Susan Orlean

Susan Orlean

Photo: Noah Fecks

On this episode of “Literary Arts: The Archive Project,” journalist and bestselling author, Susan Orlean, talks about what kinds of topics spark her interest and her process of researching and writing “The Library Book.” Orlean shares the two kinds of stories that she is drawn to as a writer: Stories of new discoveries, and stories that are hiding in plain sight. “The Library Book” combines both of these qualities. On April 29, 1986, Los Angeles’s Central Library burned in a mysterious fire. 400,000 books were destroyed in the blaze, 700,000 more were damaged, and the library shut down for seven years. “The Library Book” explores this heartbreaking story and, more broadly, the deep, meaningful impact that libraries have on societies and humanity as a whole. Orlean shares how she stumbled upon this remarkable story and reads a selection from the book.


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.