Thursday, April 16, 2020

Book Reviews - The Library Book; Susan Orlean and The Girls of Atomic City; Denise Kiernan

AUTHOR:  Susan Orleans
PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster Audio
PUB. YEAR: 2018
FORMAT: audio/library
RATING: - 3.5/5

The Library Book was one of the books chosen for a book group read in 2020.  One focus of this book was the devastating fire at the LA Public Library (Central Branch) in April of 1986. The fire destroyed the library and its collection and, the rebuilding took more than 8 years. The author highlights the critical role that libraries have played over the years and, she discusses libraries past and present.

The author shares her fond memories of frequent trips to the library as a child with her mother, a tradition she continued with her own child years later. The writing about her personal experiences was wonderful and really resonated with me.

Overall, I was a bit disappointed with this book. I do appreciate all the research that went into this book, however, I thought a lot of it felt unfocused and hard to follow at times. Listening to the audio version was probably not the right decision for this book. I found it especially tedious to listen to the author speak call number after call number (Library Dewey Decimal Classification System) about the types of books destroyed in the fire.  As someone who has worked in libraries for about 15 years, I really thought I'd love this book but that was not the case.  If you decide to try this one I suggest print over audio.

TITLE: The Girls of Atomic City: Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win WWII
AUTHOR:  Denise Kiernan
PUB. YEAR: 2013
FORMAT: print/library
RATING: - 4.5/5

The Girls of Atomic City is a NF work about the young women who during WWII were hired for a secret mission, (unknowingly aiding to help build and fuel the atomic bomb.)

In 1943 Oakridge, TN was a town that no one had heard of, yet, seemingly overnight, the town grew out of the mountains and farmlands on some 80,000 acres. The US government's heavy recruitment efforts created, jobs, jobs and more jobs in this secret city. Most who were hired were women: chemists, mathematicians, secretaries and custodial staff alike. Those hired were housed on site and given only basic information, just enough to enable them to perform their jobs. Never was it acceptable to talk about their work or they would be removed from the the project and the property.

The book focuses on 9 women and what they experienced during their time working on this top secret mission. At times it was a bit difficult to keep all of the characters straight, the stories were so interesting.

This book was our book group read for March but,  we never got to discuss it before the library closed due to the pandemic.  This is one of those books that I would have never selected to read on my own but, I was so happy my group selected it. I do think this book would appeal to a variety of readers.


  1. Well, a good one and a not so good one isn't bad, but hard to follow is a real downer.

  2. I really enjoyed The Library Book, but can imagine how difficult it would be to stay focused while listening to the audio edition. Did the author read it? I'm not always a fan of authors reading their own works. Glad you enjoyed the other book. It's on my list.

  3. The Girls of Atomic City really appeals to me. I love seeing those women finally get the recognition they deserve.

  4. Sorry The Library Book wasn't as good as you'd have liked.

  5. I read the print version of "The Library Book" and found it to be pretty good. I learned a lot from it even though it wasn't quite the book I expected it would be going in.

    "The Girls of Atomic City" sounds interesting. I'm going to have to take a look at that one. Hopefully, if my library has it in e-book or audiobook form, it won't be a six-month wait. Right now, that seems to be the norm.

  6. I don't recall having heard of The Girls of Atomic City but it sounds like an interesting and worthwhile read.

  7. I read a novel called Atomic City Girls, but it would be interesting to counter it with the nonfiction version. It's such an interesting topic.

  8. I was a bit let down by The Library Book when I listened to it last year too.
    The Girls of Atomic City sounds interesting, but I recently read Radium Girls which was such a tough read, I'm not sure I'm up for this one.

  9. I have found that many people have been disappointed, at least a bit, by Library Book. Too much buildup, maybe?

  10. Diane, thanks for your honest reviews of these books. I hope you and your family are doing well.

  11. Yeah I'd like to get to both of these. I did start The Library Book on audio once but half way through it was due back so I didn't get to finish it. But I enjoyed the author's dry sense of humor in places. But I agree, you need to stay focused with its various tangents.

  12. I enjoyed The Library Book quite a bit, possibly one reason is that I live in Los Angeles and use that library system extensively (and miss it bitterly during the pandemic.) A year or so ago I read a biography of Robert Oppenheimer, in which I learned so much about the development of the bomb. I want to read The Girls of Atomic City!

  13. I have heard mixed reviews about The Library Book. You aren't the first to mention it seemed a bit unfocused. I do want to read it, but perhaps knowing that going in will help keep my expectations down. I loved The Girls of Atomic City and am glad to see you enjoyed it too, Diane.

  14. I have seen multiple meh reviews for The Library Book which is so disappointing as it sounds wonderful. I think I'll pass on it though I do want to pick up The Girls of Atomic City. I love when I really enjoy a book I'd never have picked up on my own.

  15. I listened to The Library Book last year for a book group discussion as well. I liked it well enough and thought the author did an OK job with the narration - not stellar, but OK. I think I found certain aspects of the book more interesting because of working and volunteering in libraries for so long, but others in our group did not find it as interesting. I was glad I read it, but wouldn't be tempted to reread it. Have not read the Atomic City Girls book, but have certainly heard good things.

  16. The Girls of Atomic City was sitting in my to-read pile before I had to get rid of every book in the house during our mold situation. Looks like I should pick it back up.

  17. That is the very same library I grew up in. I remember spending hours in the stacks as a small child. Was devastated when much of it burned in my senior year of high school but they restored it to its original splendor. Looks very much the same.


Thanks for taking the time to visit and double thanks for any comments. If you ask a question in your comments, I will try to reply to it here, or by email if your settings allow me to do so. Thanks again for visiting.