The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession

by Allison Hoover Bartlett

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Overview

In the tradition of The Orchid Thief, a compelling narrative set within the strange and genteel world of rare-book collecting: the true story of an infamous book thief, his victims, and the man determined to catch him.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594484810
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/05/2010
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 431,543
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

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

Read an Excerpt

From Chapter 9, "Brick Row"

A couple of months after Gilkey's 2005 release from prison, I met him in front of 49 Geary Street, a building that houses several art galleries and rare book stores, in San Francisco. It was a September morning and he wore a bright white sweatshirt, pleated khakis, his beige leather sneakers, and the PGA baseball cap. He held a folder, on top of which lay a handwritten, numbered list, his to-do list for the day.

"So, how do you want to do this?" he asked.

The week before, he had agreed to let me tag along with him on one of his scouting trips, to learn how he selects books. I had suggested going to Goodwill, a frequent haunt of his now that he was persona non grata in most San Francisco rare book shops. Gilkey, though, wanted to take me to Brick Row, from which he stole The Mayor of Casterbridge. I tried to mask my disbelief and hoped he would think of another place.

"Are you sure?" I asked. "Wouldn't Goodwill work? Or, if not that, aren't there any other stores you can think of?"

Probably sensing my unease, he hesitated. "Maybe they'll recognize me," he said, but reconsidered. "On second thought, it won't be a problem."

At home, I e-mailed Sanders for his opinion: Would the owner, John Crichton, whom I had not yet met, be upset or angry that I'd knowingly accompanied a rare book thief into his store? I didn't relish dealing with the wrath of one of Gilkey's victims, however peripherally.

"Crichton's a good guy," Sanders assured me and gave me the impression that, as Gilkey had said, it wouldn't be a problem.

I was still wary, but too curious to walk away from an opportunity to see Gilkey in his element. What sort of person returns to the scene of his crime? So far, I had come to know Gilkey only through our private conversations. I still had no idea how he behaved out in the world, especially his idealized rare book world. He shared many characteristics of other collectors, but his thieving set him apart in ways that still confounded me—was he amoral or mentally ill? How are such lines drawn, anyway? Accompanying Gilkey to Brick Row was an irresistible chance to be an eyewitness. Also, I had heard that the shop was well regarded among rare book collectors, and I wanted to see it firsthand.

Standing on the sidewalk in front of Brick Row, Gilkey said he would show me what he typically looks for and how he goes about it.

He did not appear to be apprehensive. I, on the other hand, was all nerves. I had no idea what Crichton might do when we walked in. This, at the very least, was going to be awkward...

Inside Brick Row, natural light streamed through the windows, illuminating books sitting in cases along every wall and under windows, and on a graceful arc of shelves that ran through the middle of the shop. It was a quiet refuge from the city streets below, and if you ignored the computer and phone on Crichton's heavy, oak desk, it could be a nineteenth-century bookshop. Thousands of majestic leather-bound books, many with gold lettering, caught the light as I walked by. Given Gilkey's Victorian library fantasies, I could see why he favored this shop, why he chose to bring me there. Unlike Sanders's shop in Salt Lake City, Brick Row was tidy and appeared highly ordered. I got the sense that only serious collectors would venture inside, in contrast to Sanders's shop, where collectors mingled with people in search of a good used paperback (he offered a selection at the back of the store). The doors of the locked bookcases on the right-hand wall near the entrance had metal screens in a crosshatch pattern that made deciphering titles a challenge. These cases contained some of Crichton's more valuable books. A filmmaker would do well to use Brick Row as a set for a gentleman's fine library. "More classier feel than some of the other bookstores that just rack them up in average bookcases," is how Gilkey had described it.

Crichton spoke from behind his desk. "May I help you?"

His question seemed to ask much more. He was looking hard at Gilkey.

"I'm not here to buy anything," said Gilkey congenially, "just to look around, if that's okay. We're just here to look."

No answer.

Crichton stood facing us. He was in his fifties with white hair, a ruddy complexion, and clear blue eyes. He had an assured air and seemed to be the kind of person who rarely had the wool pulled over his eyes.

Gilkey referred to his list of the Modern Library's "100 Best Novels," and explained to me how he often looks for books on it. He pointed to the name Nathaniel Hawthorne.

