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

Downloadable Audiobook - 2009
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John Charles 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. Journalist Allison Hoover Bartlett befriended both eccentric characters and found herself caught in the middle of efforts to recover hidden treasure. With a mixture of suspense, insight, and humor, she not only reveals exactly how Gilkey pulled off his dirtiest crimes 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 listener 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.
Publisher: [Old Saybrook] : Tantor Media, 2009
ISBN: 9781400193431
Branch Call Number: EAUDIO OVERDRIVE
Characteristics: 1 audio file (6 hr., 4 min., 8 sec.) : digital
Additional Contributors: Brackley, Judith

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Cdnbookworm Feb 20, 2014

This book I picked to fulfill one of my reading challenges for the year, a book on True Crime. Of course, I had to pick one with a literary slant!
Bartlett is a freelance journalist who grew interested in the world of book theft when a friend was left a book as part of an estate that came with an instruction to return it to its rightful owner. The task wasn't as easy as she might have thought, and it led her to wonder who stole books and why. This led her to the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America (the ABAA) and bookseller Ken Sanders, who took his job as security officer for the organization seriously, setting up online alerting processes and other tools to help quickly disseminate information about stolen books and people suspected of such crimes. Sanders told her about the different types of thieves: those who steal for profit, those who steal for a specific purpose, and those who steal for love.
This led her to John Charles Gilkey, a man who has stolen hundreds of rare books from book sellers across the United States, seemingly for love. Gilkey rarely resells his books, although he doesn't necessarily steal them to read either. He steals them for the image of himself owning rare books of literary merit portrays to him, that of an esteemed gentleman. He is a charming, polite conman and came up with innovative ways to steal the books that he thought "it wasn't fair" that he couldn't afford. His methods and the fact he didn't resell them often are what made him harder to catch.
But Sanders was instrumental in catching him, and when Bartlett approached him in jail, he was willing to talk. However after a while, she began to realize that instead of merely telling the story, she was becoming part of it, and had to consciously take a step back and remove herself from it to complete this book.
Her book explores the reasons people steal, the world of rare books and book collectors, and the temptations within that world.
A very interesting book.

Feb 05, 2011

Author Allison Hoover Bartlett stumbled across the story of John Charles Gilkey, a rare book thief who spent years steeling books from dealers across North America. Gilkey is not a sympathetic figure. A career criminal from a dishonest family who routinely steal from each other, he seems to think that he is owed a good life. A collection of rare books is a symbol of that good life. It does not matter that the collection is funded by stolen credit cards and bad cheques. In fact, Gilkey even views some of his thefts as revenge for slights the various bookstores have given him. Slights such as keeping him on hold too long.

Through looking at Gilkey's past, crimes and escapades, Bartlett also gives us a look at the rare book business, what makes a book rare, what makes it collectible. She also introduces us to the people who collect books and who sell them. We meet people with obsessions just as strong as Gilkey's, but who stay on the right of the law. Most interesting among them is Ken Sanders, the rare book dealer who has made it his life's mission to hunt down people like Gilkey and get them behind bars. She also gives a brief history of rare books and rare book thieves.

Bartlett also finds herself pulled into her story as Gilkey begins to look upon her as his confessor, if not biographer. He seems to crave the attention she gives him and at the same time desires her to chronicle his "accomplishments".

A good book that was enjoyable to listen to as an audio book.


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