Cover of: The man who loved books too much by Allison Hoover Bartlett

The man who loved books too much

the true story of a thief, a detective, and a world of literary obsession

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August 15, 2020 | History

The man who loved books too much

the true story of a thief, a detective, and a world of literary obsession

  • 4.00 ·
  • 1 Ratings
  • 6 Want to read
  • 0 Currently reading
  • 1 Have read
Publish Date
Riverhead Books

Previews available in: English

Unrepentant book thief John Charles Gilkey has stolen a fortune in rare books from around the county. Yet unlike most thieves, who steal for profit, Gilkey steals for the love of the books. Perhaps equally obsessive, though, is Ken Sanders, the self-appointed "bibliodick" driven to catch him. Sanders, a lifelong rare book collector and dealer turned amateur detective, will stop at nothing to catch the thief plaguing his trade.

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Book Details

Published in

New York

Edition Notes

Includes bibliographical references.



Dewey Decimal Class
002.075, B
Library of Congress
Z992.8 .B37 2009, Z992.8.B37 2009, Z992.8.B37 2010

The Physical Object

274 p. ;
Number of pages

ID Numbers

Open Library
Internet Archive
LC Control Number

Work Description

In the tradition of The Orchid Thief, a compelling narrative set within the strange and genteel world of rare-book collecting: the true story of an infamous book thief, his victims, and the man determined to catch him. 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. 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.

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