"Do you have any Hawthorne?" Gilkey asked Crichton.

Crichton answered curtly, "No."

"I know he has one," Gilkey whispered to me.

His comment was a hint at his antagonism toward dealers, which he had made plain in our prior meetings. He'd argued that there was, in fact, widespread fraud among rare book sellers, fraud that made him not only blameless, but also a victim.

One example Gilkey had cited was rebinding. Dealers, he explained, would remove the cover and title page from a second or later edition of a book, and then rebind it with a title page from a first edition that was in poor condition.

"They make it look like a first edition, first printing," he said. "That's part of the fraud they do. That's actually legal."

Later, I learned that there was nothing legal about this practice, but that it was not uncommon. The more expensive the book, the more likely it is that someone may have tampered with the binding. Such fraud is hardly new. In the eighteenth century, for example, facsimiles of pages, or "leaves," of ancient texts were sometimes created by hand and to near perfect effect. Of course, these efforts did not always go undetected, particularly when the pages were printed on eighteenth-century paper with an identifiable watermark. Even now, dealers come across pages of books that have been washed to give them a uniform appearance. Reputable dealers judiciously examine books for telltale signs of rebinding, but there are less upstanding dealers who don't.

As we inched down Brick Row's bookshelves, Gilkey pointed to another book on his list, "Kurt Vonnegut," he said. "I'd like something from him, too. And D. H. Lawrence," he said. "He's also good."

Crichton looked stunned and turned his back to us, then turned around again to face Gilkey. A few seconds later, while Gilkey was explaining to me which books he might like to look for, Crichton asked, "What's your name?"

"John."

John—as though Crichton would be satisfied with a first name! I looked down at my notes while my heartbeat threatened to drown out everything around me.

"John what?"

"Gilkey."

Crichton waited a moment, glanced down at his desk, then looked up. He didn't take his eyes off us as Gilkey pointed to various books and whispered, as one does in a library or museum, informing me about additional authors he was interested in: Vladimir Nabokov, Willa Cather. He commented that he stays away from bibles.

"And who are you?" Crichton asked me.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "The Man Who Loved Books Too Much"
by .
Copyright © 2010 Allison Hoover Bartlett.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Erik Larson

"As a rule I approach unsolicited galleys with the same degree of delight that I reserve for root canals. This book surprised me. I read the first paragraph and was drawn in, not so much by the subject matter as by the author's cozy, quiet style, evocative of the work of Dava Sobel and Janet Malcolm. I found the narrative compelling, and I loved the inside stories about old books."--(Erik Larson, bestselling author of The Devil and the White City)

Lynn H. Nicholas

"In this great read about the collector's obsession gone wrong, Ms. Bartlett gives us fascinating glimpses of the rare book world, the criminal mind and the limits of journalistic involvement. Anyone who has trouble passing a used bookstore without going in will love this book."--(Lynn H. Nicholas, author of The Rape of Europa)

Michael Dirda

"John Gilkey wanted to own a rich-man's library in the worst way, and was soon acquiring expensive first editions in the very worst way of all: theft. Allison Hoover Bartlett's "The Man Who Loved Books Too Much" is the enthralling account of a gently mad con artist and his fraudulent credit-card scams, but it's also a meditation on the urge to collect and a terrific introduction to the close-knit, swashbuckling world of antiquarian book dealers."--(Michael Dirda, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and author of Classics for Pleasure and the memoir An Open Book)

Larry McMurtry

"Allison Hoover Bartlett has written a meticulous and fascinating book about a serial bookthief and the persistent sleuth who dogged him for years and finally caught him. It will be especially gripping for those of us who trade in antiquarian books, who owe much to Ken Sanders's persistence. A fine read."--(Larry McMurtry, bestselling author of Books: A Memoir and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove)

Nicholas A. Basbanes

"Hats off to Allison Bartlett for a splendid contribution to the literature of bibliophilia/bibliomania, the John Gilkey-Ken 'bibliodick' Sanders story is one that cried out to be told, and she has accomplished it with style and substance. Very nicely done."--(Nicholas A. Basbanes, author of A Gentle Madness)

From the Publisher

"[Brackley's] soft voice, often near a toned whisper, adds the right atmosphere to a biography of a creepy man and a reporter's long search for his motive." —-AudioFile

