Thursday, October 1, 2009

Review: The Man Who Loved Books Too Much


Over a 10-year period, John Charles Gilkey stole hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of rare books. The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession is an account of the world of book collectors. It's the story of a man obsessed with acquiring a rare book library at any cost, and the story of a dealer obsessed with stopping collectible book theft. And it's a never-ending story that pulls you into the obsessions, as well.


"Allison Hoover Bartlett's writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, and other publications, and on Her original article on John Gilkey was included in The Best American Crime Reporting 2007."

My Review

I laughed when I saw the title of this book - I knew I'd be able to relate to obsessions! I've just calculated that I've got enough review books lined up to do two book reviews per day over the next 50 days... It's that OCD in me coming out. I love the idea of lining all my walls with books; sharing my personality and preferences by putting them on display. And finding a book package in the mail feels like Christmas to me. Fortunately mine is not a costly obsession, though I don't think it would take much to get me into the rare book treasure hunt.

And Gilkey's obsession was not supposed to be costly, either, since he acquired most of his books through theft. He had to pay through jail time, but that just seemed to be a part of the acquisition cost, rather than a penalty.

I was fascinated to gain insight into the thought-patterns of a book thief. Gilkey saw rare books as a way to gain social status. And he saw theft as being fully justified, as all those crooked dealers were just trying to rake over the consumers. I was also intrigued by his methods of credit card fraud and his downright audacity. And I loved his idea of creating a book theft detective series.

The author did a fantastic job in revealing Gilkey's character. I didn't relate quite so well to Ken Sanders, the detective. It's interesting to note how the author was absorbed into the story and became a part of it, rather than remaining an objective observer.

A somewhat light-hearted book of the true-crime genre, this is a rare book in its own right...

Thanks to Riverhead Books for the review copy of this book.