There are few genres that I enjoy more than books about books. I love reading about other people obsessed by books and the entire book world. This is especially true as the world of book collecting is a world I have chosen not to participate in but I entirely understand its allure. Years ago when I lived in Boston one of my favorite things to do was to go to the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair (which is incidentally this weekend) all by myself. I never bought anything but I would just gaze at the beautiful book bindings, fore edge paintings, illuminated manuscripts and rare first editions. I understand the lust for these things. For myself I have chosen to focus on the experience of reading and not to collect or focus on the books as objects, but I could easily have been a rabid collector. I therefore really enjoy reading about others who participate in the book world and was looking forward to reading this.
This non-fiction work tells the story of the author tracking down and getting to know John Gilkey, a notorious book thief. While Gilkey goes to great extremes to steel his books, and while both he and the author often proclaim his love for the books, I just never bought it. It seemed to me that Mr. Gilkey was simply a thief with a compulsion but that he had no real love or appreciation for the books. It seemed to me that he could have easily been compulsively steeling jewelry or paintings. As a mere thief and not a true book lover, I felt absolutely no empathy for the man. In addition, I thought the story line was rather dull and it wasn’t very well written.
I would skip this book and read A Gentle Madness or Used and Rare. Of course many people loved it. On Amazon it has 107 reviews with an average rating of 4 out of 5 stars. Carl V. from Stainless Steel Droppings also really enjoyed it.