The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession (Review)

May 13, 2011

Book cover for "The Man Who Loved Books Too Much" by Allison Hoover Bartlett.Title: 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

Narrator: Judith Brackley

Publication Year: 2009

Pages: 288 (audio length: 6 hours 7 minutes)

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Audiobook version purchased from

From the cover:

Unrepentant book thief John Charles Gilkey has stolen a fortune in rare books from around the country. Yet unlike most thieves who steal for profit, Gilkey steals for love – the love of books. Perhaps equally obsessive is Ken Sanders, the self-appointed “bibliodick” who’s driven to catch him. Following this eccentric cat-and-mouse chase with a mixture of suspense, insight and humor, Allison Hoover Bartlett plunges the reader deep into a rich world of fanatical book lust and considers what it is that makes some people stop at nothing to posses the titles they love.

I’m not really sure how exciting I thought this book would be, but somehow it just seemed more … placid … than what I thought it would be.

Maybe it’s because it’s about high-stakes thievery that made me think it would be exciting and action-packed. I don’t know. But this it definitely wasn’t. There was talk of book theft, of course, but mostly by way of charm and sneakery.

That’s not to say that The Man Who Loved Books Too Much wasn’t interesting. It was. It was interesting to read about a man who seemingly couldn’t help himself, couldn’t stop himself from stealing expensive and rare books for his own collection. He wasn’t trying to make money. Instead, he seemed to think that he “deserved” these expensive books just as much as anybody else, even though he couldn’t afford them. I think that sense of entitlement was more interesting to me than the actual thefts themselves.

Bartlett does a good job of exploring the world of rare book dealing, particularly in terms of the secrecy and guilt that accompanies book loss/theft. You might find the story interesting just based on the book-related subject matter, but don’t expect much in the way of action or danger.



  • Meg @ A Bookish Affair May 14, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    I’ve had this book on my TBR list for awhile. I’ll probably still read it but that’s disappointing that it wasn’t more exciting!

  • Aths May 16, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    I assumed that this one has a lot of fast-paced action! Maybe it has something to do with the title. It still sounds interesting to me, so I’ll check it out some day. Great review!

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