Title: The Man Who Loved Books Too Much
Author: Allison Hoover Bartlett
Release Date: September 17, 2009
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
In The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession, Bartlett delves into the world of rare book collecting, and specifically, into stealing rare books. She follows both sides of the story – a notorious book thief, John Gilkey, and someone that becomes obsessed with catching this criminal – and finds herself intertwined in what is a story of passion and intrigue, and above all, a love of books.
I’m not much of a rare book collector, for obvious reasons – I lack the large amounts of money necessary to participate in such a hobby! However, I also don’t have a lot of interest in collecting rare books because I like to be able to read the books I own. While owning first editions would be thrilling, I wouldn’t feel like I could actually read the books. That would make it pointless. Still, the idea of collecting rare books intrigues me, and so I jumped at the chance to review Allison Hoover Bartlett’s The Man Who Loved Books Too Much.
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much was the most enjoyable non-fiction book I’ve read in recent memory. First, there is the subject matter: books. What book lover doesn’t love reading about those things which they adore so much? Second, the pace of the story is fast, plus the book is relatively short. Therefore, the narrative never actually has the chance to drag. Additionally, the way Bartlett chose to frame her novel is thoroughly interesting: I found Gilkey’s methods of stealing books as intriguing as the discussion of rare books.
The question of ethics was one that permeated The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, and it was very interesting each time it came up. Bartlett’s analysis of Gilkey’s sense of morality is startling and leaves the reader wondering even after the book is over. Additionally, I found it fascinating how Bartlett’s ethics became blurred as she became more and more involved in the story she was writing. She wasn’t sure where to draw the lines. Even now, I’m not certain whether she actually compromised herself or not during the course of her investigation. It makes the book that much more interesting to read – the fact that the narrator is a fallible human being who isn’t entirely sure what is going on around her.
I really enjoyed The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, but only partly because it is about books. Bartlett is a gifted writer and she tells the story of her investigation in an incredibly compelling way. I am really looking forward to seeing what she does next!