The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

Recommended Read

Bartlett, Allison Hoover. The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession. Toronto: Penguin Canada, 2009. [ISBN-13: 978-0-14-3116824-9]

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much is the story of John Charles Gilkey, an inveterate rare-book thief; Ken Sanders, the rare-book dealer and bibliodick determined to catch him; and Allison Hoover Bartlett, the objective journalist who finds herself mesmerized by the dance between these two book lovers.

Who among us can enter a bookstore and leave empty-handed? I know it happens sometimes—it’s even happened to me once or twice—but it takes more than a little willpower to pull it off. What happens, though, if you just don’t have that willpower or the inclination to find it? And what if the shops you enter contain really beautiful rare books, books like the first trade edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit with a price tag of $15,000?

Well, if you’re John Gilkey, you steal them.

“[Ken Sanders] estimates that from the end of 1999 to the beginning of 2003, John Gilkey stole about $100,000 worth of books from dealers around the country. In the past decade, no other thief has been anywhere near that prolific. What was even more unusual, though, was that none of the items Gilkey stole later showed up for sale on the Internet or at any other public venue. It was this […] and the fact that some of the books he stole were not very valuable, that had Sanders convinced that he actually stole for love.” —Bartlett

Still, lots of us love books and manage not to steal $100,000 worth of them, so what makes Gilkey different? Bartlett asks that very question in this fascinating book, and I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy (via legal means) to find out how she solves that mystery.


Looking for more literary high jinks and mystery? Here are a couple more recommendations for your reading list:

The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde


This entry was posted in Recommended Reads and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

  1. Heather says:

    I agree it’s unsettling at times – Gilkey’s sense of fairness appears to extend only as far as his own desires, and he seems thoroughly untroubled by how his thefts might affect his victims. I was impressed, though, by Bartlett’s ability to convey Gilkey’s strange disconnect from social mores and other people.

  2. Ann Moore says:

    I am in the midst of reading “The Man Who Love Books Too Much” and I find it disturbing that Mr. Gilkey sees nothing wrong with his actions. Even when the author points out that he is indeed stealing! He just doesn’t seem to be aware of the moral problem.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.