Book Reviews: The Man Who Loved Books Too Much
Thursday, October 7, 2010Posted by Melissa (Avid Reader)
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much
by Allison Hoover Bartlett
This book is subtitled "The true story of a thief, a detective, and a world of literary obsession," and that about sums it up. The author researched a well-known rare book thief named John Gilkey. He has been stealing rare books for years and despite numerous stints in jail because of his actions, he's completely oblivious to the crimes he's committed. He sees himself as entitled to the books and is pathological in his desire for them. He is constantly trying to attain a level of power and respectability that he believes only money and possessions can help him obtain.
One of the most interesting elements of the book is Bartlett's surprise at becoming part of the story. She tries to maintain an objectiveness, but the more research she does, the harder it is to separate herself from the situation. When she's around Gilkey she gets sucked in by his charismatic behavior.
The book also introduces us to Ken Sanders, a book seller who has worked to catch Gilkey and put him behind bars. He becomes just as obsessed as Gilkey in his quest. There's a bit of madness on both sides of the issue.
The descriptions of the books and the individuals love of them is contagious. I found myself wishing I could wander through a rare bookstore as I was reading. It is shocking how much some of the books cost and how silly some of the semantics of collecting are.
In the end I think I love books too much to ever collect first editions and rare books. The collectors said over and over again how you should never read those books because they're too valuable to touch and read, which seems so sad to me. Books are meant to be read and thumbed through. Some of my favorites have coffee stains and dog-eared corners. It would be torture to own a book by a brilliant author and never crack it's pages to delve into the story.
All-in-all a wonderful read about obsession and its dangerous effects. It's made even sweeter because it deals exclusively with the world of books.