The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The Library Book by Susan Orlean (2018) is a non-fiction tale about librarianship, centered around the 1986 fire in the Los Angeles Central Library. While Orlean investigates the fire and searches for a suspect, she also highlights the LA librarians and the entire profession. The reader grows to love these eccentric librarians, really caring about the Great Library War at the turn of the last century, a staff battle between an incumbent female employee and an incoming male one. Each librarian was unique and each improved the library. Orlean extensively researches her subject, detailing how the LA Library has tried to evolve with the times, including their response during the Great Depression, the war years and after the Internet. During those trying times, the library adapted with first aid courses, a defense information desk, later hours and more. Orlean’s book had me taking notes on ways libraries today can reconfigure their services in light of the coronavirus.

To get a feel for the LA Library then and now, enjoy these photos. Other books to read about libraries include the following fiction choices; Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami and The Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer, a non-fiction read.

A Beautiful Crime by Christopher Bollen

A Beautiful Crime by Christopher Bollen is a literary thriller in the full sense of the word; beautifully written, atmospheric, immersive and just plain fun. The novel is set mostly in Venice, where two young men try to pull off heist, stealing from a millionaire and hoping he won’t really notice. The two con men, Clay and Nick, are Americans, both escaping chaotic personal and professional lives in New York City. They set off on a new relationship and aim to use their smarts and charm to sell counterfeit antiquities and ultimately fund their future life together. Lots of things, people and in fact, Venice itself, get in the way of crime but, as the title suggests, the whole thing is so beautiful I didn’t mind at all.

Clay, one of the main characters, gets to Venice by means of an internship at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. Listen to this podcast about Peggy Guggenheim and how she came to set up that museum for more background. Readers who enjoyed Snow Falling on Cedars, Ordinary Grace or The Secret History would also enjoy this novel.