Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

Bartlett, Allison Hoover.  The Man Who Loved Books Too Much:  The True Story of a Thief, a Dectective, and a World of Literay Obsession. New York:  Riverhead Books, 2009.  $24.95. ISBN:  9781594488917.

For the first time in quite a while I am not reviewing an audiobook, since this particular title is not available in a listening format.  Instead, I have decided to relay one my recent reads.  I found it intriguing and thoughtful, especially in the way the author portrays the thief, John Gilkey.  Allison Hoover Bartlett sets out to uncover the workings of a book thief, John Gilkey, who in his short career has managed to acquire over $100,000 worth of stolen rare books.  In addition to Gilkey, she depicts the perspective of Ken Sanders and his colleagues, the owners of rare book stores.  They are also many of Gilkey's victims.

By exploring the world of book thievery and the obsession those have with old books, Bartlett is able to describe the mania and fixation of those who must own important literary works.  She illustrates how this is a realm filled with a plethora of  problems that surround capturing book thieves, since many in law enforcement do not see stolen books as a true investment of their crime-fighting time.  Gilkey is able to evade law enforcement for quite some time.  It is not until Ken Sanders decides to take the initiative and begin to connect the crimes together, bringing book dealers and collectors into a collective awareness of this thief's particular habits.

Barlett also tries to delve into the mind of Gilkey and into understanding his lack of conscious.  He is strictly driven by his bibliomania.  He is only governed by the need to acquire books, in order to declare and establish himself as a cultured gentleman.  A man worthy of prestige and respect.  He never admits that what he does, "stealing.,"  is wrong.  He merely sees himself as a man getting even with book collectors, who  deprive the public the means to acquire important books through their price gouging.

There is no ultimate ending to this book.  Barteltt follows Gilkey around for years, accruing information  and personal accounts of his crimes.  The book peters out at the end, with Gilkey released from jail and scouring libraries for literary gems.  He never seems to want to give up his obsession.  Instead, he continues to try and find ways to steal books in his personal mission to become what he feels is a cultured, worldly, and literary gentleman.