Wow! What a fascinating book about a fascinating man: John Gilkey, professional book thief. Hoover Bartlett seems to have a hard time untangling herself from her story, which gives the book an interesting discordant feel. It is practically impossible to look away from this man's train wreck of a career, while your loyalties unwillingly waver from book dealers, to Gilkey, to the FBI, and back again. Bibliophiles will alternately salivate and shudder at every detail of every book heist. Delicious! Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
In the tradition of The Orchid Thief
, a compelling narrative set within the strange and genteel world of rare-book collecting: the true story of an infamous book thief, his victims, and the man determined to catch him.
Rare-book theft is even more widespread than fine-art theft. Most thieves, of course, steal for profit. John Charles Gilkey steals purely for the love of books. In an attempt to understand him better, journalist Allison Hoover Bartlett plunged herself into the world of book lust and discovered just how dangerous it can be.
Gilkey is an obsessed, unrepentant book thief who has stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of rare books from book fairs, stores, and libraries around the country. Ken Sanders is the self-appointed bibliodick (book dealer with a penchant for detective work) driven to catch him. Bartlett befriended both outlandish characters and found herself caught in the middle of efforts to recover hidden treasure. With a mixture of suspense, insight, and humor, she has woven this entertaining cat-and-mouse chase into a narrative that not only reveals exactly how Gilkey pulled off his dirtiest crimes, where he stashed the loot, and how Sanders ultimately caught him but also explores the romance of books, the lure to collect them, and the temptation to steal them. Immersing the reader in a rich, wide world of literary obsession, Bartlett looks at the history of book passion, collection, and theft through the ages, to examine the craving that makes some people willing to stop at nothing to possess the books they love.
"Bartlett delves into the world of rare books and those who collect and steal them with mixed results. On one end of the spectrum is Salt Lake City book dealer Ken Sanders, whose friends refer to him as a book detective, or 'Bibliodick.' On the other end is John Gilkey, who has stolen over $100,000 worth of rare volumes, mostly in California. A lifelong book lover, Gilkey's passion for rare texts always exceeded his income, and he began using stolen credit card numbers to purchase, among others, first editions of Beatrix Potter and Mark Twain from reputable dealers. Sanders, the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association's security chair, began compiling complaints from ripped-off dealers and became obsessed with bringing Gilkey to justice. Bartlett's journalistic position is enviable: both men provided her almost unfettered access to their respective worlds. Gilkey recounted his past triumphs in great detail, while Bartlett's interactions with the unrepentant, selfish but oddly charming Gilkey are revealing (her original article about himself appeared in The Best Crime Reporting 2007). Here, however, she struggles to weave it all into a cohesive narrative. (Sept. 17)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
In this great read about the collectors obsession gone wrong, Ms. Bartlett gives us fascinating glimpses of the rare book world, the criminal mind and the limits of journalistic involvement. Anyone who has trouble passing a used bookstore without going in will love this book.
Lynn H. Nicholas, author of The Rape of Europa
Hats off to Allison Bartlett for a splendid contribution to the literature of bibliophilia/bibliomania, the John GilkeyKen bibliodick Sanders story is one that cried out to be told, and she has accomplished it with style and substance. Very nicely done.
Nicholas A. Basbanes, author of A Gentle Madness
A fascinating journey into a strange, obsessive world where a love for books can sometimes become a fatal attraction.
Simon Worrall, author of The Poet and the Murderer
John Gilkey wanted to own a rich-mans library in the worst way, and was soon acquiring expensive first editions in the very worst way of all: theft. Allison Hoover Bartletts The Man Who Loved Books Too Much is the enthralling account of a gently mad con artist and his fraudulent credit-card scams, but its also a meditation on the urge to collect and a terrific introduction to the close-knit, swashbuckling world of antiquarian book dealers.
Michael Dirda, Pulitzer Prizewinning critic and author of Classics for Pleasure and the memoir An Open Book
Allison Hoover Bartlett has written a meticulous and fascinating book about a serial bookthief and the persistent sleuth who dogged him for years and finally caught him. It will be especially gripping for those of us who trade in antiquarian books, who owe much to Ken Sanderss persistence. A fine read.
Larry McMurtry, bestselling author of Books: A Memoir and the Pulitzer Prizewinning Lonesome Dove
With its brilliantly observed details, wry humor, and thrilling plot twists, Bartletts narrative drew me deep into the obsessive world of a book thief and the dealer determined to stop him. Its a captivating cat-and-mouse game and a fascinating exploration of why people are so passionate about books. If you liked The Orchid Thief, youre going to love The Man Who Loved Books Too Much.
Julia Flynn Siler, author of The House of Mondavi
Bartletts tale of literary intrigue makes you fall in love with books all over again. From her fascinating descriptions of prized manuscripts to her profile of a man who took an obsession too far, her story will leave you hankering to read more.
Julia Scheeres, author of Jesus Land
As a rule I approach unsolicited galleys with the same degree of delight that I reserve for root canals. This book surprised me. I read the first paragraph and was drawn in, not so much by the subject matter as by the author's cozy, quiet style, evocative of the work of Dava Sobel and Janet Malcolm. I found the narrative compelling, and I loved the inside stories about old books.
Erik Larson, bestselling author of The Devil and the White City
While most thieves steal for profit, rare-book thief John Charles Gilkey steals purely for the love of books. With a mixture of suspense, insight, and humor, The Man Who Loved Books Too Much immerses the reader in the world of literary obsession and reveals how dangerous it can be.
About the Author
Allison Hoover Bartlett's writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, and other publications. Her original article on John Gilkey was included in The Best American Crime Reporting 2007.