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The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession

3.37  ·  Rating Details ·  7,591 Ratings  ·  1,696 Reviews
For book lovers everywhere, there's nothing more pleasing than to hold a treasured book, to inhale its scent, to caress its pages. A home library reveals much about one's life, and avid readers can talk for hours about the titles, authors, and characters that changed their view of the world. Books are much more than objects that deliver content. Collected, savored, and lov ...more
Kindle Edition, 288 pages
Published September 17th 2009 by Riverhead (first published August 1st 2009)
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Deborah Cleaves No you didn't imagine it. But there were actually two pairs of authors mentioned who did so. Wolfe and Hemingway whose forgery had been discovered,…moreNo you didn't imagine it. But there were actually two pairs of authors mentioned who did so. Wolfe and Hemingway whose forgery had been discovered, and two other authors present at the same book signing who did the same when one was misidentified as the other by someone seeking an autograph. That forged book has still not been identified.(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jeffrey Keeten
This book belongs to none but me
For there's my name inside to see.
To steal this book, if you should try.
It's by the throat that you'll hang high.
And ravens then will gather 'bout
To find your eyes and pull them out.
And when you're screaming
"Oh, Oh, Oh!"
Remember, you deserved this woe.
---Warning written by medieval German scribe


Fortunately for me I live in the part of the world where people can not conceive of a book being of a value worth stealing. Thieves here are more interested in ca

Ahhhh...books. They are wonderful...especially books about other books. Even better are books about books that are rare and valuable. These books give me the happies.

There were chunks of this story that serenaded my growing bibliomania off its feet like Cyrano de Bergerac beneath Roxane’s window. I love books. I love them for their minds and I love them for their bodies and over the past few years, I’ve begun collecting first editions of my favorite novels. I get tremendous enjoyment from it
May 06, 2010 astried rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
I wanted to like this book, but I can't. I thought it would be a story about a man who loved book too much, but it wasn't. Sure, he wanted books so much that he stole it, but not because a book contains story. He only stole it because he thought wealthy people should have an imposing library, because first print books have high monetary value. It's like treating book like Prada bags or whatever other silly wealth symbols. I never could understand the power or need of marked merchandise and it an ...more
As both an undergraduate and graduate student, I had a penchant for spending time in the rare manuscripts rooms at both BYU and University of Wisconsin-Madison. While my studies in African History did require me to spend time there to peruse books for research, I enjoyed taking time to thumb through (with gloved hands, of course) everything from medieval manuscripts to pioneer journals to (my favorite) the entire selection of Yellow Book Quarterly, which had nothing at all to do with my research ...more
Lisa Vegan
Jun 14, 2009 Lisa Vegan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: more for those studying psychopathology than for bibliophiles
Recommended to Lisa by: Lesley
I’d wanted to read this book since it was first published (I first learned of it, and Gilkey, from one of my local independent bookstores), and so I was grateful when my real world book club decided to read it.

It was not exactly what I’d expected, a book about a man who loves books, and happens to steal them. The man in question is less a book lover and more a narcissist, sociopath and thief, primarily but not exclusively stealing books.

I was not as enthralled as I’d expected to be. I was appall
Apr 23, 2010 miaaa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to miaaa by: Goodreads Indonesia
I think life's an irrational obsession.
Sean Penn

And I solemnly think this book is about obsession, which has a shallow and fragile border with insanity. A man with disturbed upbringings, John Gilkey, sets the world to his own rules of fairness and rights. Whatever impacts his conducts may have caused to others would never bother him, or he simply pretends not to. And somehow whilst reading this magnificent journal, I can't divert my mind from Carlos María Domínguez's The Paper House.

Prior read
Mar 11, 2011 Nikki rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, non-fiction
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much is definitely the wrong title for this book, because that's really not what this book is about. The love of stories is something I can relate to, easily -- or even the love of beautiful first editions. The amoral antics of a thief who wants to have books as a status symbol, and the wishy-washy morals of the story-hungry writer, are not something I can sympathise with as much. And I increasingly worried about the latter. She could have reported thefts of books wor ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
I'm afraid I must admit to a bit of judgmentalism here. I was very annoyed at this book and skimmed a lot. I know a lot of people enjoyed it...but I couldn't help but feel that the author was just too "understanding" of the book thief.

I mean we get all this "explanation" on how he dreamed of having this extensive valuable library, of collecting books (and also other things) so, he stole them.

Okay, I dream of $1000 suites, $100,000 cars and multimillion dollar houses...maybe plus of course, book
colleen the convivial curmudgeon
The book has a cool premise - following a book thief, trying to understand his motivations and whatnot, and also following the man whose quest it is to stop the thief.

And yet...

I think it could've been cool as a sort of "based on true story" kind of fiction. I think it could've even worked better if the author wrote it focusing on the people in the story more than herself.

