General Fiction,  Personal Updates,  Random

January and February Reading: An Ode to Public Libraries with Susan Orlean’s The Library Book

Since life has been getting busier and messier – which is how it should be -, I’ve realised that I’d rather share all my monthly reading updates in one post instead of writing one post for each book. Traditional reviewing is not working anymore for me and my approach to reading and writing is now closer to journaling. Last month I experimented with this new style and I loved the writing process and all the conversations that it sparked.

The Inspiration

One of the last things I did in 2018 was to contact Atlantic Books to get a review copy of Susan Orelan’s The Library Book, a non-fiction look at the great fire that destroyed the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986. As I wrote in my request, I was immediately interested in the book when I heard it involved crime and libraries. Imagine my surprise when, a few weeks after I got my copy, Reese Witherspoon chose it as her January reading for her book club! So, since I had already joined her and millions of other women online to read their December pick – my first time reading romance! – I decided to join them this time too.

Los Angeles Public Library fire (1986)

Orlean’s book is an ode to public libraries that goes beyond the 1986 fire and its consequences. The Library Book is also a book about the history of libraries in the U.S and a reminder that these places constitute one of the few free and democratic spaces in contemporary society. Even though patrons need to observe some rules – do not smoke! do not fight! do not sell drugs in the bathrooms! – libraries offer people of different backgrounds a place to just be. And, as Orlean herself points out, they have developed to cover the diversity of society’s necessities such as an Internet connection, or simply a meeting and quiet place with a free Wi-fi connection where freelancers can work.

The Reading

So, The Library Book covered most of my reading time in January, but it reminded me of our collective need to protect these spaces. And what better way to support them than to use them? So, I made of February my library month and I borrowed two novels. The first of them was El color de la luz, a novel by Spanish author Marta Quitín, and I got it through the inter-library loan, which I had never used before but worked perfectly!

The second one was a recommendation from my beloved and trusted librarian who has known me since I first set foot there when I was 4: The Spanish translation of Agnés Martin-Lugand, Entre mes mains le bonheur se faufile, which has not been translated into English yet. However, you probably know about the author because her previous work Happy People Read and Drink Coffee could be the most perfect and bookish title I have ever heard of.

I have only great things to say about borrowing books from the library both in the UK and in Spain That is not something new if you’ve been here around for a while. But I have thoroughly enjoyed discovering books in Spanish, and in translation. Needless to say, my librarian’s expertise and recommendations have been invaluable, and I often talk to her about what we are reading and what to read next.

A Book for Christmas

However, I read more than just library books. My brother got me Kate Morton’s latest novel, The Clockmaker’s Daughter for Christmas and it was a fantastic read. I love a chunky book, but I love a Kate Morton chunky book even more. At 585 pages, it was a challenging read, but Morton’s writing is so good and so enthralling that I could not wait to get home every day to keep reading.

Her writing has clearly gotten more evocative and more poetic, and the characters in her contemporary timeline are complex and flawed, which gives them a depth that was present in her previous works but is clearly one of the strengths of this novel. If you are a fan, but you still haven’t read The Clockmaker’s Daughter, you are in for a treat. And if you haven’t read any Kate Morton yet, this is a great place to start as well.

Hello, March!

Right now, I still have to finish reading Martin-Lugand’s book, but I am flying through it. It is that good, and the translation by Juan Carlos Durán Romero is simply perfect: It flows and it is without a doubt one of the reasons why I am enjoying the book so much.

I have no reading plans for March yet. I still have a dangerously tall TBR pile of books to read at home, so I should pick one of those. But I have also put Tara Westover’s Educated on hold at a nearby library. Fingers crossed I get it very soon!

What about you? Do you use your library? And do you use it for something more than just borrowing books?



  • MarinaSofia

    I think I’m moving more and more towards that model of reviewing, which is more sustainable when you have so much else going on in your life… I have never read Kate Morton. Would you say that book is a good place to start or should I try something shorter first?

    • Elena

      That is great, Marina Sofia.

      So, for Kate Morton: All of her books are chunky, so there really is no good place to start. The first one she wrote is so similar to Atwood’s The Blind Assassin, I’d say don’t even try. I think my favourite is The Lake House because it’s a page-turner and you never lose interest. Please let me know what you think!

  • curlygeek04

    I’m really looking forward to reading Orlean’s book. I use my library A LOT for taking out e-books (I love the Libby app) and I’m also in a book club that meets at a local library.

    • Elena

      I’ve started using my library to borrow e-books since I got my Kindle last summer, and I have to say it’s an amazing service. Sadly we don’t have a book club at my local library, but I hope that changes soon 🙂

  • Susana_S_F

    I can’t remember the last time I borrowed a book from the library… But I donated some books to my local library last year. It’s a different way of helping it survive, I suppose!

    • Elena

      That’s great, Susanna. Many libraries in Spain can’t accept donations anymore because of lack of space, but I would love to see some of my books go and live there.

  • jessicabookworm

    Elena, I like your new monthly reading post and I hope it works better for you with how your life is no. My reading in February was sadly slow again: I finished reading two big books. I am thinking I should treat myself to some shorter, lighter reads in March! As for the library, I’m afraid I don’t tend to use my local library anymore, but I really should! Happy March reading! 🙂

    • Elena

      Thank you, Jessica. It means a lot to see some of my more faithful readers grow and change with the blog. As I’m writing this, I’m thinking I should be reading because it’s very slow too, but that’s OK. Life gets on the way and that’s OK.

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