The Library Book

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A REESE WITHERSPOON x HELLO SUNSHINE BOOK CLUB PICK

A WASHINGTON POST TOP 10 BOOK OF THE YEAR * A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER and NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2018

“A constant pleasure to read…Everybody who loves books should check out The Library Book.” —The Washington Post

“CAPTIVATING…DELIGHTFUL.” —Christian Science Monitor * “EXQUISITELY WRITTEN, CONSISTENTLY ENTERTAINING.” —The New York Times * “MESMERIZING…RIVETING.” —Booklist (starred review)

A dazzling love letter to a beloved institution—and an investigation into one of its greatest mysteries—from the bestselling author hailed as a “national treasure” by The Washington Post.

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?

Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.

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.

Along the way, Orlean introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters from libraries past and present—from Mary Foy, who in 1880 at eighteen years old was named the head of the Los Angeles Public Library at a time when men still dominated the role, to Dr. C.J.K. Jones, a pastor, citrus farmer, and polymath known as “The Human Encyclopedia” who roamed the library dispensing information; from Charles Lummis, a wildly eccentric journalist and adventurer who was determined to make the L.A. library one of the best in the world, to the current staff, who do heroic work every day to ensure that their institution remains a vital part of the city it serves.

Brimming with her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, The Library Book is Susan Orlean’s thrilling journey through the stacks that reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country. It is also a master journalist’s reminder that, perhaps especially in the digital era, they are more necessary than ever.
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About the author

Susan Orlean has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1992. She is the author of seven books, including Rin Tin Tin, Saturday Night, and The Orchid Thief, which was made into the Academy Award–winning film Adaptation. She lives with her family and her animals in upstate New York and may be reached at SusanOrlean.com and Twitter.com/SusanOrlean.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Oct 16, 2018
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Pages
336
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ISBN
9781476740201
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Language
English
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Genres
History / General
History / Social History
History / United States / 20th Century
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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This book examines African Americans' strategies for resisting white racial violence from the Civil War until the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968 and up to the Clinton era. Christopher Waldrep's semi-biographical approach to the pioneers in the anti-lynching campaign portrays African Americans as active participants in the effort to end racial violence rather than as passive victims.

In telling this more than 100-year-old story of violence and resistance, Waldrep describes how white Americans legitimized racial violence after the Civil War, and how black journalists campaigned against the violence by invoking the Constitution and the law as a source of rights. He shows how, toward the end of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, anti-lynching crusaders Ida B. Wells and Monroe Work adopted a more sociological approach, offering statistics and case studies to thwart white claims that a black propensity for crime justified racial violence. Waldrep describes how the NAACP, founded in 1909, represented an organized, even bureaucratic approach to the fight against lynching. Despite these efforts, racial violence continued after World War II, as racists changed tactics, using dynamite more than the rope or the gun. Waldrep concludes by showing how modern day hate crimes continue the lynching tradition, and how the courts and grass-roots groups have continued the tradition of resistance to racial violence.

A rich selection of documents helps give the story a sense of immediacy. Sources include nineteenth-century eyewitness accounts of lynching, courtroom testimony of Ku Klux Klan victims, South Carolina senator Ben Tillman's 1907 defense of lynching, and the text of the first federal hate crimes law.
The story of the lie detector takes us straight into the dark recesses of the American soul. It also leads us on a noir journey through some of the most storied episodes in American history. That is because the device we take for granted as an indicator of guilt or innocence actually tells us more about our beliefs than about our deeds. The machine does not measure deception so much as feelings of guilt or shame. As Ken Alder reveals in his fascinating and disturbing account, the history of the lie detector exposes fundamental truths about our culture: why we long to know the secret thoughts of our fellow citizens; why we believe in popular science; and why America embraced the culture of "truthiness."

For centuries, people searched in vain for a way to unmask liars, seeking clues in blushing cheeks, shifty eyes, and curling toes...all the body's outward signs. But not until the 1920s did a cop with a Ph.D. team up with an entrepreneurial high school student from Berkeley, California and claim to have invented a foolproof machine that peered directly into the human heart. In a few short years their polygraph had transformed police work, seized headlines, solved sensational murders, and enthralled the nation. In Chicago, the capital of American vice, the two men wielded their device to clean up corruption, reform the police, and probe the minds of infamous killers. Before long the lie detector had become the nation's "mechanical conscience," searching for honesty on Main Street, in Hollywood, and even within Washington, D.C. Husbands and wives tested each other's fidelity. Corporations tested their employees' honesty. Movie studios and advertisers tested their audiences' responses. Eventually, thousands of government employees were tested for their loyalty and "morals" -- for lack of which many lost their jobs.

Yet the machine was flawed. It often was used to accuse the wrong person. It could easily be beaten by those who knew how. Repeatedly it has been applied as an instrument of psychological torture, with the goal of extracting confessions. And its creators paid a commensurate price. One went mad trying to destroy the Frankenstein's monster he had created. The other became consumed by mistrust: jealous of his cheating wife, contemptuous of his former mentor, and driven to an early death. The only happy man among the machine's champions was the eccentric psychologist who went on to achieve glory as the creator of Wonder Woman.