Simon Worrall

"A fascinating journey into a strange, obsessive world where a love for books can sometimes become a fatal attraction."--(Simon Worrall, author of The Poet and the Murderer)

Customer Reviews

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The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 141 reviews.
Sabin More than 1 year ago
The author does a wonderful job of combining the stories of the theif and the his victims. The story flows and I couldn't stop myself from reading another few pages, and then another few pages before bed to see what was happening next. Anyone who loves to read books,and enjoys seeing their shelves full of books, should buy this book and will enjoy it.
bridget3420 More than 1 year ago
Stealing books is more common than stealing art work. John is an obsessed reader who loves books so much that he steals them for his own personal pleasure. He does not sell the book to the highest bidder. Instead he adds them to his collection and files them away in his heart. Soon his obsession overcomes him in a possessive nature. He must have them all! Ken is book dealer who also has a talent for putting together clues. He sets his sights on John and his precious book collection. Who will come out on top? This is a must read for any book lover. It has a little bit of everything - mystery, suspense and it's wickedly funny. It almost makes me want to stop blogging and hunt down some rare books of my own. Luckily I have a wild imagination, so hunting down rare books actually means cracking this book open and reading it again.
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
You don't have to be a bibliophile to enjoy this book because it offers suspense, two of the most eccentric characters you're apt to find, humor, and an insider's look at a little known business. In all probability when we think of major crime, heists, robberies, we think of banks being held up, proceless art works stolen or rare jewel collections purloined. As author Bartlett discovered there quite an illegal traffic in rare books, very pricey ones, say the first trade edition of The Tales of Peter Rabbit valued at $15,000 or a first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone going for $30,000. As Bartlett began to look and learn about the world of books she became fascinated by two people. The first, John Charles Gilkey, is a very clever fellow who has stolen rare books across America. What is intriguing about Gilkey is not his wiliness as a thief but the fact that he stole not to make money but to have the books in his collection. One can easily say it was an obsession. The second interesting man in Bartlett's sights was rare book dealer Ken Sanders who worked as the volunteer security chair of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America. Before long he found himself concentrating less on his business and more on finding Gilkey and bringing him to justice. The story of their cat-and-mouse game rivals going on a fast track with James Bond. Evidently, we have little to fear from digital books as long as there are rabid collectors of what is in reality an ordinary object. It's been going on since Euripides (400 B.C.) who was an object of ridicule because of his desire for books. Some time later Cicero is quoted as saying he was "saving up all my little income" to be put toward his collection. Bartlett has crafted an absorbing true story that takes many of us into a world of we never knew existed. Enjoy! - Gail Cooke
Chaunticleer More than 1 year ago
This is a fascinating psychological exploration into the mind of a man who could not stop stealing rare books for his collection. It also explores the sometimes thin division between passion and obsession.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A rather well written book -- I found it quite enlightening and informative about rare books, their collectors and what drives them. It is hard to put the book down. However, my expectation from the book, from its title and brief description on its dust jacket, was that the main character of the book was an intellectual, an interesting personality who had a profound love for books even if he stole them. The main character is far from being an intellectual. His reasons for collecting (stealing) rare books are too shallow -- he was inspired by the wealthy and prestigious owning impressive libraries in the movies that he had watched in his childhood. I did not find him interesting at all. He is an ordinary criminal who happens to be stealing rare books. Overall, the book is an extended magazine article about a true story. It does not otherwise touch the reader in any way nor invoke any emotion because the main character is so uninteresting.
Momma_Hunt More than 1 year ago
This true story is a great read for anyone who loves books. This story follows our author through her introduction to the book collecting world and one of the world's largest bad guys-John Gilkey. The story follows Bartlett as she learns the ropes of the collecting world and her interactions with a very active book thief Gilkey. There is a great parallel between Bartlett's connection to some of the greatest collectors and sellers of fine books and to an amazing book thief. I really enjoyed this book because of the look it gave me into the world of book collecting. I never knew that book collecting was such serious business and that thieves like Gilkey were a part of this world. I also loved how Bartlett gave us an in depth look into the mind of this thief. This look allowed us to see what people think about when they are obsessed about something, book collecting in Gilkey's case. Although I really did enjoy this book it might not be for everything. I think someone who does not love books as much as I do might not enjoy the detailed looks into the collecting world that Bartlett gives. An "outsider" if you will, might find the book collecting details unnecessary or overdone. Again, personally I enjoyed this part of the book, but not everyone might. Overall I would suggest this book to my many book loving friends.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
