The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

The True Story of A Thief, A Detective, and A World of Literary Obsession

Book - 2009
Average Rating:
Rate this:
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.
Publisher: New York :, Riverhead Books,, 2009.
ISBN: 9781594488917
Branch Call Number: 002.075 BA
Characteristics: 274 pages ; 22 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Jan 03, 2020

John Gilkey might be one of the most prolific rare book thieves in America, and he's still walking free. "The Man Who Loved Books Too Much" explores his reasons and methods of stealing; more importantly, it tells the stories of the store owners he stole from, and the broader issue of rare book theft. What I found most interesting was the author managing her own professional ethics: how is she able to maintain a relationship with a notorious thief while also building relationships with the people he stole from?

Worth reading if only for the exploration of what makes rare book theft so appalling: those books and their knowledge may literally be irreplaceable.

Dec 23, 2019

While I enjoyed reading this book, it left me dissatisfied because: (1) The author became too involved in her own story. (2) She never tells us what happened to the Krauterbuch, a stolen book she inherited and can't find out where she should return it.. (3) The thief, Gilkey, is totally unrepentant, has hundreds of stolen books which can't be returned due to statute of limitations. Some of them are wrapped in plastic, which may result in their destruction--that's a terrible way to treat a book. (4) The thief is still out there, plundering bookstores, libraries, banks and credit card companies, and will evidently continue to do so until he dies. The only small comfort I can take is that eventually he will die, and those books may return to their proper places, though the rightful owners will never recover from the loss. It's a tragic story with an ultimately sad ending.

May 10, 2019

The journalist author had material for an interesting magazine article. Perhaps a 5 page piece in the New Yorker. There is not enough material here for a book. She pads the tale with dull details such as how many times the phone rang before Gilkey answered. There's a LOT of repetition of "oddly, he did not think stealing was wrong", what motivates collectors of books every time she visits another book fair or antique book store and repetition of his methods. No suspense - contrary to what the promo blurb promises. I agree with the published review that says the author struggles to make the narrative work. The audiobook reader adds to the problem of the very flat, repetitive text by reading every page in the same slow, flat, soothing monotone.

Feb 03, 2019

Unbelievable. Book thief stole for status & entitlement ,but he chose them from a modern classic list. I saw no evidence he ever read them all.
Interesting read on who steal them & why.
Victimless crime? Ha! Used book store affected because lost of income. Average person affected on loss of history, memory & human knowledge. Author affected because she's conflicted on ethics over an used book with indeterminate provenance.

Apr 24, 2018

Just read it, read it, read it, read it
This phrase needs to be repeated
Story so funky, sit in good light,
It doesn't matter you'll see I'm right
Just read it, read it
Just read it, read it

DBRL_KrisA Dec 11, 2016

My sister recommended this book to me; she hadn't read it, but thought that the title described my book addiction perfectly.
Actually, this book is only tangentially about people like me, seeming hoarders of any book they can get their hands on. Specifically, this book is about John Gilkey, a rare-book thief who stole books from dealers, not in some scheme to re-sell them and make big bucks, but because of a belief that having a large personal library would make him a well-respected member of high society. Bartlett, through interviews with Gilkey, book seller and amateur detective Ken Sanders, and other members of the rare-book world, explores what makes a book "rare", and what causes the obsession some of us have with collecting books. However, this work is mostly about Gilkey, his history of book-stealing, and how he justified his thefts to himself and to others.

Sep 03, 2016

A great read. This book was very educational regarding rare books. It also described in great detail the book dealers and their eccentric ways. Most of the book takes place in the bay area so it is really fun to read about places I know and have been to. Loved the detective chasing the thief aspect of the book.

Jun 09, 2012

An interesting true crime story about stealing rare books. It is not brutal, no violemce. Gives insight into the obsession of collecting, in this case rare books.

Mar 05, 2012

An intriguing story, which the author deftly turns into a post-modern exercise in naval gazing. Although no report of events can be completely objective, Brackley is excessive in explaining to the reader her own perspectives and reactions to the unfolding narrative. This book would be much better (and much shorter) if the author had narrowed her focus to the subject at hand, and given us less insight into her own motivations.

Apr 05, 2011

This book, although non-fiction, reads as fiction. Bartlett did an amazing job in telling the story, and had me scouring my bookshelves to find out if I had any first editions that may be worth something one day.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at APL

To Top