily approached The Library Book by Susan Orlean. Knowing only that it was non-fiction, and was about the 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Public Library, all I could think of was all those books going up in smoke. Since I was attempting to read more non-fiction in 2019 anyway, I ordered The Library Book from my local library. The red, very “plain” book cover told me it was a “…riveting mix of true crime, history, biography, and immersion journalism.” (Booklist)

Orlean, the “immersed journalist” of the book’s cover was touted as a writer for the New Yorker and other magazines. The statistics on the book jacket confirmed my original fear that it was an awful, awful occurrence–400,000 books totally destroyed and 700,000 more damaged.  Each chapter was headed up with copies of one or more old-fashioned card-catalog cards, each relevant to something within the chapter. The story immediately introduces the reader to Harry Peak, a part-time actor. His looks, his movements, and his thoughts immediately engage the reader’s curiosity. Library Book does include a brief history of libraries, but this information was never boring and often fascinated me with details the author must have enjoyed unearthing. Orlean takes the reader along on her interviews, her speculations then discoveries, and her frustrations in researching and writing the book, which was one of my favorite parts of reading the book.

The investigation, the court snafus, the intricacy of the actual event that took place on April 28, 1986, supplies fascinating reading to book-a-holics and library fans like me.


Author: Rae Longest

This year (2019) finds me with 50 plus years of teaching "under my belt." I have taught all levels from pre-K "(library lady" or "book lady"--volunteer) to juniors, seniors, and graduate students enrolled in my Advanced Writing class at the university where I have just completed 30 years. My first paying teaching job was junior high, and I spent 13 years with ages 12-13, the "difficult years." I had some of the "funnest" experiences with this age group. When I was no longer the "young, fun teacher," I taught in an elementary school setting before sixth graders went on to junior high, teaching language arts blocs, an assignment that was a "dream-fit" for me. After completing graduate school in my 40s, I went on to community college, then university teaching. Just as teaching is "in my blood," so is a passion for reading, writing, libraries, and everything bookish. This blog will be open to anyone who loves books, promotes literacy and wants to "come out and play."


  1. This one sounds a fascinating – and heartbreaking – read, Rae. Thank you for an excellent account of what sounds like a succession of passing the buck after a horrendous event.

    Liked by 1 person

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