the man who loved books too much

I received an offer of a review copy of Allison Hoover Bartlett’s The Man Who Loved Books Too Much via email, and having heard interesting things about the book online, I immediately accepted.  I am now thinking it may be the most expensive free book I’ve ever received.

Bartlett, a journalist, is a book lover who happened upon an intriguing story of two men: John Gilkey, who stole rare books, and Ken Sanders, who was determined to catch him.  She introduces her readers to this story by bringing  us into their inner world, unfamiliar to even most passionate readers, where books are not only to be read, but collected and treasured and protected. 

And in bringing her readers into this world, she brings herself in as well.  As she spends time with both men, she finds herself increasingly a part of the story, rather than simply an objective observer.  She begins to understand the passion a collector feels while continuing to question what makes someone cross the line from law-abiding admirer to fervent thief.  The strength of the book stems from the humanity with which she portrays her subjects; though she never condones the crimes of Gilkey, he is not painted simply as a villain, but rather as an intelligent, earnest man with complex motivations.  Sanders, too, is developed intricately, and his gruff demeanor as well as his noble intentions are evident throughout the book. 

Anyone who can read this book and walk away without a desire to start their own collection is stronger willed than I am.  Though I’ve always been on the look-out for interesting older books, reading about all of the really cool stuff out there now has me inclined to be more proactive in my collecting.  In fact, I bought my first I-can’t-believe-I-just-paid-that-much-for-a-book piece last week — a first edition of Noel Streatfeild’s Children on the Top Floor (though she’s better known for her “Shoe” books and/or as the writer mentioned in You’ve Got Mail).  So as I said before, Bartlett’s fascinating story of theft and detection inside the rare book world could very well turn out to be the most expensive book I’ve ever read.    

WHO: Allison Hoover Bartlett
WHAT: The Man Who Loved Books Too Much
WHERE: Review copy supplied by publisher
WHEN: October, 2009
WHY: Positive buzz online combined with a premise irresistable to the book geek in me
HOW: Hard copy


~ by Molly on November 3, 2009.

5 Responses to “the man who loved books too much”

  1. Molly: Thanks for the great review! I feel the same way about this being an “expensive read” – I find myself searching the elusive first editions… and if I ever run across one in a store, I doubt my ability to resist! Congratulations on your first “I-just-paid-that-much-for-a-book piece”.


  2. This book sounds very interesting, and might be a good albeit unusual choice for my book group.

    And I have also been pondering Streatfeild, having realized I have three copies of one of her books. I do like The Children on the Top Floor, and often wonder what I will see when I open the door on Christmas (but it is usually just the newspaper).

  3. […] 1: Check out my “best reads of the year” post and/or my review of The Man Who Loved Books Too Much (my favorite non-fiction of 2009) to read about the giveaway […]

  4. Good review! I read it too and although I don’t have the antique habit, I’m a real book-a-holic.

    I’m a new fan – keep up the blogging!


  5. […] the man who loved books too much […]

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