Book Review: The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

Book Review: The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

Happy Sunday! I am so excited to share my monthly book with y’all! For February I chose The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett as my book of the month. Please read on for my book review & analysis…

“A compelling read for anybody who loves a good story.” —San Francisco Chronicle

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession was written by Allison Hoover Bartlett and published in 2009 by Riverhead Books. Bartlett’s writing has appeared in a variety of publications, including by not limited to: The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The San Francisco Chronicle Magazine. Her writing focuses primarily on nonfiction and she has written on a handful of topics such as art, travel, science, and education.

Bartlett is a meticulous, thorough reporter, nearly obsessed herself… Her book is a wonderful study of a peculiar kind of time and a strange obsession.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

This book reads like fiction! When I began reading the first few pages of this book I had to stop what I was doing and look at the cover again… “The TRUE Story” I couldn’t believe that what I was reading was nonfiction! Part of it is the incredible story, driven by passion, books, thievery, and manipulation, but the other part is Bartlett’s writing. She delivers a page turning story that excites, intrigues, and leaves you wanting more.

The story focuses on book thief, John Gilkey. His speciality is rare books, and rather expensive rare books at that. Over nearly 4 years, between 1999 and 2003, Gilkey stole more than $100,000 worth of rare books before being caught and put behind bars. The story also follows another man, perhaps even just as interesting, Ken Sanders. Ken is a rare books seller, collector, and an unlikely detective who helps put Gilkey in jail. Bartlett uses the two men to tell this spectacular story of bibliomania!

“A fascinating journey into a strange, obsessive world where a love of books can sometimes become a fatal attraction.” —Simon Worrall

As someone who has always loved the written word, I was very interested in this topic. I have loved books since I was very, very young. I remember even getting in trouble at school for reading books during class. I will say, of all the things I could get in trouble for, this was probably the best. I thoroughly enjoyed going to the book store and wandering the shelfs, I would spend hours there when I was a teenager. The library was my safe place. The local used book store and various thrift shops were where I would build my collection if I was short on cash. I always wanted to write a novel and have my book published. It was, and still is a life goal of mine. Needless to say, I have a THING for books.

But, my thing for books wasn’t nearly what Gilkey and Sanders thing was. They were fanatical about rare books! A world that I must admit, I don’t know much about. I know that there are rare books out there, extremely rare and sell for a pretty penny. But what I didn’t know was what this life looked like. Bartlett does a fabulous job of introducing the rare literary world to the reader in a way that is both fascinating and informational. Bartlett herself was new to this type of collection, so it was fun to read her experiences almost as if they were my own.

Her reporting of the rare book thief was so engaging and well written. Her descriptions of Gilkey, stories of former book collectors & thieves, along with her snapshots of various book collectors who had been hit by Gilkey all came together in a beautifully compelling true story that kept the reader constantly turning that next page.

”An intriguing psychological study of the relationship between the author and her subject.” —Chicago Sun-Times

I absolutely loved this book and would highly recommended it to all book lovers out there! If you are hesitate about reading nonfiction for fear it will be boring, a slow read, etc. this book is not like that at all. I am so, SO glad that I finally read this book that has been on my shelf for a few years now. I learned a lot about a world of rare books I knew nothing about, I got to get my crime fix in with this unbelievable true story, and I get lost in this incredible woman’s writing, full of rich descriptions and watch this woman become fully involved with the people she was investigating. Bartlett becomes part of the story she is reporting on, and it truly is an engrossing read.

The only criticism I have with this book would be the ending. I won’t spoil it, but for me it felt a little lackluster. I suppose with true stories you don’t always get to choose that great ending and maybe that was the point. Regardless, I read the last page and felt a tinge of disappointment. Either way, still a great book!

What do you think? Would you read this incredibly interesting true story? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers & stay chic!