See, she spoke a lot about what she did to get the story. The interviews she did, the research she undertook, her ethical di
Jan 23, 2010 Ann rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: language-books
Narrative nonfiction books that deal with the more rarified forms of theft (books, art, orchids...) seem to follow a certain template. The author, usually a journalist, describes how he/she first of heard of "the story". He (let's make it a "he" for practical purposes) starts pursuing it with the zeal of Woodward and Bernstein tracking down the Watergate story. The author takes frequent pauses from the story to reflect on his own attitude towards the coveted objects, his tireless pursuit of trut ...more
Sep 21, 2009 Mahlon rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who loves this site
Recommended to Mahlon by: C-Span
Shelves: read-2009
Allison Hoover Bartlett's The Man Who Loved Books too Much tells the story of John Gilkey, a Narcissistic book thief who uses his job at Saks Fifth Avenue in SF to steal credit card numbers so that he can finance the library to which he believes he's entitled, and Ken Sanders, a rare book dealer turned detective, who is determined to catch him. Gilkey's story is merely a jumping off point for Bartlett however, she uses it to take the reader on a fascinating tour of the world of rare book collect ...more
 Δx Δp ≥ ½ ħ
edited review:

1. I want to apologize for the all the recommendations from me yesterday. I only pressed the send button once--I'm not sure what happened. Urggghh...this is so terrible...
Again, I'm very sorry. [image error]
Sprange Ben Lend Splotches Abruptly

2. gini nih kalo baca ulang. bintangnya harus turun satu. terjemahannya bikin deg-degan. rating tepatnya seh 3 [image error]
jadi penasaran sama bahasa Inggrisnya [image error]


Jika An
The Man who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett is a work of narrative non-fiction. This means it's most likely not going to be a snooze like your earth science textbook! I think that anybody reading this review most likely loves books. If you don't love books, why oh why are you here?
Read the rest of my review here
May 08, 2010 Truly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Semua pencuri buku adalah pembohong sejati!

Baru kali ini saya menyesal bisa membaca dengan cepat! Walau setiap hari memaksa membaca hanya sekian halaman, tetap saja buku ini selesai dalam hitungan hari. Ceritanya sungguh sayang untuk ditamatkan dalam waktu singkat. Apa boleh buat, lain kali ini ini pasti saya baca lagi, lagi dan lagi.

Bagi kolektor buku, buku dinilai bukan dari isinya. Bahkan banyak diantara mereka yang tidak membaca buku koleksinya. Mereka menilai buku dari bentuk fisik, saat p
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I gave up any hope to get through the debris of this book after about 20% of it.
What a pity. What sounded like a brilliant idea, turned out to be quite a boring read...
Random dropping of titles of the rare books and bits and bobs of history did not do any favours for the book.
It is just not for me.
May 31, 2010 e.c.h.a rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to e.c.h.a by: goodreads indonesia
OK...jadi begini ceritanya kenapa buku ini hanya cocok mendapatkan bintang 2 dari saya.

Saat pertama memegang buku ini, jujur saya berharap lebih untuk buku ini. Ingin tahu seberapa besar tokoh-tokoh di buku ini mencintai buku. Tapi kok setelah membacanya, yang ada saya menangkap mereka semua ini tidak cinta buku yah? Atau....mereka mengartikan "cinta" terhadap buku dalam pandangan yang berbeda dengan saya yah?

Saya melihat mereka semua seperti ter-obsesi, hanya mencari keuntungan dari sebuah buku
Dia GAK CINTA buku sama sekali!!

Huh!!! Apanya yang Loved the Books Too Much?
Alasan Gilkey mencuri buku-buku itu cuma pengen pamer, cuma obsesi memiliki perpustakaan seperti orang-orang kaya
Dia baca ga tuh buku-buku?
Cuma satu, Lolita!!

Tapi suka banget sama narasi nya Allison (eh, ini bisa disebut sebagai narasi ga sih?).
Gara-gara nemu buku langka Krautterbuch, Allison menelusuri jejak Ken Sanders sang bibliodick (penjual buku yang merangkap detekfif) dan John Gilkey, sang pencuri bu
Mar 05, 2010 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anybody who loves books
Fascinating book about the true story of John Gilkey who over a period of years stole many valuable books, mainly from rare book dealers, usually using stolen credit card numbers. In some ways he was quite ingenious, but the most amazing thing is he really felt no guilt at all.In fact he really deserved these books as far as he was concerned and actually felt the book dealers were to blame for him not being able to afford them. Quite a reprehensible my opinion anybody who steals b ...more
Moira Russell
Well, this guy didn't love books "too much," or indeed at all apparently; he didn't even like to read. He fastened on books purely as a cultural status symbol and that was it. Nevertheless, an interesting portrayal of a fascinating con man, even if told in near-enervating prose.
Lauren Stoolfire
When it came time to choose a book about books for the third task of Book Riot's 2017 Read Harder Challenge, The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett came to mind immediately. I've had my eye on this for a while since I started noticing it coming and going from the library quite a bit in the last few months. I have to say that this nonfiction book lived up to my expectations - it's tells the tale of John Charles Gilkey, a man who has stolen hundreds of thousand dollars worth o ...more
Generally I'm a sucker for books about books, so I expected to like this more than I actually did. But, although Allison Hoover Bartlett writes well, she never quite managed to convince me that this book was anything other than a magazine article that got out of hand. John Charles Gilkey, the serial book thief at the center of the story, is not completely dull, but he's not as interesting as the author seems to believe and certainly not interesting enough to warrant a 250+ page book. I think tha ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
May 15, 2013 Elizabeth (Alaska) rated it really liked it
I needed to read something completely different, and somehow stumbled across this title lurking on my shelves. By no means is it a perfect book. It is written in journalistic style and I wouldn't categorize it as either poorly- or well-written. It might easily have had other titles:

