The Library Book by Susan Orlean

Staff Pick

In Senegal one talks about a death by saying the person’s “library has burned,” reflecting how each life is an irreplaceable collection of experiences and emotions. This folk saying crystalizes the central themes of The Library Book (Simon & Schuster, $28), Susan Orlean’s passionate and wide-ranging look at the place libraries hold in our culture, our communities, and in our very hearts. Orlean re-discovered how integral libraries were to her personally when she moved to Los Angeles. Introducing her son to the public library, she became absorbed in the tale of the Los Angeles public library system itself. Its most dramatic moment occurred on April 29, 1986, when the main branch caught fire. The building burned for more than seven hours; a million books were destroyed and 700,000 damaged. Orlean recreates the conflagration in unforgettable detail, then traces the investigation. It was “almost certainly” arson (a judgment that’s since been revised), though the library’s aging structure had fire code violations, and the one suspect was never convicted. Meanwhile, how to save the damaged books? They were stored in food warehouses where they stayed frozen for two years, then vacuum dried, cleaned, fumigated, rebound, and shelved—a process that took some thirty-six months. No one questioned the value of this project, and the city partnered with corporations and private citizens to restore the library’s former glory.

The Library Book By Susan Orlean Cover Image
ISBN: 9781476740188
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Simon & Schuster - October 16th, 2018

Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount

Staff Pick

Written and brilliantly illustrated by Jane Mount, Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany (Chronicle, $24.95) houses lists and illustrations of all things bookish. A booklover’s dream, there are book lists that cover mortality, short stories, sports, even “Technothrills and Cyberpunks.” Beautiful artwork maps books from around the world, breaks down the various parts of the physical book, and depicts the furry likeness of bookstore cats from Chilliwack to Baltimore. While undeniably lovely and fun, Mount’s work is especially endearing because it reveals that the book world does not lie solely between Chapter One and The End. Books build magnificent libraries, inspire film and music, and keep safe our favorite recipes and dishes. Mount, with her many lists and illustrations, does not hesitate to show this. What’s more, she lists Politics and Prose as a “Beloved Bookstore” on page fifteen. If nothing else, she has great taste. Gibs Ramm

Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany By Jane Mount (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Jane Mount (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9781452167237
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Chronicle Books - September 11th, 2018

The Writer's Map: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands by Huw Lewis-Jones

Staff Pick

Before it was a field science, “cartography art," says Robert Macfarlane, author of The Old Ways. The specific art he means has to do with story-maps rather than with the later, utilitarian grid-maps, and that art, with its transporting blend of "knowledge and supposition" gets beautiful, full-color homage in The Writer's Map: An Atlas of Imaginary Lands (University of Chicago, $45). In addition to Macfarlane, this volume, edited by Huw Lewis-Jones, a historian of visual culture, includes the work and commentary of writers and artists ranging from David Mitchell, Philip Pullman, and Joanne Harris to Miraphora Mina, who worked on all the Harry Potter films; Russ NIcholson, a prestidigitator of fantasy art; and Caldecott Medal-laureate Brian Selznick. The twenty-three contributors recount the special journeys maps have taken them on, describing what first drew them to maps and sharing which maps have especially inspired them. With maps Jules Feiffer's 1961 mapping of the route to The Phantom Tollbooth’s Lands Beyond alongside Thoreau's meticulous survey of Walden Pond, the book is both a de facto map of the imagination and a history of cartography, even as it challenges settled definitions of "map" and boundary."