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Ranking Author Susan Orlean’s Best Books (A Bibliography Countdown)

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“What are Susan Orlean’s Best Books?” We looked at all of Orlean’s authored bibliography and ranked them against one another to answer that very question!

We took all of the books written by Susan Orlean and looked at their Goodreads, Amazon, and LibraryThing scores, ranking them against one another to see which books came out on top. The books are ranked in our list below based on which titles have the highest overall score between all 3 review sites in comparison with all of the other books by the same author. The process isn’t super scientific and in reality, most books aren’t “better” than other books as much as they are just different. That being said, we do enjoy seeing where our favorites landed, and if you aren’t familiar with the author at all, the rankings can help you see what books might be best to start with.

The full ranking chart is also included below the countdown on the bottom of the page.

Happy Scrolling!



The Top Book’s Of Susan Orlean



8 ) The Floral Ghost

 The Floral Ghost Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 7
  • Amazon: 8
  • LibraryThing: 8

This one-of-a-kind collaboration between acclaimed author Susan Orlean and celebrated artist Philip Taaffe unites the literary and the visual, the nostalgic and the optimistic, and brings greenery to your bookshelf. Taking inspiration from the rapidly dwindling “flower district” of New York City, Orlean and Taaffe offer tandem musings on the conceit of “the floral ghost.” Orlean’s essay, one of her first botanically themed writings since she penned the widely lauded The Orchid Thief, reflects on a poignant moment when she first visited the district in its resplendent heyday. Her text is accompanied by Taaffe’s colorful silkscreen monotypes–a bouquet of paper and ink recalling the unique yet universal nature of time passing and petals fading. An evocative rendering of both the memories of youth and the ephemeral nature of the cityscape, The Floral Ghost makes an elegant gift for every aspiring writer, artist and dreamer who moves to a city to make his or her mark or who admires its mutable glory from afar. Susan Orlean (born 1955) is the bestselling author of eight books, including The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup; My Kind of Place; Saturday Night; and Lazy Little Loafers. In 1999, she published The Orchid Thief, a narrative about orchid poachers in Florida, which was made into the Academy Award-winning film Adaptation, written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Spike Jonze. Her 2011 book, Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, was a New York Times bestseller. Orlean has been a staff writer for the The New Yorker since 1992. She lives in Los Angeles and upstate New York. Philip Taaffe was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in 1955, and studied at the Cooper Union in New York. He has exhibited worldwide since his first solo exhibition in New York, in 1982.

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7 ) Saturday Night

 Saturday Night Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 6
  • Amazon: 7
  • LibraryThing: 6

Twenty years ago, before she wrote The Orchid Thief or was hailed as “a national treasure” by The Washington Post, Susan Orlean was a journalist with a question: What makes Saturday night so special? To answer it, she embarked on a remarkable journey across the country and spent the evening with all sorts of people in all sorts of places—hipsters in Los Angeles, car cruisers in small-town Indiana, coeds in Boston, the homeless in New York, a lounge band in Portland, quinceañera revelers in Phoenix, and more—to chronicle the one night of the week when we do the things we want to do rather than the things we need to do. The result is an irresistible portrait of how Saturday night in America is lived that remains.

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5 ) Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend

 Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 8
  • Amazon: 2
  • LibraryThing: 4

Allegedly found in the ruins of a bombed-out dog kennel in France during World War I, then brought to Los Angeles by Lee Duncan, the soldier who found and trained him, by 1927 Rin Tin Tin had become Hollywood’s number one box-office star. Susan Orlean’s book–about the dog and the legend–is a poignant exploration of the enduring bond between humans and animals. It is also a richly textured history of twentieth-century entertainment and entrepreneurship. It spans ninety years and explores everything from the shift in status of dogs from working farmhands to beloved family members, from the birth of obedience training to the evolution of dog breeding, from the rise of Hollywood to the past and present of dogs in war.

