Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

by Allison Hoover Bartlett
New York : Riverhead Books, 2009.

The world of rare books can be a strange place to those not given to collecting or interested in books-as-objects rather than holders of information. In fact, it's quite an impressive business and has the thievery rate to show for it. When a friend showed her an old book that was apparently stolen from a library some time ago, Allison Hoover Bartlett was intrigued enough to look into the rare book business, collecting, and stealing. In particular, she heard about one thief, John Gilkey, who stole quite a bit to keep for his own personal use rather than to resell, and the man who worked as security chair for the ABAA, Ken Sanders.

Much of the information comes from Gilkey himself, as well as Ken Sanders and other book dealers. Bartlett also enters the narrative, as she describes her reaction to some of Gilkey's comments, her experience going to a rare books fair, and ethical dilemmas she wrestles with as a reporter. Though I found much of the beginning ruminations on collecting repetitive, and wished the narrative covered more details of the psychology behind the desire to obtain rare books or other collections, this is a nonfiction book that reads quickly and one I would recommend to anyone who would like a glimpse of the rare book trade.

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