THIS IS A TRUE STORY ABOUT JOHN CHARLES GILKEY A MAN WHO STOLE RARE BOOKS TO BUILD HIS OWN PERSONAL LIBRARY. HE FELT RARE BOOKS WERE OUT OF REACH FOR HIM BECAUSE THEY COST TOO MUCH. HE LOVED THESE BOOKS AND LUSTED AFTER THEM. AND EVEN WHEN HE GOT CAUGHT AND WENT TO JAIL AS SOON AS HE WAS OUT HIS SEARCH TO FIND THE PERFECT BOOKS WAS ON AGAIN. HE DID LOTS OF RESEARCH TO SEE WHICH BOOKS WERE WORTHY OF HIS LIBRARY. THE BOOK ALSO SHARES LOTS OF INFORMATION ABOUT SOME RARE BOOKS AND THE DEALERS WHO SELL THEM. A VERY INTERESTING READ.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really didn't like this book. I felt like it was a guide on how to committ this kind of crime and get away with it. The author attempted to walk the fine line between the dealers and this criminal and she failed. She in a way glorified the behavior. It was an easy read and I was excited when this was selected by the book club I belong to but was very disappointed.
Tunguz More than 1 year ago
Those of us whose lives revolve around the books that we read can be accused of suffering form bibliophilia. Taken to the extreme, the obsessive love of books and everything book-related can become a bibliomania. True bibliomaniacs appreciate books not only for their textual and intellectual content. For them, the physical embodiment of the book is of an equal, if not higher, importance. Most people can appreciate the high artisan value of a fine, hardbound, artfully printed and decorated book. But for bibliomaniacs the admiration for a book in its physical embodiment has an almost religious, sacramental, quality. This is especially the case for those who are involved in the high-art of rare book collecting. In “The Man Who Loved Books Too Much,” Allison Bartlett explores the life and book obsession, often with criminal consequences, of John Gilkey, a notorious rare-book thief. Bartlett is a skilled narrator with a keen journalistic eye for detail and an aptitude for getting the voice of many of her protagonists come clearly in her writing. This book has opened my eyes to the whole world of rare and antique book trading and collecting. It is full of valuable information that is not easy to find, especially not through public statements and advertising outlets. After reading it, I have a new appreciation for the whole art of book publishing and printing, and have gained insights into the criteria that are used for evaluating various editions of book. I may never come across a valuable find on a garage sale or in a Goodwill store, but if I ever do I’ll know what to look for. “The Man Who Loved Books Too Much” is also an interesting journey into the peculiarity of the rare books and artifacts crime scene. From the years of watching crime dramas and documentaries, I had thought that I have a decent grasp of the criminal justice system works, but after reading this book I realized that the real world is much more complicated and muddled than any TV show, no matter how “realistic”, will ever be able to elicit. My single biggest issue with this book concerns the portrayal of John Gilkey. I fear that Bartlett has seriously misread or misrepresented the nature of Gilkey’s flawed personality. Far from being a tragic bibliomaniacal hero with a major character defect, Gilkey comes across as someone who suffers from a very simply explainable psychological disorder. All the characteristics that Gilkey exhibits – narcissism, sense of grievance, chronic inability to distinguish the right from wrong, failure to form realistic long term goals – are very typical of someone with a psychopathic personality disorder. At no point did I get an impression that there is any serious intellectual depth to Gilkey’s pursuit of rare and masterful books. He seems to be able to drop all the big words and smooth-talk his interlocutors into believing that there is substance behind what he is saying, but when you read his words you can’t but feel that they are just a shell. This kind of charm and superficial confidence is another one of the psychopathic traits, and it seems that Bartlett has been taken by him. Gilkey is not obsessed with books as such, but rather with the intellectual and social prestige that possessing rare books bestows. Calling him “the man who loved books too much” is like calling Hannibal Lecter “the man who loved food too much.” Overall, this is a very interesting story, but not quite what I had expected. I would recommend it to all
MaineMason More than 1 year ago
This book is truly awesome. If your looking for a fast-paced mystery, this is not it. If you are a book lover this is the book for you. I simply loved reading about all the different types of books and how you determine the value. I then went through my own library and discovered I had a first edition of my own. I won't be selling it because it has a lot of sentimental value. Overall - very good book.