The Obsessed: Rare Book Dealers, Collectors and Thieves
The World of Rare Books: Dealers, Collectors, Thieves

I think the author might have organized it better. She sometimes lost the chronology of her story, and in doi
Jan 16, 2016 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My mother and I share and talk about Books. We like a lot of the same, and enjoy a great share and discussion. I love to be a mini eavesdropper on her book group and have never felt I have found quite the book group of my own. I talk about books with Melissa, who loves historical fiction, with Elizabeth who loves fiction, Betsy who loves good writing, and Samantha who loves a good story. I read some of Hoffman's Ritual and Spontaneity in the Psychoanalytic Process with Jane, and a book comes ali ...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

I've been wanting to read Allison Hoover Bartlett's 2009 The Man Who Loved Books Too Much for quite a while now, mostly because of its subject matter: a journalistic expose of John Charles Gilkey, a mentally ill obsessive who stole hundreds upon hundreds of rare books over a period of just a decade or two,
Andrei Tamaş
O scriere infantila, imaginara si dusa intr-atat la extrem incat a devenit ridicola...
Doua stelute pentru ca nu pot suferi dezamagirea Alexandrei, de la care am primit acest volum cadou.
M. D.  Hudson
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 15, 2010 Zeek rated it really liked it
I felt it apropos that this be the first book that I bought on my Kindle a yr or so ago, bibliophile that I am. Ironic because this book is all about one man's obsession with obtaining precious and rare print books!

As the title states, The Man Who Loved Books Too Much follows the story of one John Charles Gilkey who became a prolific and, often ballsy, thief of rare books. With a twisted world view, Gilkey justifies stealing from hard working book sellers by filtering his behavior through his s
Shellie (Layers of Thought)
Sep 11, 2009 Shellie (Layers of Thought) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: older book lovers - who like quirky and psychological real life dramas
Recommended to Shellie (Layers of Thought) by: Penguin Books

I would give this book 4.5 stars. Highly recommended.
This is an intriguing and psychologically complex book. Written by journalist Allison Hoover Bartlett who inadvertently finds herself in possession of a valuable and very old book. It is a German tome written in 1630 called Krueterbuch – plant book, by Hieronymus Boch. Its weight is 12 pounds.

Her curiosity takes her beyond her research for the owners of the Boch book. What she discovers about the nature of old books and the ease by which they
Anita Dalton
This book engrossed me for reasons I did not anticipate when I started reading it. The story of this particular book thief is not as interesting as some other book thieves of whom I have read. John Gilkey, who remains unrepentant concerning his thefts of rare books from dealers, may one day become a man who steals rare books from libraries, as the book indicates he may be doing right now, but his thefts were more prosaic: He stole credit card numbers during his job as a retail clerk and used the ...more
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The Man Who Loved Books Too Much 6 37 Feb 05, 2013 05:26PM  
Clouds, Coffee & ...: Book collectors in general 18 13 Oct 15, 2011 09:51AM  
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Allison Hoover Bartlett is the author of the national bestseller, The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession. She has written on a variety of topics, including travel, art, science and education, for the New York Times, the Washington Post, San Francisco Magazine, and other publications. Her original article on book thief John Gilkey ...more
More about Allison Hoover Bartlett...

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“A book is much more than a delivery vehicle for its contents.” 15 likes
“The difference between a person who appreciates books, even loves them, and a collector is not only degrees of affection, I realized. For the former, the bookshelf is a kind of memoir; there are my childhood books, my college books, my favorite novels, my inexplicable choices. Many matchmaking and social networking websites offer a place for members to list what they're reading for just this reason: books can reveal a lot about a person. This is particularly true of the collector, for whom the bookshelf is a reflection not just of what he has read but profoundly of who he is: 'Ownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have to objects. Not that they can come alive in him; it is he who comes alive in them,' wrote cultural critic Walter Benjamin.” 13 likes
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