Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

One of my co-workers gave me a copy of this thinking I would like this and boy, was she on the money. I liked this book a good deal.

The book, non-fiction, is about a man, John Gilkey, with an addiction. The guy loves to steal books. For years, he would acquire rare and expensive books illegally, usually by using stolen credit card numbers. He was usually aided by the police who, by and large, usually couldn't care less about the theft of a book.

Someone who did, though, was Ken Sanders, the security chair of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association and a bookseller himself. Sanders took his role as security chair seriously and managed to link several book thefts of Gilkey's together. By communicating with other dealers, he managed to catch Gilkey in a sting operation which sent Gilkey to jail.

Gilkey eventually got out (even though he had been jailed many time before) and went right back to stealing or planning to steal books. Gilkey was obviously a sick individual. He had no interest in reading any of the books, choosing to acquire them because he viewed them as symbolic of something more - wealth, power, intellect. He often talked with his father of leading a better life and creating an empire of sorts for them.

Sanders, however, was a much more interesting fellow. The more I read, the more I wanted to know about him and the less I cared about Gilkey.

In the end, it didn't matter because the book turned out to be more and more about the author, Bartlett. I'm not sure why this was. She spends time trying to get herself interested in collecting books so that she might have a better appreciation of why people collect and what lead Gilkey to steal. Gilkey reveals a lot of things about his thefts to her which create some moral dilemmas for her.

I liked the book even though I didn't care for Gilkey or Bartlett. If not for Sanders, though, I probably wouldn't. It's a nice light true crime book that I think would be a pleasant change of pace for most readers.

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