whitreidtan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Any self-respecting book lover is going to take one look at this cover and pick the book up. I know when I opened my e-mail and saw what was being offered, I was immediately drawn to it. The good news is that the narrative non-fiction story between the pages was just as appealing as the cover.With an opening prologue where author Allison Hoover Bartlett is given a beautiful and clearly rare book whose origins she cannot trace despite being told that it was a never returned library book, the reader is immediately plunged into the murky waters of the old and rare book world. Highlighting both John Gilkey, the thief of the title, and Ken Sanders, the man who worked diligently to catch Gilkey and make him pay for the crimes that local police seemed so disinclined to take seriously, this is a fascinating and engrossing peek into what draws people to collect rare books and the lengths some people will go to in order to do so.Bartlett interviewed many people for this, gaining amazing access to the twisted, unrepentant Gilkey and the driven Sanders. The things that Gilkey admitted to her as far as how he pulled off his steals are boggling enough, but that he felt an entitlement to the books, despite the fact that they belonged to other people, and to this day shows no remorse for having stolen is completely astounding. Bartlett herself seems fascinated by this lack of a conscience in Gilkey but is afraid to push him too far by being judgmental and losing her subject. Sanders' singleminded motivation to catch Gilkey and to offer as much protection to the trade he loves as he can also captures her imagination. Her genuine interest in understanding these two men shines through the book as does her growing understanding of the love of these amazing books that drives people to extremes.The book is conversational and accessible, not overwhelmed with technical jargon about first editions and rare books that would preclude a general audience. I would have loved to see some photographs of some of the books or perhaps even books unrelated to Gilkey's scams but still beautiful and valuable to give a better idea of the physical appeal of the things, especially since some collectors have no interest in the content of the books but only in the physical copy. The juggling between Gilkey interviews and accounts of Sanders' attempts to make it more difficult for biblio-thieves to function was balanced and interesting. I'm not certain Bartlett ever answers the question of the ultimate appeal of these books but she certainly tries to examine the varied answers. I think most serious readers, whether collectors or not, will find this an appealing and captivating read. I know I certainly did.
robataone on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much is about a real-life thief, John Gilkey, and a book dealer, Ken Sanders, nicknamed "The Bibliodick" and his efforts to track him down and put him in jail. The begins by acquainting readers with the world of rare books: the book fairs, book dealers, collectors, and we hear about their valuable finds and precious treasures. And then we also hear about the thefts. Nearly $100,000 worth of stolen books from 1999-2003 and the primary suspect, John Gilkey. The unusual part of the thefts was that over the years none ever appeared for sale. So why did Gilkey steal the books? The book proceeds, chapter by chapter, examining the lives of both Gilkey and Sanders and examines what influenced their lives and their passion for collecting books. It explores the qualities that make someone who doesn't just enjoy books, but needs to collect them and put together a collection. For one of those obsessed book collectors like myself this was an entertaining read and recommended.
Ziaria on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't normally read Non-Fiction books mostly because the writing style is so much different than a fiction book and is often times a slower read. This one was no different for me. With that said however I actually really liked this book even if It took me longer to get through.I found all the rare book information fascinating and I'm not sure I'll ever look at a book the same again. I also learned a lot of interesting stuff, stuff I would have never given a second thought too before reading this book.I found Gilkey to be an interesting sort of fellow, even though he is the thief in question. I, like Allison, found myself wondering what made him tick. What compelled him to perform all these acts of thievery just to obtain this book or that book. In the end I don't think I can really understand why he does what he does because I'm not him. Part of me feels sad for the obsession that must drive him to do these thing but at the same time I also hate him for his selfishness in thinking he deserves to have these books at whatever cost.In the end I think Allison did a wonderful job on this book. I would recommend this to anyone who has a love for books, it really was an informative read.
