Thursday 23 January 2014

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

Finished January 22
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession by Allison Hoover Bartlett, read by Judith Brackley

This book I picked to fulfill one of my reading challenges for the year, a book on True Crime. Of course, I had to pick one with a literary slant!
Bartlett is a freelance journalist who grew interested in the world of book theft when a friend was left a book as part of an estate that came with an instruction to return it to its rightful owner. The task wasn't as easy as she might have thought, and it led her to wonder who stole books and why. This led her to the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America (the ABAA) and bookseller Ken Sanders, who took his job as security officer for the organization seriously, setting up online alerting processes and other tools to help quickly disseminate information about stolen books and people suspected of such crimes. Sanders told her about the different types of thieves: those who steal for profit, those who steal for a specific purpose, and those who steal for love.
This led her to John Charles Gilkey, a man who has stolen hundreds of rare books from book sellers across the United States, seemingly for love. Gilkey rarely resells his books, although he doesn't necessarily steal them to read either. He steals them for the image of himself owning rare books of literary merit portrays to him, that of an esteemed gentleman. He is a charming, polite conman and came up with innovative ways to steal the books that he thought "it wasn't fair" that he couldn't afford. His methods and the fact he didn't resell them often are what made him harder to catch.
But Sanders was instrumental in catching him, and when Bartlett approached him in jail, he was willing to talk. However after a while, she began to realize that instead of merely telling the story, she was becoming part of it, and had to consciously take a step back and remove herself from it to complete this book.
Her book explores the reasons people steal, the world of rare books and book collectors, and the temptations within that world.
A very interesting book.


  1. I read this a couple years ago and liked it. True crime is not my normal thing, but I was interested in the literary aspect. :)

  2. I'm planning on reading this for the TBR challenge with Roofbeam Reader. Good to here it's worth the time.

  3. Definitely worth it Jen and Irene. It was the literary aspect that drew me to it as well, Kailana.

  4. This sounds interesting. I have put it on my wishlist.

    Marianne from Let's Read

  5. A great choice for the challenge - thanks for sharing!