The library book by Susan Orlean

“The library book” by Susan Orlean. This book explores books and libraries, particularly focusing on the Los Angeles Central Library, which was severely damaged by a fire in 1986. The fire was suspected to be arson, with Harry Peak as the main suspect. However, the book is more about the impact of books and libraries on people’s lives.

The Los Angeles Central Library’s history dates back to the late 1870s. At that time, libraries were mainly for the wealthy, not just because memberships were costly, but because literacy rates were low. The library had a reading room and lockers for hats, umbrellas, and live animals bought at the market. Back then, people didn’t go to Walmart for a frozen chicken!

Although the Central Library fire destroyed hundreds of thousands of books, this isn’t unusual. Libraries worldwide face high fire risks, both accidental and intentional. During World War II bombings, millions of books were lost in numerous library fires across Europe. Protecting books has always been challenging due to recurring human behavior throughout history.

People sometimes compare books to movies, but they are fundamentally different. Watching a movie is passive: you just open your eyes and let the information flow. You can text or grab a beer without missing much. Reading, however, requires active engagement. The brain must understand the printed words, make sense of complex ideas, and create a mental picture. It’s a silent conversation in your mind, which is why everyone should read books.

In this book, I also discovered Charles Lummis, a controversial figure from the late 1890s. Reading his writings feels almost surreal, like conversing with someone from 130 years ago. (By the way,’The Spanish Pioneers’ by Lummis is fascinating.)

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