Yet this deceptive device took America -- and only America -- by storm. Today, the CIA still administers polygraphs to its employees. Accused celebrities loudly trumpet its clean bill of truth. And the U.S. government, as part of its new "war on terror," is currently exploring forms of lie detection that reach directly into the brain. Apparently, America still dreams of a technology that will render human beings transparent.

The Lie Detectors is the entertaining and thought-provoking story of that American obsession.
From New York Times bestselling author Simon Baatz, the first comprehensive account of the murder that shocked the world.
In 1901 Evelyn Nesbit, a chorus girl in the musical Florodora, dined alone with the architect Stanford White in his townhouse on 24th Street in New York. Nesbit, just sixteen years old, had recently moved to the city. White was forty-seven and a principal in the prominent architectural firm McKim, Mead & White. As the foremost architect of his day, he was a celebrity, responsible for designing countless landmark buildings in Manhattan. That evening, after drinking champagne, Nesbit lost consciousness and awoke to find herself naked in bed with White. Telltale spots of blood on the bed sheets told her that White had raped her.
She told no one about the rape until, several years later, she confided in Harry Thaw, the millionaire playboy who would later become her husband. Thaw, thirsting for revenge, shot and killed White in 1906 before hundreds of theatergoers during a performance in Madison Square Garden, a building that White had designed.
The trial was a sensation that gripped the nation. Most Americans agreed with Thaw that he had been justified in killing White, but the district attorney expected to send him to the electric chair. Evelyn Nesbit's testimony was so explicit and shocking that Theodore Roosevelt himself called on the newspapers not to print it verbatim. The murder of White cast a long shadow: Harry Thaw later attempted suicide, and Evelyn Nesbit struggled for many years to escape an addiction to cocaine. The Girl on the Velvet Swing, a tale of glamour, excess, and danger, is an immersive, fascinating look at an America dominated by men of outsize fortunes and by the women who were their victims.
From the end of Reconstruction to the onset of the civil rights era, lynching was prevalent in developing and frontier regions that had a dynamic and fluid African American population. Focusing on Mississippi and South Carolina because of the high proportion of African Americans in each state during "the age of lynching," Terence Finnegan explains lynching as a consequence of the revolution in social relations—assertiveness, competition, and tension—that resulted from emancipation. A comprehensive study of lynching in Mississippi and South Carolina, A Deed So Accursed reveals the economic and social circumstances that spawned lynching and explores the interplay between extralegal violence and political and civil rights.

Finnegan's research shows that lynching rates depended on factors other than caste conflict and the interaction of race and southern notions of honor. Although lynching supported the ends of white supremacy, many mobs lynched more for private retaliation than for communal motives, which explains why mobs varied greatly in size, organization, behavior, and purpose.

The resistance of African Americans was vigorous and sustained and took on a variety of forms, but depending on the circumstances, black resistance could sometimes provoke rather than deter lynching. Ultimately, Finnegan shows how out of the tragedy of lynching came the triumph of the civil rights movement, which was built upon the organizational efforts of African American anti-lynching campaigns.

A rich mosaic of diary entries and letters from Marilyn Monroe, Cesar Chavez, Susan Sontag, Albert Einstein, and many more, this is the story of Los Angeles as told by locals, transplants, and some just passing through.

“Los Angeles is refracted in all its irreducible, unexplainable glory.”—Los Angeles Times

The City of Angels has played a distinct role in the hearts, minds, and imaginations of millions of people, who see it as the ultimate symbol of the American Dream. David Kipen, a cultural historian and avid scholar of Los Angeles, has scoured libraries, archives, and private estates to assemble a kaleidoscopic view of a truly unique city.
 
From the Spanish missionary expeditions in the early 1500s to the Golden Age of Hollywood to the strange new world of social media, this collection is a slice of life in L.A. through the years. The pieces are arranged by date—January 1st to December 31st—featuring selections from different decades and centuries. What emerges is a vivid tapestry of insights, personal discoveries, and wry observations that together distill the essence of the city.
 
As sprawling and magical as the city itself, Dear Los Angeles is a fascinating, must-have collection for everyone in, from, or touched by Southern California.
 
