The next book from Susan Orlean (Rin Tin Tin, The Orchid Thief) is officially on the way, EW can announce exclusively. After years and years of research, the best-selling author has written The Library Book: an account of the most devastating library fire in American history that doubles as a true love letter to one of our most prized institutions.
Orlean reopens the case of the 1986 Los Angeles Public Library fire, which either destroyed or damaged more than a million books. Weaving her life-long love of books and reading with the fascinating history of libraries and the sometimes-eccentric characters who run them, Orlean investigates the fire to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives.
She visits the different departments of the LAPL, encountering an engaging cast of employees and patrons and experiencing alongside them the victories and struggles they face in today’s climate. She also delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from a metropolitan charitable initiative to a cornerstone of national identity. Along the way, she reveals how these buildings provide much more than just books — and that they are needed now more than ever.
Orlean is best known for her investigative journalism, having been a New Yorker staff writer now for more than 25 years. Her 1998 book The Orchid Thief was adapted into the acclaimed Charlie Kaufman film Adaptation, in which Meryl Streep earned an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Orlean. In 2011, she published her nonfiction account of Rin Tin Tin.
“My sweetest memories are of going to the library with my mother when I was a kid, browsing the stacks with her, savoring even the smell of the books and the way they felt in my lap when we were driving home and I had my chosen few piled on my lap,” Orlean said in a statement to EW. “Taking my own son to the library reminded me of how much I love libraries, how magical they are — and the next thing I knew, I was drawn into the story of one in particular, the Central Library in Los Angeles: its life and times, and the dramatic story of the arson, the worst library fire in American history, that nearly shut it down.”
The Library Book will be released on Oct. 16. Preorder the book here, and check out the cover (exclusive to EW) below.