The Library Book by Susan Orlean

51pmjwgu0bl._sx340_bo1,204,203,200_The Library Book is a fabulous in-depth look at the unsolved mystery surrounding the single largest library fire in United States history,  that of the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986. Though the book is nonfiction, it is packed full of interesting information, including the history of the very first libraries as well as both hilarious and heartwarming anecdotal details from various library employees which Orlean interviewed.

Perhaps I loved it so much because I’m a librarian, but I believe it will be loved by any reader based upon the great popularity it has already received. Celebrity reader, Reese Witherspoon selected The Library Book as the January pick for her book club, Hello Sunshine and it’s also spent time on the New York Times Bestseller list, of course. It is evident that Orlean spent many years researching and studying the Los Angeles Public Library system, as well as libraries in general. Most fascinating to me was the description of  the process of thousands of wet, damaged books from the fire that were frozen before the mold started, and then months later pressed dry to remove all the moisture. Another really neat thing to read about was the start of e-books and the mind-blowing statistics of their worldwide usage today. I kept repeating facts out loud while reading to my husband because they were so interesting.

The Library Book has been called “a love letter to libraries” by some, which is certainly on point. In the beginning, Orlean tells of when she was a young girl visiting the library with her mother, a memory which she will always cherish. She remembers vividly the discussions with her mother on the way home which books they would read first and the feel of the stack of books in her lap, a comforting presence. Her mother always said she should have been a librarian. Like Orlean, I too have always held a special place in my heart for libraries. I can remember being in them from the time I was very young, in awe of the wonder surrounding me on the shelves. And, like Orlean’s mother, I always dreamed of being a librarian, and here I am. This book really captivated me and reminded me just how fortunate and thankful I am to be able to be living out the dream I once had as a little girl.

I would highly recommend The Library Book for fans of nonfiction and fiction alike, especially those who love a bit of mystery and/or history. You won’t be disappointed with this book!

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The Railwayman’s Wife by Ashley Hay

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The Railwayman’s Wife will be published April 5, 2016.

The story takes place in the town of Thirroul, in 1948, on the coast of New South Wales. The author’s vivid descriptions of the water, the library, the train station, and the beach really help the atmosphere of the book, allowing readers to imagine such beauty.

Anikka (Ani) Lachlan, wife to Mac Lachlan, a railway worker, and mother to 10 year old Isabel is happy to have made it through war times without any real devastation hitting her immediate family, when so many of the townspeople around her have become widowed. She spends her days caring for the family’s home and their daughter, listening to the distinctive, constant trains passing through, with an ear for that which will carry her husband home each day.

When Mac perishes in a devastating railway accident, Ani finds herself in a state of grief and disbelief, but knows she must continue on and provide for the family. She is offered a job as a librarian at the Railway Institute’s library, a job she is both nervous and excited about. When Mac was alive, she had dreamed of some sort of work to fill her days, but she knew her place in the family hierarchy was to be at home. Now, she is given a chance to step outside of her comfort zone to help others find literature for various reasons. Here, she forges unlikely friendships with two men. Roy McKinnon, a poet who was able to write during the harsh war, but since has been unable to come up with any words. Frank Draper, a young doctor, was in the first group of men to arrive as help to Nazi concentration and labor camps. Haunted with guilt at not being able to save so many people, he cannot find any happiness in his present occupation, even though the war is over. These men, friends since they were young, are both back in their hometown, sort of wandering through life aimlessly, trying to grasp a purpose for their futures. Enter Ani Lachlan, a beautiful, smart, quiet widow who brings a new warmth to the library. As Ani grows close to Roy and Frank, she finds herself slowly starting to swim away from the grief which was drowning her in the wake of Mac’s sudden passing.

There’s more to the plot than what I have mentioned of course, but I dare not give out any more details. I was captivated by the honesty of the characters, as well as the lyrical text. If you are looking for a fairy-tale ending, however, you won’t find it here. The ending is startling and tragic, but it fits with the mood of the story.