With excerpts from the writing of Ray Bradbury • Edgar Rice Burroughs • Octavia E. Butler • Italo Calvino • Winston Churchill • Noël Coward • Simone De Beauvoir • James Dean • T. S. Eliot • William Faulkner • Lawrence Ferlinghetti • Richard Feynman • F. Scott Fitzgerald • Allen Ginsberg • Dashiell Hammett • Charlton Heston  • Zora Neale Hurston • Christopher Isherwood • John Lennon • H. L. Mencken • Anaïs Nin • Sylvia Plath • Ronald Reagan • Joan Rivers • James Thurber • Dalton Trumbo • Evelyn Waugh • Tennessee Williams • P. G. Wodehouse • and many more

Advance praise for Dear Los Angeles

“This book’s a brilliant constellation, spread out over a few centuries and five thousand square miles. Each tiny entry pins the reality of the great unreal city of Angels to a moment in human time—moments enthralled, appalled, jubilant, suffering, gossiping or bragging—and it turns out, there’s no better way to paint a picture of the place.”—Jonathan Lethem

“[A] scintillating collection of letters and diary entries . . . an engrossing trove of colorful, witty insights.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
*A New York Times Notable Book*
*A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year*

From the bestselling National Book Award finalist and author of The Big House comes “a well-blended narrative packed with top-notch reporting and relevance for our own time” (The Boston Globe) about the young athletes who battled in the legendary Harvard-Yale football game of 1968 amidst the sweeping currents of one of the most transformative years in American history.

On November 23, 1968, there was a turbulent and memorable football game: the season-ending clash between Harvard and Yale. The final score was 29-29. To some of the players, it was a triumph; to others a tragedy. And to many, the reasons had as much to do with one side’s miraculous comeback in the game’s final forty-two seconds as it did with the months that preceded it, months that witnessed the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, police brutality at the Democratic National Convention, inner-city riots, campus takeovers, and, looming over everything, the war in Vietnam.

George Howe Colt’s The Game is the story of that iconic American year, as seen through the young men who lived it and were changed by it. One player had recently returned from Vietnam. Two were members of the radical antiwar group SDS. There was one NFL prospect who quit to devote his time to black altruism; another who went on to be Pro-Bowler Calvin Hill. There was a guard named Tommy Lee Jones, and fullback who dated a young Meryl Streep. They played side by side and together forged a moment of startling grace in the midst of the storm.

“Vibrant, energetic, and beautifully structured” (NPR), this magnificent and intimate work of history is the story of ordinary people in an extraordinary time, and of a country facing issues that we continue to wrestle with to this day. “The Game is the rare sports book that lives up to the claim of so many entrants in this genre: It is the portrait of an era” (The Wall Street Journal).
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK
 
A modern classic of personal journalism, The Orchid Thief is Susan Orlean’s wickedly funny, elegant, and captivating tale of an amazing obsession. Determined to clone an endangered flower—the rare ghost orchid Polyrrhiza lindenii—a deeply eccentric and oddly attractive man named John Laroche leads Orlean on an unforgettable tour of America’s strange flower-selling subculture, through Florida’s swamps and beyond, along with the Seminoles who help him and the forces of justice who fight him. In the end, Orlean—and the reader—will have more respect for underdog determination and a powerful new definition of passion.
 
In this new edition, coming fifteen years after its initial publication and twenty years after she first met the “orchid thief,” Orlean revisits this unforgettable world, and the route by which it was brought to the screen in the film Adaptation, in a new retrospective essay.

Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.
 
Praise for The Orchid Thief
 
“Stylishly written, whimsical yet sophisticated, quirkily detailed and full of empathy . . . The Orchid Thief shows [Orlean’s] gifts in full bloom.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
“Fascinating . . . an engrossing journey [full] of theft, hatred, greed, jealousy, madness, and backstabbing.”—Los Angeles Times
 
“Orlean’s snapshot-vivid, pitch-perfect prose . . . is fast becoming one of our national treasures.”—The Washington Post Book World
 
“Orlean’s gifts [are] her ear for the self-skewing dialogue, her eye for the incongruous, convincing detail, and her Didion-like deftness in description.”—Boston Sunday Globe
 
“A swashbuckling piece of reporting that celebrates some virtues that made America great.”—The Wall Street Journal
The New York Times bestselling book about the early development, growth, and exercise of leadership from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin “should help us raise our expectations of our national leaders, our country, and ourselves” (The Washington Post).

“After five decades of magisterial output, Doris Kearns Goodwin leads the league of presidential historians” (USA TODAY). In her “inspiring” (The Christian Science Monitor) Leadership, Doris Kearns Goodwin draws upon the four presidents she has studied most closely—Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson (in civil rights)—to show how they recognized leadership qualities within themselves and were recognized as leaders by others. By looking back to their first entries into public life, we encounter them at a time when their paths were filled with confusion, fear, and hope.

Leadership tells the story of how they all collided with dramatic reversals that disrupted their lives and threatened to shatter forever their ambitions. Nonetheless, they all emerged fitted to confront the contours and dilemmas of their times. At their best, all four were guided by a sense of moral purpose. At moments of great challenge, they were able to summon their talents to enlarge the opportunities and lives of others. Does the leader make the times or do the times make the leader?

“If ever our nation needed a short course on presidential leadership, it is now” (The Seattle Times). This seminal work provides an accessible and essential road map for aspiring and established leaders in every field. In today’s polarized world, these stories of authentic leadership in times of apprehension and fracture take on a singular urgency. “Goodwin’s volume deserves much praise—it is insightful, readable, compelling: Her book arrives just in time” (The Boston Globe).
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