Book Review: The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

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

Riverhead Books was kind enough to send me an ARC of this non-fiction work...and I knew I would enjoy it just from the title. ;-)

Bartlett decides to go into the world of rare book dealers, and the people who steal from them. At the heart of her investigation is John Gilkey, a completely unrepentant book thief who has stolen thousands of dollars worth of books (usually through credit card fraud) just because he *has* to own them. Feeling that having a library of rare books would make him important, respected and elated, he continues to steal and steal, despite landing in jail many times over...and then the cycle starts again...

On the other end of the spectrum is Ken Sanders, a rare bookstore owner and "bibliodick" who makes it his job to hunt down and catch thieves who steal from fellow booksellers.

This is a fascinating look into a different branch of the "book world" than my own, and you can easily see through Bartlett's writing why people do what they do - on both ends of the spectrum. Interestingly, Bartlett finds herself thrust right in between the motivations of Gilkey and Sanders...but how is she to maintain integrity and objectivity while hearing of Gilkey's exploits and thefts?

As a librarian and "book addict" I really enjoyed this non-fiction work, but I think it would appeal to anyone who loves the heft and weight of a book, the smell of the spine, and the sound of rasping pages being turned. A quick read, with a good mix of history, intrigue and drama. Very interesting indeed!

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