Monday, June 30, 2014

Review: The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

{on Goodreads}

John Gilkey is a criminal, but not the kind that you would normally find behind bars in the San Quentin prison. He's a rare book thief, one whose managed to steal a number of books, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, from dealers all over the country. Bartlett, a journalist, hears of his crimes and finds herself immersed in the world of rare book collections as she follows his story, in which priceless copies can be found in the most unexpected places and collectors will pay high dollar for the titles they covet most. While the rare books themselves are alluring, Bartlett discovers that the motivation behind collecting differs from person to person, and while some thiefs may steal to eventually profit, Gilkey steals for the love of books. As Bartlett follows Gilkey in and out of jail and accompanies him as he retraces his steps and relishes his past crimes, she finds that navigating between the rare book dealers themselves and their greatest enemy gives her an awkward, yet fascinating, perspective of the crimes.

While I expected to love reading about rare book theft (as I already love books about art theft), this was not the book I was hoping for, as Gilkey was not the type of thief that should be receiving literary attention (or any attention for that matter). It's clear from the interview excerpts included in the book that Gilkey needs some type of psychological evaluation, but in his many cycles of incarceration and parole, none have been conducted. I initially picked up this book because rare books are fascinating to me, though from the first chapter I read it more from the perspective of a psychology student than from the perspective of a bibliophile. Though I was more disturbed by Gilkey's behavior than interested in his story, I did enjoy the anecdotes about other examples of rare book discoveries or theft. I also learned a lot about the details of the rare book trade itself, which is what kept me reading until the end and will lead me to look for other books on this subject.

Bottom Line Rating: 2/5

Title: The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession
Author: Allison Hoover Bartlett
Publisher: Riverhead Books, 2009
Price: $12.38 (on Amazon, I paid around $8 on sale at a bookstore)
ISBN: 1594488916
Format: Paperback
Source: Local Bookstore
Book #22 of 2014

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