Prepare to dive into the inner workings of a library

The possibilities seem endless.

Row upon row of books awaits you, each representing a fact to learn, a crime to solve, a future to visit, a place to explore or a life to share. Your local library holds old tales and new stories but in “The Library Book” by Susan Orlean, it can hold a community together, too.

The fire alarm was known to be faulty at the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL). It was always going off for no reason; patrons knew it, as did staff. So when the alarm screamed again on the morning of April 28, 1986, most people there vacated the library with an air of unconcerned been-there-done-this.

Within minutes, it became obvious that this was no false alarm.

Because of how the library had been constructed decades prior, what started as a small fire in a small area soon became a conflagration. Boosted by architecture, the fire fed on itself until, mere hours later, millions of books, manuscripts, priceless documents, maps, collector’s items and operating equipment were lost. It was the largest library fire at that time in the United States.

Throughout its existence, the LAPL had seen its share of history within the city. It had become a beloved home for bookworms, a resource for the homeless and a place for learning. Recognizing what its loss could represent, Los Angelinos sprang into action, filmmakers made donations, citizens held fundraisers and institutions around the world showed their support. Alas, many of the materials were lost forever.

In the days after the fire, tips poured in and one of them led investigators to Harry Peak, a charming gay “people pleaser” who was also unreliable. Peak ultimately confessed to the crime of arson.

And then he unconfessed. In months to come, in fact, he changed his story as easily as he changed clothes, baffling authorities. Was Harry Peak a firebug? Or was he just a guy who craved attention and would stretch a story to get it?

Here’s why you’re going to fall in love with author Susan Orlean: in her quest for full knowledge on this subject, she decided to burn a book (gasp!), a task that gave her knife-sharp anguish that only a booklover can know. Indeed, much of this account will hurt your soul, if you’re someone who loves books.

But that’s not all you’ll find in “The Library Book.”

While crime solving itself is fascinating, Orlean takes her book to a most satisfying next step and reading it is like wearing a piece of jewelry: the story of the LAPL fire and its aftermath is the gold at the base, holding everything together — irresistible, but not quite enough. Orlean’s curiosity for and explanations of the inner workings of a large library are the jewels. They are what make this book sparkle.

Book lovers and library users should read it for its behind-the-scenes not-so-secrets. This book seems meant just for you who adore the written word, so clear your calendar and open “The Library Book.”

You know where to find a copy.

More in Life

Helping Plateau, Washington Princesses go to the ball

The Orting-based Princess Project of Washington helps women of all ages dress up for any sort of event, free of charge.

Summer meals available to kids in Enumclaw, Buckley

These programs help feed youths that may have only been able to get their only meal of the day at school.

Enumclaw High’s ‘over 50’ reunion set for Aug. 8

Anyone who attended or graduated from EHS from 1969 or before is welcome to attend.

Guild gathered for annual spring luncheon

The next Guild event, its annual Christmas Luncheon and Auction, is scheduled for Dec. 4.

Image courtesy Public Health Insider.
The weather is heating up — time for a water safety refresher

Whatever you do, always wear a life vest.

Learn the warning signs of stroke | MultiCare Health System

Every minute counts when it comes to getting help. Remember to “BE FAST.”

CPR in a box is a real life-saver | Public Health Insider

About 80 percent of King County residents are trained in CPR and 70 percent of all out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in King County received bystander CPR.

Recycling event at Expo Center can help your spring cleaning

The annual Enumclaw Collection event is June 1 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Teens encouraged to volunteer at Pierce County libraries

The opportunity is offered at all Pierce County Library locations.

Most Read