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The Library Book: 04/04/21

The Library Book

The Library Book by Susan Orlean covers the fire of the Los Angeles Central Library, as well as its recovery, and its history. On April 29, 1986, shortly after opening, the fire alarm sounded. By the time the library was evacuated, smoke was visible. The fire ended up burning so hot that metal bookcases melted and thousands of books ended up turning to ash. The reason you probably haven't heard of the fire is it happened the same day as Chernobyl.

The most fascinating parts of this book are the descriptions of the fire and the discussion of the library's architecture. Let's just say the architect didn't know jack shit about fire prevention or electrical wiring.

The building turned a smoldering fire set by an arsonist into a raging chimney fed inferno. But that still means there was an intentionally lit fire. Orlean goes into the history of the man who was accused (and acquitted) and interviewed his family.

But Orlean gets sidetracked by writing lengthy biographies of the various men who ran the library (as well as asshole Melville Dewey). Although there were women librarians in charge too, their careers are glossed over. Libraries are primarily, overwhelmingly run by women but men consistently get the majority of the attention, even in a book written by a woman.

Three stars

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