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THE MAN WHO LOVED BOOKS TOO MUCH

 

ALLISON HOOVER BARTLETT

Contemporary Nonfiction
September 2009

Penguin Group (USA)
 
ISBN: 9781594488917

 

We all know people who are avid book readers, even booklovers or "bookaholics" as they are humorously called. But what about those individuals who start off as book collectors, especially of those first edition or autographed books, who wind up being so enamored and obsessed with collecting that they turn into common thieves? Is it worth it to steal a first edition book and wind up incarcerated?

Allison Bartlett tells the story of John Charles Gilkey, an inveterate book thief, and Ken Sanders, a "bibliodick" or book thief sleuth, whose lives unfortunately weave together. It's the story of pure detective work from a true lover of books and the attempt to steal and escape without being caught. But Bartlett's unique emphasis in this book is to describe the evolution of how one becomes obsessed with being a collector of antiquarian books, old books in their first printing or autographed by the writer. It's about so much more than just loving a good read.

As the author describes it, what starts out as love of good writing becomes an obsession about the texture of a book's binding and pages, a status symbol for those who perceive ownership of something expensive as an indication of obvious wealth, as a war against those who think they can deny something precious to someone with delusions of grandeur or someone with an axe to grind against another bookseller or the police, and so much more described so carefully and methodically herein.

Other tidbits include some other just as fascinating book theft tales and some amazing facts as well, such as the fact that some collectors who will spend thousands of dollars for a book never read their acquisitions..

For those who are avid book buyers, this is a must read! For those who love to read but have never thought of collecting valuable books, this is a fresh and magnetic account that just might open up a whole new aspect of the book world. And for those who love books too much, this is both a temptation and warning that might result in a fascinating obsession!

Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on September 6, 2009

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