Sunday, January 10, 2010

Book Lovers

Books are so alluring to me. I love my books, and like the author of this book and her main subjects, I can tell you where I was on the planet when I read a certain book on the shelf, what I was feeling, who gave it to me and what I was doing while I read it. My books are small treasures and when I glance at my shelf I can recall fondly the story and the characters and why I loved or hated it. When I move, more than half my load is boxes of books. And don't ever buy me an electronic book reading device. Don't even get me started on that...

So I understand the premise behind the Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett. I picked up this book because I can understand caring about books and wanting to acquire them. Ms. Bartlett has written a modern day crime novel where the thief, John Gilkey, steals rare books worth thousands of dollars (largely through credit card fraud) and his victims are unwitting booksellers and libraries. Ironically, law enforcement doesn't understand the value of these books, so the thief often gets away with his crime.

The detective who chases the criminal in this tale is a bookseller himself and he spends his time emailing and faxing and trying to alert people to the thief's m.o. Both men are interesting and the author paints fully drawn portraits of each, but the story behind Gilkey and his continual obsession with owning books and his refusal to see his deceptions as crime--even when he gets sent to prison multiple times--is the compelling and more fully wrought tale.

In fact, the tale of the detective bookseller, who is successful up to a point in catching the thief, kind of loses steam toward the end of the book when the author simply focuses on the thief. I missed book detective (bibliodick!) Ken Sanders at the end of the story.

I liked the way Ms. Bartlett builds graceful anticipation. It is slow tale, but you begin to love books and understand the collectors who she profiles on her journey to record the tale of the book thief. I did become engrossed in this crime tale of high class thievery. Many of the collectors, Gilkey included, are not even big readers. Collecting books is not about the stories contained inside, rather it has something more to do with the thrill of the hunt and the connection to history.

In spite of the compelling nature of the thief and the crime, the story felt a little loose and disjointed at the end. She left many unwoven threads. Where are all the books he has stolen? What became of her own rare book that was borrowed from a library and never returned? Shouldn't she alert libraries to the fact that he is walking off with their books?

Other than wanting a more cleaned up ending and more answers to my million questions--where are the books?!--I think it was an interesting and compelling read. I admire the author for sticking with the story through the years and writing this longitudinal account. Reader's who have a touch of bibliomania themselves should check this book out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

what is a bibliodick? book collectors -- reminds me of a fun book called "inkheart" (young adult novel) by cornelia funke.