joemmama on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Allison Hoover Bartlett has written a terrific book, part detective story, part delving into obsessive behavior, and all interesting!¿The Man Who Loved Books Too Much- The True Story of a Thief, a Detective and a World of Literary Obsession¿ is the true story of John Charles Gilkey, a book thief extraordinaire, who knew what books he wanted and did whatever it took to get them. Using stolen credit card numbers, placing telephone orders, and collecting his books, Gilkey hit many rare book stores, amassing an incredible array of books we would all kill for.Ken Sanders, a book dealer, and self appointed ¿biblio-dick¿ is the detective who hunted Gilkey and let booksellers know the danger he posed to their prizes.Gilkey stole rare maps from libraries, books from dealers, and conventions, collecting from a list, books he may never have read but wanted to own. Possession seemed the goal, just having them around him made him feel smarter than the normal guy on the street. Maybe he was smart.. He managed to fool so many people, and the police, seeing it as a minor crime, did not seem to take the thefts seriously, but Gilkey stole hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of books. As someone who never stole anything, I find it hard to understand the need to steal something that you don¿t use, need, but just want.Allison Hoover Bartlett¿s book is an amazing journey through the the mind of thief and into the world of rare books. It is painstakingly written, and wonderful to read.If you love books, as I do (no stealing allowed) get this book! It is a terrific look into obsession, books and booksellers.
cbl_tn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The title of this book aptly describes its focus. Journalist Allison Hoover Bartlett writes, first of all, about rare book thief John Gilkey -- his life's ambition to amass a collection of rare books, his illegal methods of acquiring the books he covets, and his self-justification for his crimes. Secondly, Bartlett writes of rare book dealer Ken Sanders, who, in his role as chair of security for the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America (ABAA), collected and disseminated information about Gilkey's thefts and his modus operandi. His diligent pursuit of Gilkey eventually led to Gilkey's arrest and the recovery of some, but by no means all, of the items Gilkey had stolen. Finally, Bartlett contextualizes her narrative with stories of other book collectors who turned to crime to satisfy their lust for books.Before I read this book, I would have described myself as a book lover. Now I realize that, although I like books, I love reading, not the books themselves. I prefer to own books that I can pack in a suitcase, carry in a tote bag, and stack on a nightstand. I don't have enough shelf space for all the books I want to read, and I don't want to give up any of my limited space for books that are meant only for looking at, not for reading. Thus, it's hard for me to imagine why Gilkey is willing to repeatedly risk incarceration by stealing books that he doesn't read. Gilkey makes more sense to me as a career criminal rather than as a collector. I have the impression that, even if he didn't have a passion for rare books, he would still be a habitual criminal. He seems, in my untrained opinion, to have a pathological personality.I learned several things from this book. Firstly, stolen books are difficult to identify, making it difficult to catch and prosecute book thieves. Secondly, the penalty for such crimes doesn't appear to be in any way rehabilitative. Thirdly, if I'm ever in the market for a rare book, I'll look for a seller who is an ABAA member. Fourthly, any business whose employees have access to customer credit cards would do well to run background checks on those employees. Finally, security procedures may discourage theft, but they will not prevent theft, so when I hear of such crimes, I should remind myself not to blame the victim for a lack of vigilance. I highly recommend the book to readers of true crime stories, detective novels, psychological suspense mysteries, and book lovers of all kinds.
tjblue on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found book this quite interesting.The idea that people steal books to sell them or to own them never crossed my mind. I enjoyed learning about some of the people out there in the book world and their stores. At times while reading the book I wanted to go looking through used bookstores, because I like shopping for books as much as I like reading. I would recommend this book.
bridget3420 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Stealing books is more common than stealing art work. John is an obsessed reader who loves books so much that he steals them for his own personal pleasure. He does not sell the book to the highest bidder. Instead he adds them to his collection and files them away in his heart. Soon his obsession overcomes him in a possessive nature. He must have them all!Ken is book dealer who also has a talent for putting together clues. He sets his sights on John and his precious book collection. Who will come out on top?This is a must read for any book lover. It has a little bit of everything - mystery, suspense and it's wickedly funny. It almost makes me want to stop blogging and hunt down some rare books of my own. Luckily I have a wild imagination, so hunting down rare books actually means cracking this book open and reading it again.
VirginiaGill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rare indeed is the book that can keep my attention for 6 straight hours while sitting in a hospital room. The Man Who loved Books Too Much captured me so fully that I didn't even notice the horribly uncomfortable chair I sit in every Saturday. There was much I could relate to in both Mr Gilkey and Mr Sanders. Having grown up in homes that had libraries becoming an adult moving into my own place hich obviously did not have one to begin with I can understand Gilkey's deep craving to acquire them, to begin to define himself. Having had more than a few of mine disappear over the years or simply never be returned I cheer for Mr Sanders' go get 'em attitude when it coes to catching theives. The questions raised by this book about the ethical, legal/illegal, or otherwise building of a library were fascinating.What I most enjoyed though was watching the author slowly grow to love books in a whole new way. Often those parts of the books left me breathless and happily remembering my own moments like that with particular books. All in all a very good read.
