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While libraries may not seem like the most frighteningly exciting of all possible topics, Susan Orlean’s The Library Book ($28, Simon & Schuster) tells the riveting story of the 1986 L.A. Central Library fire, a catastrophe that stands as the worst library fire in American history, on par with the burning of the Library at Alexandria or the 1933 blaze that annihilated the Berlin Institute of Sex Research. Tonight, author Roxane Gay converses with Susan Orlean about the vital role of libraries as wellsprings of communal memory, touchstones of public gathering, and the places where they keep the fuck books.

Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood; Wed., Oct. 2, 7:30 p.m.; free. (310) 443-7000, hammer.ucla.edu.