Secret Library Podcast


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#121 Susan Orlean

121 Orlean Headshot.jpg

When I found out Susan Orlean's latest was called The Library Book it took me exactly 2 minutes to invite her on the show to discuss it.

Bless her, she said yes less than 5 minutes later.

This book is SO GOOD. Granted, I am an easy sell with a podcast called The Secret Library. But this book has arson, crazy characters, scandal, history, and everything a book nerd could ever want. We discuss the process of researching and writing this book over 5 years and what it took to write it, even after Susan thought she'd never write another book again.

She's pure gold, as always.

Discussed in Episode 121 with Susan Orlean:

  • “I just can‘t do this again.”
    After Rin Tin Tin, considering the next book

  • ”It felt to me like this was demanding to be written.“

  • ”I convinced myself, as one always does, that it would be very easy.“
    How she allowed herself to get started. 

  • ”It really did seduce me.“
    On how the story caused her to write it. 

  • ”A story has to get more interesting as you learn more about it.“
    On knowing whether a story is worthy of a book. 

  • The Library Fire

  • ”It all felt urgent & surprising.“
    On how she kept going for five years. 

  • Wrote this story as a newcomer to LA. Looked at LA and the story with fresh eyes. 

  • ”I am so glad to be writing this book.“
    On writing about Los Angeles as a literary city. 

  • Los Angeles, even today, has the Temperament of a young city.

  • ”It‘s a city that tolerates and encourages a kind of eccentricity.“
    On LA being a weird young place. 

  • Harry Peak

  • ”Libraries are our temples of storytelling.“

  • ”I didn‘t want to tell the book simply chronologically.“ 

  • ”I really wanted to capture a sense of the library in its day-to-day life.“

  • ”I wanted it to be readable.“
    On not writing a 3000 page book. 

  • ”For me it was a process of distillation.“
    Turning her research into a story. 

  • ”There was a lot of good material that didn‘t end up in the book.“

  • ”The idea that everything in the world has been digitized is just not true.“
    On libraries as unique repositories of documents & artifacts. 

  • ”Just because something isn‘t online doesn’t mean it doesn‘t exist.“
    On why we still need physical libraries.

This episode sponsored by listeners like you via the Secret Library Podcast Patreon