Book Review: The Library Book by Susan Orlean

Author: Susan Orlean
Title: The Library Book
Narrator: Susan Orlean
Publication Info: Simon & Schuster Audio (2018)
Susan Orlean’s excellent work of narrative nonfiction focuses on the Los Angeles Central Library, particularly on the April 29, 1986 fire that severely damaged the building. Orlean examines the history and aftermath of the fire and reconstruction through interviews of past and current library employees and an examination of the library’s history to its origins over a century ago. The book also tells the story of Harry Peak, a young aspiring actor and attention seeker who became a leading arson suspect. The cause of the fire remains unsolved to this day.

I actually visited the Los Angeles Central Library on my visit to Southern California in 2007, and I’ve included a couple of photos below.

Recommended books:

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Author: Dave Eggers
Title: Zeitoun
Publication Info: Prince Frederick, MD : Recorded Books, p2009
ISBN: 9781440764134
This work of literary non-fiction captures the harrowing story of Abdulrahman Zeitoun immediately before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina.  Zeitoun, by all accounts a decent and honest man, is a hardworking Syrian immigrant who runs a contracting business.  When the storm comes, he has his family evacuate, while he stays to keep an eye on some properties he manages.  The scenes immediately after the storm are eerily beautiful with Zeitoun paddling a canoe through the streets of New Orleans joining up with other survivors to rescue people and care for dogs left behind.  Then mysteriously Zeitoun and his companions are arrested.  He is held under shockingly cruel conditions, abused, and not allowed to contact family or a lawyer for several weeks.  It’s a chilling tale of injustice in America and indictment of the nation’s values in the post-September 11th paradigm.  Most telling is how government agencies were unable to coordinate rescuing survivors, yet within days after the storm had constructed a large, high-security prison in a bus station parking lot.  Eggers writing is straightforward and fleshed out with flashbacks to Zeitoun’s childhood in Syria and his wife Kathy’s conversion to Islam.  The writing style is a delight to read but the story makes me angry and depressed.

Recommended books: The Day the World Came to Town by Jim Defede, In the Name of the Father by Gerry Conlon and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Greg Palast.
Rating: ****