The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

The True Story of A Thief, A Detective, and A World of Literary Obsession

Book - 2009
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Rare book theft is even more widespread that fine art theft. Most thieves, of course, steal for profit - but John Charles Gilkey stole 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. Immersing the reader in the 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 stop at nothing to possess the books they love.
Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, 2009.
ISBN: 9781594488917
Branch Call Number: 002.075
Characteristics: 274 p. ; 22 cm.


From the critics

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May 10, 2019

The journalist author had material for an interesting magazine article. Perhaps a 5 page piece in the New Yorker. There is not enough material here for a book. She pads the tale with dull details such as how many times the phone rang before Gilkey answered. There's a LOT of repetition of "oddly, he did not think stealing was wrong", what motivates collectors of books every time she visits another book fair or antique book store and repetition of his methods. No suspense - contrary to what the promo blurb promises. I agree with the published review that says the author struggles to make the narrative work. The audiobook reader adds to the problem of the very flat, repetitive text by reading every page in the same slow, flat, soothing monotone.

Feb 03, 2019

Unbelievable. Book thief stole for status & entitlement ,but he chose them from a modern classic list. I saw no evidence he ever read them all.
Interesting read on who steal them & why.
Victimless crime? Ha! Used book store affected because lost of income. Average person affected on loss of history, memory & human knowledge. Author affected because she's conflicted on ethics over an used book with indeterminate provenance.

Apr 24, 2018

Just read it, read it, read it, read it
This phrase needs to be repeated
Story so funky, sit in good light,
It doesn't matter you'll see I'm right
Just read it, read it
Just read it, read it

DBRL_KrisA Dec 11, 2016

My sister recommended this book to me; she hadn't read it, but thought that the title described my book addiction perfectly.
Actually, this book is only tangentially about people like me, seeming hoarders of any book they can get their hands on. Specifically, this book is about John Gilkey, a rare-book thief who stole books from dealers, not in some scheme to re-sell them and make big bucks, but because of a belief that having a large personal library would make him a well-respected member of high society. Bartlett, through interviews with Gilkey, book seller and amateur detective Ken Sanders, and other members of the rare-book world, explores what makes a book "rare", and what causes the obsession some of us have with collecting books. However, this work is mostly about Gilkey, his history of book-stealing, and how he justified his thefts to himself and to others.

Sep 03, 2016

A great read. This book was very educational regarding rare books. It also described in great detail the book dealers and their eccentric ways. Most of the book takes place in the bay area so it is really fun to read about places I know and have been to. Loved the detective chasing the thief aspect of the book.

Jun 09, 2012

An interesting true crime story about stealing rare books. It is not brutal, no violemce. Gives insight into the obsession of collecting, in this case rare books.

Mar 05, 2012

An intriguing story, which the author deftly turns into a post-modern exercise in naval gazing. Although no report of events can be completely objective, Brackley is excessive in explaining to the reader her own perspectives and reactions to the unfolding narrative. This book would be much better (and much shorter) if the author had narrowed her focus to the subject at hand, and given us less insight into her own motivations.

Apr 05, 2011

This book, although non-fiction, reads as fiction. Bartlett did an amazing job in telling the story, and had me scouring my bookshelves to find out if I had any first editions that may be worth something one day.

Jan 10, 2011

A ne'er well man is obsessed with rare and antique books. So much that he has to steal them to acquire them.
It is the world of those who deal with and in rare books

Harriet_the_Spy Sep 08, 2010

If you've ever wanted to read a charming, well-researched story about a sociopathic book thief, this is the book for you. Bartlett gained access to a man who has stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of books, as well as a hippie-turned-rare-book-dealer who set out to stop the thefts. Where John Gilkey, the thief, is bizarre and unsettling in his amoral selfishness, the rare book dealer, Ken Sanders, is endearing though undeniably wacky. The two fascinating characters give Bartlett great material, and she handles it well.

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