Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Book Review: 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 was a fun little book. It's based on the true story of John Gilkey, a obsessed thief of rare books, and Ken Sanders, the book-dealer-turned-detective that set about catching him.

I enjoyed it for a number of reasons. The narrative is fairly good page-turner, following Gilkey through his spree of fraudulent purchases and thefts as Sanders catches up but remains a step or two behind. The characters - rare book collectors, Sanders, and of course Gilkey himself - prove an eclectic cast for the story. As well, the author recounts the tale in a way that lets us see how she becomes part of the story itself, worried she's possibly complicit in Gilkeys crimes.

Most of all though, I found the Bartlett's description of the world of rare books to be intoxicating. From the opening pages, when she describes first laying hands on Krautterbuch, a german botany text almost four hundred years old, unclasping the pigskin-clad oak cover boards and turning it's stiff pages as they make "a muffled crack, not unlike the sound of a flag on a windy afternoon", she does a great job of giving the reader a palpable sense of why some covet these books; some so much that they'll go to jail for them.

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