Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much - A Review

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much - Allison Hoover Bartlett

Synopsis via Barnes and Noble website:

In the tradition of The Orchid Thief, a compelling narrative set within the strange and genteel world of rare-book collecting: the true story of an infamous book thief, his victims, and the man determined to catch him.

Rare-book theft is even more widespread than fine-art theft. Most thieves, of course, steal for profit. John Charles Gilkey steals purely for the love of books. In an attempt to understand him better, journalist Allison Hoover Bartlett plunged herself into the world of book lust and discovered just how dangerous it can be.

Gilkey is an obsessed, unrepentant book thief who has stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of rare books from book fairs, stores, and libraries around the country. Ken Sanders is the self-appointed "bibliodick" (book dealer with a penchant for detective work) driven to catch him. Bartlett befriended both outlandish characters and found herself caught in the middle of efforts to recover hidden treasure. With a mixture of suspense, insight, and humor, she has woven this entertaining cat-and-mouse chase into a narrative that not only reveals exactly how Gilkey pulled off his dirtiest crimes, where he stashed the loot, and how Sanders ultimately caught him but also explores the romance of books, the lure to collect them, and the temptation to steal them. Immersing the reader in a rich, wide world of literary obsession, Bartlett looks at the history of book passion, collection, and theft through the ages, to examine the craving that makes some people willing to stop at nothing to possess the books they love.

My Thoughts:

I don't normally read Non-Fiction books mostly because the writing style is so much different than a fiction book and is often times a slower read. This one was no different for me. With that said however I actually really liked this book even if It took me longer to get through.

I found all the rare book information fascinating and I'm not sure I'll ever look at a book the same again. I also learned a lot of interesting stuff, stuff I would have never given a second thought too before reading this book.

I found Gilkey to be an interesting sort of fellow, even though he is the thief in question. I, like Allison, found myself wondering what made him tick. What compelled him to perform all these acts of thievery just to obtain this book or that book. In the end I don't think I can really understand why he does what he does because I'm not him. Part of me feels sad for the obsession that must drive him to do these thing but at the same time I also hate him for his selfishness in thinking he deserves to have these books at whatever cost.

In the end I think Allison did a wonderful job on this book. I would recommend this to anyone who has a love for books, it really was an informative read.


Anonymous said...

I too typically avoid nonfiction, but surprised myself and absolutely loved this tale! I often had to consciously remember it was a true story and that Gilkey really is a deplorable thief vs. a character from the imagination of a talented author. Thanks for sharing!

Jo-Jo said...

I'm glad you liked this book. I also don't usually read nonfiction, but I will be starting one soon also.

mee said...

This is probably the second time I stumbled upon this book. Can't remember where the first one was, but your review made me want to read it.