Skip to main content
PBS logo
 
 

Search - The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much The True Story of a Thief a Detective and a World of Literary Obsession
Author: Allison Hoover Bartlett
In telling the true story of book thief John Charles Gilkey and the man who was driven to capture him, Journalist Allison Hoover Bartlett explores the larger history of book passion, collection, and theft through the ages.
Info icon
ISBN-13: 9781594488917
ISBN-10: 1594488916
Publication Date: 9/17/2009
Pages: 288
Rating:
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 53

3.6 stars, based on 53 ratings
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
Book Type: Hardcover
Other Versions: Paperback, Audio CD
Reviews: Member | Amazon | Write a Review

Top Member Book Reviews

reviewed The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession on + 5 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 10
Who would steal an old book? I don't read many true crime books, but the subject matter of this one caught my interest. I love books and I was quite interested to see what could make someone steal so many rare volumes. The author, Allison Hoover Bartlett, a journalist, paints a picture of a man who is obsessed with having the trappings of âthe good life.â He sees a library of expensive, rare volumes as something to show off, something that will give the appearance of wealth and culture and make people admire him.

The book thief, John Charles Gilkey, allowed Bartlett to interview him about his crimes multiple times, over a period of years, in prison and out. He has served time for passing bad checks and for credit card fraud. He told Bartlett of his system for purchasing the books from book dealers with worthless checks or stolen credit card numbers.

Ken Sanders is the book dealer that served as the security chair for the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America (ABAA). The position involved collecting information on book thefts and disseminating it to ABAA members. He believed that several rare books thefts were related and dubbed the thief the âNorthern California Credit Card Thief.â

Bartlett details the thefts by Gilkey and the chase by Sanders that took place over years. The perseverance of Sanders was evidently key to linking Gilkey to many thefts. The author also includes information on rare book collecting and the prices some books command at auction. I particularly liked the bit about the fore-edge painting.

I found this book a thoroughly enjoyable read and an intriguing look at rare book theft. It is clearly written and well organized. I appreciated that Bartlett gave enough background for an understanding of the people and events involved but doesn't go overboard with it. She skillfully portrays Gilkey's obsession with rare books and Sanders' quest to stop the thief. The historical details about other rare book collectors and thieves helped fit the story into the wider domain of rare book collecting. Bartlett's engaging style of writing made this a fast read. Once I got into the story, the pages flew by and I quickly reached the end of the book. I would recommend this book for anyone that enjoys reading about true crime or book collecting.
reviewed The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession on + 65 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Very intersting. I never would have thought that book theft was such a wide spread crime.
njmom3 avatar reviewed The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession on + 1355 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
As an avid reader, I was intrigued by simply the title of the book. This book is a fascinating look at the business of rare books - the collectors, the sellers, and the intrigue. The overview is presented through the story of one book thief - John Gilkey - and one bookseller - Ken Sanders. I enjoyed this book on many levels. First of all, I enjoyed the story which is essentially the story of a criminal and the man who brought him to justice. Second, interspersed throughout the book are vignettes about other famous book collections and collectors. These were as interesting to me as the main story itself. Third, the author in telling the story becomes a part of it. I could relate to her descriptions of the fascination of book collecting. Finally, the author touches on the issue of the pleasure of working with and reading a physical book as opposed to the electronic book readers. I read both and think that something artistic and valuable will be lost if we completely lose the printed word.
justreadingabook avatar reviewed The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession on + 1705 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Well, this was a pretty good read, I had hoped for abit more information and details but that just wasn't the case. The story was a good one but just seem to lack that wow factor that you look for. Great information on the ease of stealing rare books and the lack of prosecution for the crime. After 5 years, books yours and you can't be tried. Just amazing that no one in the ABAA hasn't taken matters into their own hands.
Read All 16 Book Reviews of "The Man Who Loved Books Too Much The True Story of a Thief a Detective and a World of Literary Obsession"

Please Log in to Rate these Book Reviews

nrlymrtl avatar reviewed The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession on + 297 more book reviews
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much is an interesting little audiobook (only 5 CDs) that takes the reader into the world of bibliophiles, con men, and bibliomaniacs. Allison Hoover Bartlett, a journalist, has given us a very approachable read on John Gilkey, a con man who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of rare and valuable books over the years. The author captures his sense of entitlement and his total lack of guilt over theft.

This book was narrated by Judith Brackley, who has an even, melodious voice. She brought the elements of incredulity, wonder, disgust, and sadness to this tale.
hardtack avatar reviewed The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession on + 2522 more book reviews
An enthalling story of a man who steals books, the rare book seller who tracks him down and the author who interviewed both of them for her book.

If you love books, you'll enjoy this one. Not only is the crime story captivating, but the author also interjects information about how to judge the real value of a book. For example, as the "book man" at our local hospice resale store, I've looked over a couple of donated early copies of "Gone With the Wind." At least one was listed as a first edition. Turns out, there were many "first editions," but now I know how to identify the real one.

Plus, after studying how the "man who loved books" committed his crimes by stealing tens of thousands of dollars in rare books, I can't wait for the next time I go to a major city so I can practice his techniques! :-)
reviewed The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession on + 48 more book reviews
Loved it!! Very well written. Any book lover or collector will love this inside look at the world of book collecting.
reviewed The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession on + 39 more book reviews
Here is a story of a thief. Granted, the John Gilkey loves books, but he is still a thief, nonetheless. I felt more strongly as I read this tale that his stature should in no way be mitigated by the title, which somehow suggests that his thievery was a crime of passion.

No. Here is a man who brazenly buys books with stolen credit card numbers but who says he does not check out rare books from a library to sell in the rare-book market because, that would be stealing. What???

Probably I should be curious about how such a mind works and what motivates people to do such crimes. But Im not. At least not in his case. The fact that he continues to do so after numerous stints in prison simply leaves me with a sense of futility.

Though the story is compellingly written, in the end, I was sorry I spent so much time with a character who seems incapable of wrestling with his crimes or his compulsion to commit them.

Book Wiki

People/Characters
John Gilkey (Primary Character)
Ken Sanders (Major Character)

Genres: