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The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison…

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much (2009)

by Allison Hoover Bartlett

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2,2391664,755 (3.43)1 / 163
Unrepentant book thief John Charles Gilkey has stolen a fortune in rare books from around the county. Yet unlike most thieves, who steal for profit, Gilkey steals for the love of the books. Perhaps equally obsessive, though, is Ken Sanders, the self-appointed "bibliodick" driven to catch him. Sanders, a lifelong rare book collector and dealer turned amateur detective, will stop at nothing to catch the thief plaguing his trade.… (more)
Recently added byvals_blue_notebook, Serrana, private library, scottyn73, Bwbb, PokPok, kevintwit, JulieWatts, RZink

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3 stars: Enjoyed parts of it

From the back cover: Unrepentant book thief Gilkey has stolen a fortune in rare books from around the country. Yet unlike most thieves, who steal for profit, Gilkey steals for love - the love of books. Perhaps equally obsessive is Ken Sanders, the self-appointed "bibliodick" driven to catch him. Allison Hoover Bartlett plunges the reader deep into a rich world of fanatical book lust and considers what it is that makes some people stop at nothing to possess the titles they love.


As I read this book close to a year ago, it is hard for me to remember specific aspects of it. The story was compelling and due to the nature, they were many quotes and descriptions of books and readers which I loved (and related to). What concerned me most (and clearly many other reviewers) is the author inserts herself in the story and romanticizes Gilkey to the point that she's accused of basically aiding his crimes. He takes her along as he cases a store and she allows him to do it. This did not feel ok, and the author really takes a tone of glamorizing his crimes. It took away from the book and left me with a bad feeling.

Interestingly enough (for me), firegirl had the same feeling. We often love the same topics but have wildly different opinions of the books. This one, she was aligned on.


Quotes I liked:
"People have an emotional attachment to books they remember reading as children, and very often its the first type of book a collector seeks. Some more on to other books, but many spend a lifetime collecting their favorite childhood stories.

For several days I lived in Wilbur's world, and the only thing as sad as Charlotte's death, maybe even sadder, was that I had come to the end of the book.

Winston Churchill, a bibliophile, understood the attachment. He wrote: 'What shall I do with all my books? was the question; and the answer "Read them" sobered the questioner. But if you cannot read them, at any rate handle them, and as it were, fondle them. Peer into them. Let them fall open where they will. Read on from the first sentence that arrests the eye. Then turn to another. Make a voyage of discovery... Arrange them on your own plan, so that if you do not know what is in them, you at least know where they are. If they cannot be your friends, let them at any rate be your acquaintances. If they cannot enter the circle of your life, do not deny them at least a nod of recognition."

So much of collecting is driven by emotions, probably most of it, and although I understood the attraction of first editions intellectually, I didn't feel it. The strongest attachments I have to books are those with which I have a personal history. ( )
  PokPok | May 17, 2020 |
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett is billed as "The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession." The thief and detective are, respectively, Gilkey and Sanders. The former dreams of having a beautiful library that will bring him into the world of the wealthy and educated and Bartlett admits to being charmed by him. But, ultimately, he is a pretty pedestrian thief, using stolen credit card numbers to pay for the books that he orders over pay phones and then send his father to pick up. Sanders is a bookstore owner who, through his work with the ABAA, begins tracking Gilkey.

The most interesting part of the book for me was the author herself although. Another reviewer suggested that she is really the detective. She lets him ramble and rarely questions his ridiculous claims: after all she is a reporter. But, Bartlett admits that she moved from researcher to participant as she met with Gilkey more and more often and he began to see himself as the star of her book.

