The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession
by Allison Hoover Bartlett
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Release Date: 2009
Genre: Non-fiction (book collecting, true crime but not gory, Detective)
format available: hardcover, ebook, paperback, audio
Rare-book theft is even more widespread than fine-art theft. Most thieves, of course, steal for profit. John Charles Gilkey steals purely for the love of books. In an attempt to understand him better, journalist Allison Hoover Bartlett plunged herself into the world of book lust and discovered just how dangerous it can be.
John Gilkey is an obsessed, unrepentant book thief who has stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of rare books from book fairs, stores, and libraries around the country. Ken Sanders is the self-appointed "bibliodick" (book dealer with a penchant for detective work) driven to catch him. Bartlett befriended both outlandish characters and found herself caught in the middle of efforts to recover hidden treasure. With a mixture of suspense, insight, and humor, she has woven this entertaining cat-and-mouse chase into a narrative that not only reveals exactly how Gilkey pulled off his dirtiest crimes, where he stashed the loot, and how Sanders ultimately caught him but also explores the romance of books, the lure to collect them, and the temptation to steal them. Immersing the reader in a rich, wide world of literary obsession, Bartlett looks at the history of book passion, collection, and theft through the ages, to examine the craving that makes some people willing to stop at nothing to possess the books they love.
Great gift for someone who loves books! Started at the doctor's office and hated to come home because it meant putting the book down :) Finished it the next day. Unfortunately, that was several years ago. Good news is that I get to read the book again. Bad news is that I may not have it finished in time.
Here's a picture of all the sticky notes of things I wanted to tell you about. Let's get started shall we?
I'm still in the Prologue when I come across the first note: the definition of "Rare" as it pertains to the book world. There are probably as many definitions as there are book dealers.
A book's degree of rarity remains subjective, and the only qualities of "rare" that collectors and dealers seem to agree on is some combination of scarcity importance, and condition.
Many collectors don't actually read their books and owning the physical book is much more important to them. I'm also sure that if it is a story the read, the collectible is sitting protectively on a shelf and the paperback is being read.
This book is about the world of book collectors and dealers but it is also a behind the scenes look at how the detective solved the case as well as the lengths some will go to possess what they want.
To those of us who read print instead of electronic, you'll understand the allure of collecting. The feel of leather, the smell of the ink, dusty maybe musty, hearing the paper crinkle as you turn pages. Collectors are after so much more than just a book, they want the history behind it as well.
Some of us may want first editions of favorite children's books and for many that it how it starts. Children grow up remembering the stories and with the money of an adult some choose to spend it on the rare but memorable. For many it also ends there.
But for some, the desire outweighs the ability. Not all of us can be a professional ball player but we can still enjoy the game. Whether we watch it live, on television or play for fun, we can still get enjoyment out of the game.
Our thief's desire far outweighs ability but instead of finding all the legals way to still enjoy the rare books he so love, he takes a different route. This book is not just his but also a book dealer turned sleuth.
... 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. . . . even more unusual, though, was that none of the items Gilkey stole later showed up for sale . . . Gilkey loved the books and wanted to own them.This book is how our dealer, Sanders, proved it. Ms. Hoover captures the world so well that when I was finished reading I gave some thought on what books I would want as first editions and just how much I'd be willing to spend.
The book packs too much information to read quickly and I didn't read it recently enough that a good skim would help write a better review so I'll just leave you now.
Just in case you were wondering, I decided that while I love owning the physical book, it was the love of reading that captures me. Sure I'll take a first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (only 500 were printed) but I'm not willing to pay $30,000 for it. There are just too many other stories out there. Plus, can you imagine the insurance on it?
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary review copy of this book without any obligation to write a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are mine and may differ from yours. Book information courtesy of the author and amazon.
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