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The Library Book

Narrated by: Susan Orlean
Length: 12 hrs and 9 mins
4 out of 5 stars (1,304 ratings)
Regular price: $29.95
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Publisher's Summary

Susan Orlean, hailed as a “national treasure” by The Washington Post and the acclaimed best-selling author of Rin Tin Tin and The Orchid Thief, reopens the unsolved mystery of the most catastrophic library fire in American history and delivers a dazzling love letter to a beloved institution - our libraries. 

On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual false alarm. As one fireman recounted later, “Once that first stack got going, it was good-bye, Charlie.” The fire was disastrous: It reached 2,000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed 400,000 books and damaged 700,000 more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than 30 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 with the fascinating history of libraries and the sometimes eccentric characters who run them, award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author Susan Orlean presents a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling story as only she can. With her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, she investigates the legendary Los Angeles Public Library fire to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives. 

To truly understand what happens behind the stacks, Orlean visits the different departments of the LAPL, encountering an engaging cast of employees and patrons and experiencing alongside them the victories and struggles they face in today’s climate. She also delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from a metropolitan charitable initiative to a cornerstone of national identity. She reflects on her childhood experiences in libraries; studies fire 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 library more than 30 years ago. Along the way, she reveals how these buildings provide much more than just books - and that they are needed now more than ever.

Filled with heart, passion, and unforgettable characters, The Library Book is classic Susan Orlean and an homage to a beloved institution that remains a vital part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country and culture.

©2018 Susan Orlean (P)2018 Simon & Schuster

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Had To Turn It Off

I was so intrigued by the premise of this book. However, I simply could not listen to the narration. I see that some have listened to the book on 1.5x speed - maybe that would help, but I'm not convinced. While I applaud the author for giving it a go, next time she should outsource.

58 of 58 people found this review helpful

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I couldn’t take the narration!

I usually get all of the Reese Witherspoon’s book picks on Audible, but this one was unlistenable. The narrator is horrible and I could not focus on the story. I will have to pick up an actual copy of the book and read it myself. So I can’t say whether the book was good or not, I can only comment on the narrator.

72 of 73 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

Needs a new narrator

I can’t really comment on the writing because I cannot even get through the first chapter. The reading is very slow and boring. I sped it up, but I still could not focus on the story. Will be returning.

28 of 28 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Wanted to like it....

As a librarian, I wanted very much to like this story but it was so slow and lacked any action that I was unable to stay interested. The performance lacked any inflection and made me wonder if she begged them to let her read her own book. I just could not force myself to listen to it anymore.

20 of 20 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Admirable effort

I love libraries. I've written about libraries and I know it can be a challenge to write, so I admire Susan Orlean's effort. But I found it myself tapping my foot in irritation. Too many numbers, not enough story. And I'm sorry to say her reader's voice was just as grating. The book did, however, remind me of the days when public buildings were magnificent.

36 of 37 people found this review helpful

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Do Not Recommend! Will be returning!

You know, I very rarely will give out a one star. Probably because I usually have enough sense to just put a big fat DNF on it, and not torture myself. Why I didn't with this one, I don't know. I fully expected to like it based on the reviews and the subject matter. I love books. I love libraries. I love history. I hated this book.

This book was SO painful. I want to cry.
-Disorganized, boring, dry
- Narration is slow, dull, and agonizing

The markings of a good non-fiction book is when you can keep me engaged. The minute I start thinking... "hmm the facts are somewhat interesting, but I could put all the interesting facts into a few pages in a magazine and be done with it", you've lost me; and this is what happened here. It is clear that a lot of research went into this book, but the way the ideas were presented had zero flow to them; and seemed to be facts, quotes, etc with little author exploration into the ideas presented.

In summary, if anyone wants to re-enact the chapter where the author burns a book, I suggest you burn this one.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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New narrator needed

Ms Orlean wrote an interesting book but should have chosen someone else to read it.

17 of 18 people found this review helpful

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Confused

Not sure why book titles and filing numbers preceded each chapter. Not a good book for audio. Better to read in paper ore book.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Love Letter to Libraries

Such a worthwhile read.
Good storyteller
Quirky and interesting characters
Uplifting and hopeful
Highly recommend
I listened at 1.25 speed and that was just right.

21 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • Mj
  • 01-15-19

Please hire a reader next time

As others have said: her reader's voice was just flat and bad. It may be one if the top narrator fails on audible. I couldn’t listen to this story. Buy the print version if your dead set on reading this book

6 of 6 people found this review helpful