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5 ) My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who’s Been Everywhere

 My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who's Been Everywhere Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 5
  • Amazon: 4
  • LibraryThing: 5

Now, in My Kind of Place, the real Susan Orlean takes readers on a series of remarkable journeys in this uniquely witty, sophisticated, and far-flung travel book. In this irresistible collection of adventures far and near, Orlean conducts a tour of the world via its subcultures, from the heart of the African music scene in Paris to the World Taxidermy Championships in Springfield, Illinois–and even into her own apartment, where she imagines a very famous houseguest taking advantage of her hospitality. With Orlean as guide, lucky readers partake in all manner of armchair activity. They will climb Mt. Fuji and experience a hike most intrepid Japanese have never attempted; play ball with Cuba’s Little Leaguers, promising young athletes born in a country where baseball and politics are inextricably intertwined; trawl Icelandic waters with Keiko, everyone’s favorite whale as he tries to make it on his own; stay awhile in Midland, Texas, hometown of George W. Bush, a place where oil time is the only time that matters; explore the halls of a New York City school so troubled it’s known as “Horror High”; and stalk caged tigers in Jackson, New Jersey, a suburban town with one of the highest concentrations of tigers per square mile anywhere in the world. Vivid, humorous, unconventional, and incomparably entertaining, Susan Orlean’s writings for The New Yorker have delighted readers for over a decade.

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4 ) Animalish

 Animalish Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 4
  • Amazon: 2
  • LibraryThing: 7

The life and times of a girl who has always loved animals, or how I went from dreaming about Rin Tin Tin to having dogs, cats, chickens, fish, cattle, turkeys, and guinea fowl, with guest appearances by horses, lions, and canaries.

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2 ) The Orchid Thief

 The Orchid Thief Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 3
  • Amazon: 4
  • LibraryThing: 2

The Orchid Thief is Susan Orlean’s tale of an amazing obsession. Determined to clone an endangered flower—the rare ghost orchid Polyrrhiza lindenii—a deeply eccentric and oddly attractive man named John Laroche leads Orlean on an unforgettable tour of America’s strange flower-selling subculture, through Florida’s swamps and beyond, along with the Seminoles who help him and the forces of justice who fight him. In the end, Orlean—and the reader—will have more respect for underdog determination and a powerful new definition of passion. In this new edition, coming fifteen years after its initial publication and twenty years after she first met the “orchid thief,” Orlean revisits this unforgettable world, and the route by which it was brought to the screen in the film Adaptation, in a new retrospective essay.

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2 ) The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup: My Encounters with Extraordinary People

 The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup: My Encounters with Extraordinary People Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 2
  • Amazon: 4
  • LibraryThing: 3

The bestselling author of The Orchid Thief is back with this delightfully entertaining collection of her best and brightest profiles. Acclaimed New Yorker writer Susan Orlean brings her wry sensibility, exuberant voice, and peculiar curiosities to a fascinating range of subjects—from the well known (Bill Blass) to the unknown (a typical ten-year-old boy) to the formerly known (the 1960s girl group the Shaggs). Passionate people. Famous people. Short people. And one championship show dog named Biff, who from a certain angle looks a lot like Bill Clinton. Orlean transports us into the lives of eccentric and extraordinary characters—like Cristina Sánchez, the eponymous bullfighter, the first female matador of Spain—and writes with such insight and candor that readers will feel as if they’ve met each and every one of them.

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1 ) The Library Book

 The Library Book Review Website Ranks:

  • Goodreads: 1
  • Amazon: 1
  • LibraryThing: 1

On the morning of April 28, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who? Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before. In The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago. Along the way, Orlean introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters from libraries past and present—from Mary Foy, who in 1880 at eighteen years old was named the head of the Los Angeles Public Library at a time when men still dominated the role, to Dr. C.J.K. Jones, a pastor, citrus farmer, and polymath known as “The Human Encyclopedia” who roamed the library dispensing information; from Charles Lummis, a wildly eccentric journalist and adventurer who was determined to make the L.A. library one of the best in the world, to the current staff, who do heroic work every day to ensure that their institution remains a vital part of the city it serves. Brimming with her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research,

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Susan Orlean’s Best Books



Susan Orlean Review Website Bibliography Rankings

BookGoodreadsAmazonLibraryThingOverall Rank
The Library Book 111 1
The Orchid Thief 342 2
The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup: My Encounters with Extraordinary People 243 2
Animalish 427 4
Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend 824 5
My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who’s Been Everywhere 545 5
Saturday Night 676 7
The Floral Ghost 788 8