And, in the quest for the story, she overstepped her bounds more than once, hurting his victims and becoming his confessor to thefts from a library. She wondered what she should do with the latter information and chose to keep it to herself over concerns that she would lose Gilkey and her book. ( )
  witchyrichy | Jan 22, 2020 |
The subtitle of this book is a little misleading. The "Detective" ostensibly refers to an actual Police Detective involved in only a very small portion of the book and/or a zealous book seller who mainly just publicized the thief of the title. The true detective of the piece is the author who puzzles together a nice character study of THE MAN WHO LOVED BOOKS TOO MUCH. The book thief runs the gamut from mysterious man of intrigue to pitiable fool then back somewhere in the middle where his is really just a self deluded jerk. How and why he so easily runs-amuck in the tender world of book collectors and book sellers unfolds gradually revealing as much about the victims as it does the thief. Before reading, I was expecting more of a cat and mouse game across international borders. It is instead a very domestic affair with Book Sellers members of an insular family embarrassed about any wrongdoing among their brethren. They suffer from an old school honor system--seemingly drawn from the antique books they handle--that makes it difficult for them to see the world in terms of strict capitalism. The author touches on a rich history of people loving books too much but show how only recently the sky-rocketing values and slick modern fraud/purchasing possibilites are dragging this world into a new glaring light. Very interesting stuff and worth the journey. ( )
  KurtWombat | Sep 15, 2019 |
Maybe Allison Hoover Bartlett would be tired of hearing that her book is like The Orchid Thief, or maybe she'd be totally flattered by the comparison to Susan Orlean's book. (I hope it's the latter.) Much like Orlean, Bartlett follows a man known for his obsession, gets sucked into the world of that obsession, and questions her role in the story. Except the obsession is not over precious orchids but rare books, a topic can I can get a whole lot more excited about. It's a fascinating read that I will recommend to all my book-nerd friends. ( )
  alyssajp | Jul 29, 2019 |
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much is an introduction into the world of Book Collectors and Bibliophiles. Allison Hoover Bartlett is our guide on this tour. In the midst of all of this is a case of intrigue and mystery. Although I love to read and collect books, I don’t have any rare books in my personal library.

Maybe I just have too many books to read at the moment, but it is difficult to get into the groove with this book. It is about a man who loved books so much that he committed fraud to get his hands on them. I guess it wasn’t exactly what I expected, but I did get it from the Library, so that is fine. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
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For him that stealeth, or borroweth and returneth not, this book from its owner ... let him be struck with palsy, & all his members blasted ... Let bookworms gnaw his entrails in token of the Worm that dieth not, & when at last he goeth to his final punishment, let the flames of Hell consume him forever.
—Anathama in a medieval manuscripts from the Monastery of San Pedro in Barcelona
I have known men to hazard their fortunes, go long journeys half-way around the world, forget friendships, even lie, cheat, and steal, all for the gain of a book.
—A. S. W. Rosenbach, twentieth century book dealer
For John, Julian, and Sonja
First words
At one end of my desk sits a nearly four-hundred-year-old book cloaked in a tan linen sack and a good deal of mystery.
Chapter 1
April 28, 2005, was bright and mild, the kind of spring day in New York City that seems full of promise, and on the corner of Park Avenue and East Sixty-sixth Street a queue of optimistic people was growing.
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Book description
Unrepentant book thief Gilkey has stolen a fortune in rare books from around the country. Yet unlike most thieves, who steal for profit, Gilkey steals for love--the love of books. Perhaps equally obsessive, though, is Ken Sanders, the self-appointed "bibliodick" driven to catch him. Sanders, a lifelong rare book collector and dealer turned amateur detective, will stop at nothing to catch the thief plaguing his trade.

In following both of these eccentric characters, journalist Allison Hoover Barlett plnged deep into a world of fanatical book lust, and ultimately found herself caught between the many people interested in finding Gilkey's stolen treasure, and the man who wanted to keep it hidden: the thief himself.

With a mixture of suspense, insight, and humor, Bartlett has woven this cat-and-mouse chase into a narrative that not only reveals exactly how Gilkey pulled off his crimes and how Sanders eventually caught him, but also explores the romance of books, the lure to collect them, and the temptation to steal them. All collectors have stories of what first made them fall in love, and Gilkey and Sanders are no different. Bartlett puts their stories into the larger context of book passion, collection, and theft through the ages. [from book jacket]
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Allison Hoover Bartlett chatted with LibraryThing members from Oct 22, 2009 to Oct 30, 2009. Read the chat.

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Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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