Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

by Allison Hoover Bartlett

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.


Carl V. said...

Sorry to hear that you didn't enjoy this much. He is certainly not a book lover like we are, and I didn't have any sympathy for him either. I did find the story to be quite interesting though. I think nonfiction, even more than fiction, can be subject to a persons moods, meaning that had I read this at a different time I am unsure what reaction I might have had to it.

Susan Hill has a book about books coming out soon that I am really looking forward to.

parrish lantern said...

Sounds like it was more about the collecting, than what was being collected, this happens in the world of singlemalt whisky, there are those that love & those that collect.