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The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective,… (2009)
by Allison Hoover Bartlett
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Interesting peek inside the minds of several bibliophiles, and the world of rare books. I am a lover of reading, not collecting, but I do have a sense of what drives the collector. Is it a gentle madness? ( )
I'm not a fan of true crime books; I find any public attempt to 'get into the mind' of a criminal a distasteful glorification of abhorrent behaviour and I think criminals should rot in obscurity.
All of which makes my enjoyment of this book just prove what a hypocrite I am, although in my defence I didn't realise when I bought it that it would be delving into the sociopath's head - I thought it was more a documentation of the chase itself; how a 'bibliodick' investigated the stolen books and how the thief was apprehended. You know, like a mystery!
It was very little of any of those things, since the thief in question was apprehended before Hoover Bartlett started researching the book and agreed to participate (the book started as an article for a San Francisco magazine).
The first half of the book was everything I hoped it would be, as Hoover Bartlett met with rare book dealers, went to book fairs, talked about book collecting and some of the lottery-like finds that have happened over the years. She talked with the 'bibliodick', Ken Sanders, who talked about how he got sucked into chasing down the elusive man who'd stolen over 100k worth of books over three years and was getting away with it. The first half of this book was purely fascinating.
The second half of the book was fascinating too - in a train wreck sort of way. The second half of the book focuses on Hoover Bartlett's attempt to figure out why the thief does what he does, and continues to do even after he's been caught. I loathe using a serial killer as a comparison - for obvious reasons - but this guy was, in every way except the crimes he committed, Ted Bundy: clean cut, well spoken, charming, respectful, intelligent, with absolutely no conscience whatsoever. He knew what he was doing was illegal, but didn't think it was wrong - and he didn't care either way. His delusions were mind-boggling, and just when I thought he couldn't possibly go there in the land of rationalisations, he'd go there.
I originally bought this book years ago in some half-hearted cautionary tale sort of way, when I was battling the stacks of books threatening to take over my house. It wasn't that kind of book, but still, it was one I couldn't put down. It was well written, Hoover Bartlett seemed she was being pretty transparent with the reader, and I genuinely enjoyed the parts about what it means to be a book collector.
But I still don't like true crime books.
Interesting book for book lovers, but no suspense, as Gilkey is arrested early on. Peak into the rare book world and what makes collectors obsessive or just lovers of books. Gilkey believed that he was entitled to rare books even though he couldn't pay for them, and once people saw his collection, they would appreciate the gentleman who had built it.
I wasn't sure whether to give this 3 or 4 stars. It was an enjoyable book, but it didn't quite hold my attention as much as other books in the genre. The book thief is known from the beginning, so there is not as much suspense, as you find in, say, The Island of Lost Maps. As I read toward the conclusion, I was expecting some exciting last arrest, and the end entirely petered out.
Didn't finish. We love books differently. He loves the physical, first edition copies and I, well, admire them but, with maybe 3 exceptions, wouldn't want to own them. To much work and stress. Perhaps that will change at some point. In any case, I was not quite the target audience.
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Wikipedia in English (3)
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.
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LibraryThing Early Reviewers Alum
Allison Hoover Bartlett's book The Man Who Loved Books Too Much was available from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Allison Hoover Bartlett chatted with LibraryThing members from Oct 22, 2009 to Oct 30, 2009. Read the chat.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)002.075Information Computing and Information History of the book History of the book -- Subdivisions Bibliophilia bibliomania
An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.