The Man Who Loved Books Too Much – Allison Hoover Bartlett

Title: The Man Who Loved Books Too Much
Author: Allison Hoover Bartlett
ISBN: 9781594488917
Pages: 288
Release Date: September 17, 2009
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
Genre: Non-Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

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.

Review:

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!

Comments

  1. I’ve heard about this book from a few people, and it sounds fascinating. I always wonder what makes people collect rare books, and whether it’s ever something I would want to do (if I had the money). I can’t wait to read this!

  2. I’ve heard about this book from a few people, and it sounds fascinating. I always wonder what makes people collect rare books, and whether it’s ever something I would want to do (if I had the money). I can’t wait to read this!

  3. I really think I will enjoy this book as well. GREAT review!

  4. I really think I will enjoy this book as well. GREAT review!

  5. The ethical issues you raise make the book more attractive to me. I like exploring the lines, both in fiction and in nonfiction.

  6. The ethical issues you raise make the book more attractive to me. I like exploring the lines, both in fiction and in nonfiction.

  7. This sounds like one that I’d love. Must add it to my huge wishlist!

  8. This sounds like one that I’d love. Must add it to my huge wishlist!

  9. I feel the same way you do about collecting rare books. This book sounds like a good one, and I do so love reading about books themselves. Thanks for the review.

    –Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

  10. I feel the same way you do about collecting rare books. This book sounds like a good one, and I do so love reading about books themselves. Thanks for the review.

    –Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

  11. This definitely sounds like one for my wishlist – a book that’s both an interesting true story and about books!

  12. This definitely sounds like one for my wishlist – a book that’s both an interesting true story and about books!

  13. This was a great book to read, and it’s great to see that others enjoyed it too.

    Great review.

  14. This was a great book to read, and it’s great to see that others enjoyed it too.

    Great review.

  15. I feel so bad the idea of not reading rare books is so prevalent. Who came up with that? Granted a rare book on the edge of falling apart is a different matter, but a well cared for rare book begs to be held and offers a different relationship between book and reader than that with an inexpensive mass market paperback. The physical act of taking care of a rare book while reading it affords a special bond that transcends the effects of simply reading and connecting with the words.

  16. I feel so bad the idea of not reading rare books is so prevalent. Who came up with that? Granted a rare book on the edge of falling apart is a different matter, but a well cared for rare book begs to be held and offers a different relationship between book and reader than that with an inexpensive mass market paperback. The physical act of taking care of a rare book while reading it affords a special bond that transcends the effects of simply reading and connecting with the words.

  17. I’ve been looking forward to reading a review of this, and, well, what a great review! I feel exactly the same way about rare books.

  18. I’ve been looking forward to reading a review of this, and, well, what a great review! I feel exactly the same way about rare books.

  19. I’m really looking forward to reading this!

  20. I’m really looking forward to reading this!

  21. Sounds great! I hope my library has this one.

  22. Sounds great! I hope my library has this one.

  23. I love reading books about books!

    If I had enough money to collect I would have to buy a copy for me to read as well.

  24. I love reading books about books!

    If I had enough money to collect I would have to buy a copy for me to read as well.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I am a collector of signed, first edition books and finely bound, leather books.

    When I first started collecting I felt as though I should not read the books in my collection. I looked at them as an investment and did not want to chance anything that could lower their value. As I became more comfortable, I realized that I am able to read a book without damaging it. I have always loved books and treat them with care and respect. I love having these special books in my home. I have signed Tennessee Williams. Truman Capote, Stephen King, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, Arther C. Clark, Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison and many others. It is wonderful to have the work of great authors signed by their own hand in my home library.

    Careful booksearching can result in acquiring books at surprisingly good prices. A good collection can be achieved over time without breaking the bank.

    If you have the urge to collect – go for it!

  26. Anonymous says:

    I am a collector of signed, first edition books and finely bound, leather books.

    When I first started collecting I felt as though I should not read the books in my collection. I looked at them as an investment and did not want to chance anything that could lower their value. As I became more comfortable, I realized that I am able to read a book without damaging it. I have always loved books and treat them with care and respect. I love having these special books in my home. I have signed Tennessee Williams. Truman Capote, Stephen King, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, Arther C. Clark, Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison and many others. It is wonderful to have the work of great authors signed by their own hand in my home library.

    Careful booksearching can result in acquiring books at surprisingly good prices. A good collection can be achieved over time without breaking the bank.

    If you have the urge to collect – go for it!

  27. I’m glad you liked this, I thought the blurriness was interesting too.

  28. I’m glad you liked this, I thought the blurriness was interesting too.

  29. I liked this book a lot, especially the ethics discussion about what responsibility does a journalist have in the course of researching and writing a story. I thought that was fascinating.

  30. I liked this book a lot, especially the ethics discussion about what responsibility does a journalist have in the course of researching and writing a story. I thought that was fascinating.

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