The Library Book
I love books, and I love libraries, so you can only imagine how I feel about books about libraries.
The same way I feel about books about bookstores. They all have a place in the VIP section of my TBR list.
The Library Book, by Susan Orlean, was on my TBR list as soon as I heard about it, though I didn't think I would get to it anytime soon.
Then, it became the January 2019 pick for Reese Witherspoon's book club. I don't like celebrity book clubs. Something about every celebrity or influencer having a book, and every celebrity branching into the lifestyle market drives me insane. Because I see a lot of women who have spent years meticulously building a following for their book reviews, their recipes, their DIY ideas. And now, a celebrity or someone who is Youtube famous, will get that book deal because there is a guaranteed following. It is a difficult market to make a living off of, and celebrities don't really need another revenue stream, do they?
But I decided to play along, since it was a book already on my list. I'll get back to my experience with Reese's book club. But first! The book review.
I loved this book. Before the January book club book was announced, Reese Witherspoon added to her instagram story some clues for people to guess what the next book would be. She was sure that we would all love the book because it was an ode to libraries.
Yes, I love libraries. And I have read other books about books, books about bookstores, and probably a book about a library too. But what made this one special?
My love for this book was tied to my love of learning, not just reading. I have always been a learner. I like knowing about things, and I like knowing them inside and out. I like to completely dive into a topic and build up a foundation of knowledge. That's what this book did.
The book is about the fire that ruined the LA public library. But this isn't just a factual account of what happened that day. The book covers the role of libraries; past, present, and future. It covers the history of book burning, the life of the main suspect, the evolution of arson investigation, and the value of books around the world and historically.
Like any road to learning, the path is not linear. We don't just get from Point A to Point B without getting nerd swiped in a slightly different direction, or falling down a rabbit hole when you come across an interesting tidbit.
We've all done it! We go to look something up on Wikipedia, and before we know it we've visited five other pages because there's something else we didn't know.
To write this book, Orlean had to learn a lot, and in writing it, she took us on that journey with her.
That's why I loved this book. The tangents and tidbits. The odd titles she came across while researching, listed at the beginning of each chapter. I felt like I was learning about the fire with her.
Now, back to celebrity book clubs.
There were things about it that were cool. I have yet to win an Instagram giveaway for any book, but I haven't given up hope just yet. It was also really cool to be able to submit questions for a Q&A with the author. Some authors tend to be more social media savvy than others, but it was cool to know that I would get additional content while reading the book. In this instance, the author even gave a tour of the LA public library, talked about what books she might save in a fire, and answered some reader questions. Again, my question wasn't picked to be asked, but it was cool to have the opportunity!
What left me feeling meh, was that there wasn't really any discussion of the book. Having moved to IL from NJ, I really miss meeting with my book club. And I am trying out some online book clubs, until I find one I can meet with in person. But for Reese's book club, there didn't seem to be much discussion around the actual book. It was like Oprah's book club sticker, where a ton of people probably ran to buy the book, and I wondered how much it helped with book sales. I checked the Hello Sunshine site and there were no discussion boards or groups. There is a group on Goodreads, but there wasn't even 25 comments about the book in the discussion. So as much as I enjoyed the book, and the additional content, I didn't feel like I was part of a book club.
I felt like I was buying into celebrity hype. I didn't follow along for the February pick, as the reviews were mixed and it didn't seem like the kind of book I would enjoy. For March, the book happens to be one that Reese is turning into a TV show. So again, it feels less like a book club and more like an inflated cash cow for a celebrity. I've never been one to be obsessed with celebrities and want to do everything they do. So I'll follow the page and hope to win a book one day, but I think I'll stick to less famous book clubs, where I get to build connections with other readers in a way that is engaging and meaningful.