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Newsletter: Book Club: Our first pick is ‘The Library Book’

Book Club Editor
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L.A. Times Today airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Spectrum News 1.

Good morning, and welcome to the L.A. Times Book Club newsletter.

Just in time for summer reading, “The Library Book” by Susan Orlean is our first book club selection and community read. We’ll host a June 25 forum with the author at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre.

Join us on online or in person to discuss Orlean’s bestseller about the mysterious 1986 fire that gutted Los Angeles’ landmark Central Library. “The Library Book” reinvestigates the fire and recounts the rescue efforts by hundreds of Angelenos who raced to the stacks to save books from smoke and water damage.

Susan Orlean
Susan Orlean inside the L.A. Public Library, left, and her bestseller "The Library Book." Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times; Simon & Schuster

The author also brings to life legendary characters from the library’s past and present, and reveals L.A.’s passions and obsessions.

“The people in shipping know all the trends,” Orlean writes. “They can tell when a book was recommended by Oprah, because they will pack dozens of copies that have been requested all over the city.

“They know that the day after any holiday, the load will be heavy: Apparently everyone in Los Angeles gets on the computer right after Thanksgiving dinner and makes requests for diet books.”

Read more about the first Los Angeles Times Book Club pick.

Get ticket information about the June 25 event with Susan Orlean.

Behind the scenes

When we decided to start a community book club, we wondered: What is L.A. reading right now?

Our first stop: the public library.

Over the past two months, The Times reached out to libraries across Los Angeles County to discover the most-circulated books.

Michelle Obama’s blockbuster “Becoming” is a current runaway favorite, with a waiting list of 893 at the county library alone. But the most requested titles also include volumes in Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Russian, French, Portuguese and Farsi.

We found that classic stories endure, too. “Who knew that ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ — a kids book published 59 years ago — would be any library system’s most circulated?” says reporter Maria LaGanga. “It is in Glendora.”

The biggest surprise?

“I was surprised by the sheer number of library systems the county supports,” Maria says. “I’ve always known that the County of Los Angeles Public Library was pretty vast, but 85 public branches? And the Los Angeles Public Library system has 73 branches. Even more fascinating were the cities that thought libraries are so important that they had to have their own system — with just one branch.”

Read our report on what L.A. is reading, which includes an interactive map of the most-requested books at libraries across L.A. County.

Join the conversation

Be sure to join the new L.A. Times Book Club Facebook Group to share your thoughts and compare notes with fellow book lovers.

Our mission is to get people talking again by making your newspaper not merely something to read every day but something to experience. Something that brings us together. Read more about why we’re starting a book club.

And please share your suggestions for more books we should read together. You can reach me at donna.wares@latimes.com. And on Twitter: @donnawares

Tell us about your library story

Why use libraries to investigate the books readers love most? Because, as Los Angeles City Librarian John Szabo explains, “Rich folks use our libraries. Folks without homes, who are homeless, aren’t just coming here for air conditioning. They’re reading and they’re using our services, and that’s important to remember. … We serve everybody.”

Do you have a library story? Message bookclub@latimes.com.

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