Sunday, April 18, 2010

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 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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is about John Gilkey, the man who loved (rare) books so much he would steal them, and the book seller & detective who tried to catch him. Gilkey is basically a con man, who is looking to establish a valuable book collection, because he believes it will give him the reputation he desires: as an intellectual, rich man of the world. The problem is, he can't afford the books he wants, but he feels it's his right to be able to own them, so he steals them. He has created a morality whereby it's not really stealing when he "gets" his books without paying for them. To finance his 'habit' he steals credit card numbers from Saks, where he works part time.

But Gilkey isn't the only person in this book who loves books perhaps a wee bit too much. We are also introduced to rare book dealers and historical figures, all of whom go to great length to collect books. (One of my favorites was a professor in Nebraska, who died in 1952 surrounded by 90 TONS of books! A man after my own heart...)

It's a tale well-told, with elements of suspense and daring-do. It's also a good introduction to the world of collectible books - what makes a book 'rare' and what makes its price go up.Being a book collector, myself, (albeit one whose collection probably doesn't have a single book worth over $250), I enjoyed mingling with others who also love books. I can so totally relate to the wonderful feeling of seeing shelf after shelf of books for sale in a shop or book fair! There really is nothing like an actual, physical BOOK to delight one's senses. The author sums it up nicely:
...a testament to the passion for books - their content an histories, their leathery, papery, smooth, musty warped, fixed, torn, engraved and inscribed bodies.

And I leave you with this inscription from a medieval scribe:
This book belongs to none but me
For there's my name inside to see.
To steal this book, if you should try,
It's by the throat that you'll hang high.
And ravens then will gather 'bout
To find your eyes and pull them out.
And when you're screaming "oh, oh, oh!"
Remember, you deserved this woe.

PS I borrowed this book from a fellow book club member, and I'll be returning it to her tomorrow!! ;-)

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