Book Review of
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much
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.
John 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.
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Bartlett is a true crime book published in 2010. I shared about this book in my post about nonfiction books about books. It was a fascinating book. I knew nothing about the rare book world and the issues with rare book thefts. This is a true crime book without the murder and gory details that are in most true crime stories.
Like most true crime books the main character in this book is hard to like. He was a criminal and a lot of what he did doesn’t make sense. Which is part of what I think makes this book so fascinating. I love books like this that take me to a world that I knew nothing about.