How did your reading go this month? Did you find something amazing?
Our main title this month was The Library Book by Susan Orlean and while, as expected, it had a lot to do about libraries and books, it is so much more than that. There is a lot about the history of Los Angeles, which in many ways is the history of the western United States. It is filled with interesting characters, from crazy directors to “unique” patrons (the reference librarian that tells about helping a person who later turned out to be the infamous Night Strangler was rather chilling). And of course, there is a lot about the fire that nearly destroyed the LA Main library in 1984. I was especially fascinated by the descriptions of fire science and firefighting and how the structure of the building plus the huge amount of fuel (books!) that was present.
The best part though is Orlean describing how the community came together to save what they could from the fire and how much it meant to people of many different backgrounds. Realizing that the library was on fire, citizens spontaneously formed lines to carry books out, bucket-brigade-style, trying to save as much as they could.
“It was as if, in this urgent moment, the people of Los Angeles formed a living library. They created, for that short time, a system to protect and pass along shared knowledge, to save what we know for each other, which is what libraries do every day.”
The idea that libraries act as community centers, “of the rare role libraries play, to be a government entity, a place of knowledge, that is nonjudgmental, inclusive, and fundamentally kind” is the message that runs throughout this book. Well written, filled with fascinating stories, this book is highly recommended.
What did you read this month? Did you find that books and reading draw people together, either immediately or across time? Was reading a positive influence, or can it also cause division? How do books (and stories) keep history and memories alive?
Be sure to share your observations on this month’s Book Flight in the comments below!