Santa Monica Public Library Announces 2020 Santa Monica Reads Selection The Library Book by Susan Orlean

June 23, 2020 4:45 PM

2020 marks the eighteenth anniversary of Santa Monica Public Library’s annual community reading program, Santa Monica Reads. During COVID-19, we are living in unprecedented times. The need for libraries and community connection is more important than ever. Popular with local residents and visitors, the program invites everyone to read and discuss the same book at special events and book discussions. This year, all Santa Monica Reads events will be held virtually. We are pleased to announce The Library Book by Susan Orlean as the 2020 selection. Santa Monica Reads is part of Santa Monica Reads All Summer and runs from Monday, June 22 through Monday, September 7.

The Library Book re-opens the unsolved mystery of the most catastrophic library fire in American history while paying homage to all public libraries. The book presents an intriguing history of the city of Los Angeles, as well as the Central Library fire. In 1986, the fire reached 2,000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. It destroyed 400,000 books and damaged 700,000 more, shutting the library down for seven years. To this day, the mystery of whether the fire was arson still remains. An award-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author, Orlean presents a uniquely engaging story.

We will be hosting special events and discussions virtually on topics that The Library Book brings to the fore: local history, civil service, democracy, and wellbeing. Sign up for the Library’s annual Santa Monica Reads All Summer program to join a community of readers. The Library Book is available in several formats from the Santa Monica Public Library or can be purchased at a local or online bookseller. Access free e-books and e-audiobooks through the Libby app, with a Santa Monica Public Library card. For more information, go to SMPL Online. Santa Monica Reads is sponsored by the Santa Monica Public Library and the Friends of the Santa Monica Public Library.

Join us for these free special events and book discussions:

Author Talk: Susan Orlean on The Library Book – In her bestselling book, Susan Orlean re-opens the unsolved mystery of the Los Angeles Central Library fire, the most catastrophic library fire in American history, while simultaneously paying homage to public libraries and their impact on individuals, communities, and society. Join us for this virtual presentation and discussion about the essential role libraries play in our lives.

Saturday, July 25 at 2:00pm| Live via BlueJeans at

The Architecture of Los Angeles Central Library – Join us for a discussion and visual presentation on the architectural history of the Los Angeles Central Library. Learn about the unique history of the building and the role the 1986 fire played in its redesign. Panelists include Kenneth Breisch, Associate Professor of Architecture at USC; Margaret Bach, founding member of the Los Angeles Conservancy; and Stephen Gee, author of Los Angeles Central Library: A History of Its Art and Architecture

Saturday, August 15 at 2:00pm | Live via Zoom at

Santa Monica Reads book discussions are hosted by trained discussion facilitators. Discussion participants are encouraged to share their thoughts about The Library Book and its themes or are welcome to simply listen and learn more about the book.   

For more information about these free, public programs call Santa Monica Public Library at (310) 458-8600 or visit Due to COVID-19, the Santa Monica Public Library is temporarily closed until further notice. Please check back regularly about our status, as we hope to re-open soon. Library services are currently available 24/7 at SMPL Online. Contact a live person, Monday through Friday from 10:00am to 4:00pm, for general questions, reference and research-related questions by email at or call (310) 458-8600.


Media Contact

Jennifer Boyce
Librarian II