The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, penned by Allison Hoover Bartlett, paints the portrait of an underground thief known as John Gilkey. Gilkey, raised by a lenient family, does not believe in right or wrong. He believes in winning and losing.
Ms. Bartlett does a fantastic job researching her subject, both man and mystery. It's hard to believe, when I picked this book up at a closing Borders, that I'd be so protective of it. I never want to let it go. The story was so compelling I actually, PURPOSELY, read slowly. Having only 14 chapters, it is a light read.
Gilkey never fails to fascinate. He started stealing rare books in 1999, believing that a man was only as good and as noteworthy if he had a private collection of handsomely rare books. He printed out a list of 100 classic books. He wanted to collect them all. So, on his journey to aquire more books, without paying for them, he concocts schemes and excuses to get his way. First he starts with credit card number receipts, using the number over the phone to a bookdealer and walking in to collect the book later. But from there, his schemes become more elaborate and creative. It just goes to show what man will do, what lengths he will endure, for a good book.
Not only do with get to know the lowly thief, jumping from bookshop to bookshop across america, but we also learn of the man who tracks him down: Ken Sanders. He's a gruff, tough, no room for enough businessman who believes that John Gilkey made off with thousands of dollars, hurting the booksellers. Though we know that he is correct, there is something seductive in turning these pages. I guess we're all trying to find the method in the madness.
Bartlett even outlines book thieves in history, who have actually maimed and killed people, even burning down their houses, to aquire one rare book. Now that's what I call a Bibliomaniac.
Gilkey, never wanting a downside to his life, offers many different ways that the book could end. Like the diligient listener that she is, Bartlett hears him out. All of the concepts sound interesting. He offers to open his own bookshop, write detective novels starring a character similiar to himself, perhaps produce author Bobble heads to give to people who send him books. A man as obsssesd as Gilkey had me hooked from page one.
I give this five out of five stars. Do yourself a favor and read this one slowly. Savor it, becuase it's just that good.