On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded at the Los Angeles Public Library. The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned 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 the scene, but more than thirty years later the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library – and if so, who?
In The Library Book, Susan 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 across the country and around the world, studies arson, introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters, and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the actor long suspected of setting the fire.
The Library Book tells the broader story of libraries, and reminds us 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.