The Stacks’ July book club selection is the Hugo Award-winning Watchmen, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons. Widely considered the greatest graphic novel ever made, the full volume was first released in 1987; it has since been adapted into the 2009 theatrical film and the 2019 HBO limited series. The story is set in an alternate reality version of 1980s America, with historical and political events affected by its cast of outlawed vigilantes, who mostly lack superhuman powers and struggle with their own tragic flaws. Its title refers to the question “Who will watch the watchmen themselves?”
We will discussWatchmenBy Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons on Wednesday, July 26th. You can find out who our guest will be by listening to our July 5th episode. If you’d like even more discussion around the book, consider joining The Stacks Pack on Patreon and participating in The Stacks’ monthly virtual book club.
LA’s indie bookstore Rep Club offers you 10% off your copy of Watchmenvia this link using the code STACKS10 at checkout! (You can still find our July book on Bookshop.org or Amazon.)
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Ben Blacker is back and we’re talking all things theatre and oral history today on The Stacks, as we breakdown The World Only Spins Forwardby Isaac Butler and Dan Kois. The book is an oral history of Angels in America, a classic American play about the AIDS crisis by Tony Kushner. We discuss government funded art, human rights, and so much theatre geek goodness. Plus, no spoilers. Listen and enjoy.
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The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. This in no way effects opinions on books and products reviewed here. For more information click here.
I was lucky enough to be invited to the Library of Virginia Literary Awards this year. It is a wonderful night that celebrates authors from Virginia, and books that are set in the state. This year, their honored guest was Susan Orlean, and so I read her newest book The Library Bookin anticipation of meeting Ms. Orlean. I can say both the book and the woman were a delight.
On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?
In The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.
If I’m being honest, I’ll admit I had no idea there was a massive fire in the Los Angeles Public Library’s central branch in 1986. Just hearing about it made me nervous and intrigued. I still remember my childhood library and how cozy it was and hearing about this fire sent chills up my spine. The thought of hundreds of thousands of books burning, and the destruction and closing of a city resource made my stomach feel uneasy. Before I read the book, I’m not sure I understood intellectually what my body reacted to when hearing about this fire. Susan Orlean helps to explain that and so much more with The Library Book.
If you love books you’ll appreciate this one, it is a total treat. It reminds the reader what it is they love about books and libraries, and then it does a whole lot more. The Library Bookis part true crime investigation, part how libraries work, part deep dive into Los Angeles history, and part conversation about the changing role of books and libraries in our lives. Again, if you’re a book lover, you’ll love this book.
Susan Orlean does a fantastic job of moving the book along and around, never dwelling for too long in any one moment or on any one person. This book is about the greater institution and concept of libraries, and she probes the idea of libraries from many different angles. I loved hearing about the little details of the library, like how long a book stays in circulation and the kinds of inquiries the library info desk fields. I also, predictably, loved the investigation of the 1986 fire in Los Angeles, you know, the true crime part.
There were certainly parts of this book that drifted into areas I was less interested in, however in these cases that says more about me than the book or Ms. Orlean’s writing. For the most part I was captivated by the story Orlean was expertly weaving. I didn’t know you could make a book about libraries and librarians seem exciting and fresh, but she does.
If you’re reading this blog, you most likely like books, so I would think you would appreciate if not swoon over this one. The Library Bookfeels like being in a hug of bookish nostalgia. If nothing else, it will remind you how important libraries are to the fabric of society, and maybe it will make you want to flaunt your library card.
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st Edition edition (October 16, 2018)
The Stacks participates in affiliate programs in which we receive a small commission when products are purchased through some links on this website. This does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here.