Book Description: "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.
John 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."
This book is a great example of why "don't judge a book by it's cover" goes both ways. At first glance, everything about it appealed to me: the collection of antique books, the mystery man, the subtitle: "true story!" "detective!" "literary obsession!" The title was ridiculous, but I was willing to overlook that. Suffice it to say, I was disappointed.
In short, this book was rarely engaging.
In long, it could have been so much more. For starters, I found myself annoyed with the author at every turn. Part of this is personal---while she may like to read, she doesn't LOVE books. She doesn't understand the mind of a collector. She doesn't get why someone would forego decent groceries in order to keep themselves stocked in books. I suppose I shouldn't fault her for that...but I do. The other thing that bugged me the most was the constant switching between Gilkey's and Sanders's story lines, peppered with random pop-ups of random stories that didn't follow Gilkey or Sanders. It seems the author couldn't decide what kind of a book she wanted to write, but she knew she wanted it to be about book thieves. Oh, and book collecting. Oh yeah, and other bookish stuff to help fill space. This idea could possibly work somewhere in some book---but in this one, it's very choppy and convoluted.
I started this new paragraph to get away from picking on the author...but there's actually more. She's a mix of pushy, naive and flighty, in a senior-class-president sort of way. She comes across as super narrow-minded on page 112 when she says, "It occurred to me how unusual it is to see a person of color at a rare book fair or store. This has been an old-white-man's game for a long time, but it appeared, at that moment, that perhaps things were changing." First off, she makes it clear in other places that hanging out at rare book fairs and stores has never been her thing before researching this book so she's making dumb assumptions with no proof. Secondly, does she think 21st century San Francisco has been the book-buying hub of the universe for the last 500 years? Does she not realize that there are, and have been, rare books being bought, the world over, by people from all cultures---most of them NOT rich white guys from Cali? Ugh.
Moving on to the story...there were some interesting parts, for sure. I especially liked learning about the different amazing books that are out there and how much they're worth. It was crushing to hear how much theft goes on and goes unreported. I also found myself asking if I could ever bring myself to steal a book I desperately wanted. I decided that I wouldn't---but the desire would be there. Deeply.
I could relate to those who would pay a seemingly outrageous price for a coveted book---but I couldn't relate to Gilkey. His motives for stealing the books were never clearly laid out by the author, though I got the feeling that she was attempting to make them known. She threw in a mention once or twice that he enjoyed reading...but, you know...
I got the impression that Gilkey wasn't necessarily enamored of books in particular---he'd just found an obsession and latched on. I found it frustrating that the author didn't dig more deeply into the mental issues that were so obviously there. She barely touched the idea of his mental state, deciding he must be fine since a judge had ruled that way "that one time"... A study of the disorders that would cause a person to act in ALL the weird ways Gilkey did would have been really beneficial to this story and would have helped flesh out the character a bit.
The book ends without one knowing it. A little Gilkey ramble and then she's done. I can't describe how utterly irritated I am with this woman's writing. The only consolation is that the book is short. I wanted to abandon it so many times, but had already invested several nights to slogging through it by the time I was really ready to chuck it across the attic.
Released 4 wks ago (10/19/2017 UTC) at A Fellow Bookcrosser in Controlled Release, --by post or by hand (ie ring, ray, RABCK, trade) -- Controlled Releases
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
Sending to rhythmbiscuit for the nonfiction VBB. Enjoy!
To the finder of this book:
This book is gift, no strings attached, from me to you. You may keep it forever, pass it along to a friend, or release it into the wild to be found by someone else.
If you are new to BookCrossing, welcome! Enjoy the site, the book, and the BookCrossing community. I hope you'll join us...it's free! If you do, please consider using me, elizardbreath, as your referring member. You can even remain anonymous if you wish!
I hope you'll make a brief journal entry so all the previous and future readers can track this book's journey.
Thanks, and Happy BookCrossing! :)