Summary: 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.
Review: An intriguing tale of the world of rare books, those who loves them, and those who will do anything to get them.
I love rare books. I want to be a rare book librarian. I look forward to the day when I know enough Latin to read books written in the language. So I can understand the love and desire to obtain rare books or even just to hold them. The book only scratches the surface of rare books and rare book collecting, but does a good enough job to give the audience a general idea of what it's all about. I want to visit rare book stores and rare book fairs even more now.
I couldn't stand Gilkey. I can understand his desire to acquire rare books by any means possible although I could never condone stealing them. I couldn't believe that Gilkey actually felt entitled to these books just because he didn't have enough money to buy them. I was impressed by the job that Sanders did in tracking down Gilkey. The reaction of law enforcement to Gilkey's crimes was disheartening. Some people don't seem to realize how important rare books are to our society and our culture.
Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those interested in books, rare books, and literary culture.