rrnicovich on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was an interesting book that kept my interest throughout. I was intrigued with the criminal aspect--this man truly thought he was entitled to these books and didn't seem to think he was doing anything wrong. I learned a lot about the rare book world that I didn't know before. It makes me wonder if any of the books on my shelves are worth anything, and when looking on the shelves of thrift stores and in the boxes of garage sales I will be looking with new eyes and hoping for a true find.
scunagorelik on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"The Man Who Loved Books Too Much" brought a sense of familiarity to my constant need to have my books physically around me. There is a stack of 8 books by my bed at this very moment. There always has been a stack of books by my bed. For that reason, I can't really be over-critical of a person who loved books. However, (and this is made very evident by the author) one can be over-critical regarding a repeat criminal who clearly flouts the law with contempt to amass a menagerie of rare books as a phoney show of richesse, based on a list of the 100 best books ever. He doesn't even read them! So, I think the author did a good job to foster a dislike of the person that is the focus of this novel. She makes it very clear, in a non-subtle way, that he is a terrible man who collects rare books for all the wrong reasons. I don't disagree with her, but I'm also not sure if that was her intended message to the readers of this book.I agree with other reviewers that it read like a fast-paced thriller. I was never bored and was curious to see how Gilkey's crime-spree would end.
MerryMary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fascinating and disturbing book. The author follows John Gilkey through the labyrinth of his twisted reasoning, listening while he justifies in his own mind his relentless thieving of rare and precious books. The author delves into what sparks a normal collector's passion, and the driving sense of entitlement that sparks Gilkey's thefts.She does acknowledge the difference between the dedicated, even obsessive love of most collectors and the warped logic of Gilkey's thought processes - but it seems sometimes that she blurs the line. So, too, she occasionally blurs the line between observing Gilkey and contributing to his ego trips. She even accompanied him as he strolls around a rare book store showing her how he cases the security, and how he identifies the prime book selections. It made me a bit uncomfortable.But the overall impression I take from this book concerns the widespread brotherhood/sisterhood of book lovers to which I belong. (English really needs more gender-neutral nouns) Bartlett writes movingly of the deep almost visceral anger of one of the store owners that Gilkey ripped off - and the deep hurt that the loss of a rare book causes another. A really good book for bibliophiles. Oh, and by the way, Gilkey is on the loose again.
tanya2009 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A book about a book thief and the inspector who caught him. Based on a true story of why Gilkey was obsessed with expensive books.
sarah-e on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was drawn into this story. Bartlett's struggle to maintain balance between the sympathetic thief and the man who fought to protect rare books reads like a novel. This 'World of Literary Obsession' has even led me to search for rare editions of my favorite books (but not to buy any!).
Sean191 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Allison Hoover Bartlett. My wife bought me this book for Christmas (I'm pretty sure it was a hint). I just got around to reading it. I found it well-written, fascinating and slightly annoying. The annoyance came from the author's attempt to justify her decision to "not get involved" with trying to help some of the victims of the thief of the title to get their possessions back. These people are often operating on a very slim margin, so the loss of some of these works is a major hit. In other cases, the loss of these works is a hit to the literary community as a whole and it also manages to trickle-down to anyone interested in collecting. Less copies means the price goes up (helpful for the people who didn't have their copies stolen I imagine). People can talk about journalistic integrity, but I feel like in this case, that's just a veil for the desire to not harm the story she was crafting.That being said and like I said previously, it was still very well-written and fascinating. I just feel that the motives of the thief and detective where more out in the open than those of the author and that did sour it slightly for me. Regardless, I would recommend this probably to most people on this site since they've already expressed a passion for books beyond the average person.
LamSon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting look at the world of bibliomania.