No one can say I don’t stick to my New Year’s resolutions……..
Last week I read The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett. I’m going to be straight-up with you guys- when I first picked up this book at my local B&N, I totally thought it was fiction. I took one look at the title and thought “Oh, I’m in.” and bought it. As it turns out, this book in non-fiction, which is awesome except this was a fiction week, nevertheless I got really crazy wild and decided to continue reading a non-fiction during a fiction week. I am such a wild woman.
So check it, I LOVED this book. It was quite the page turner. This isn’t a book you read a chapter of a night. This is a book you read until your eyes literally pop-out and then you rest them for a while but get straight back to the book when they are firmly back in-socket. To be honest, one of the things that attracted me the most was the title – I mean, that is a killer title for a book. I already told you what my first thought about this book was, but my second thought was “No way is there such a thing as loving books too much.” I still don’t think there is such a thing as loving books too much but this book did make me think about the reasons why I love books so much. Gilkey, the thief, loved books because of the status he thought they brought him. Books made him feel rich- not that he was- just that they made him feel that way. And it wasn’t even so much about reading all of them (He thought Lolita had little moral fiber….this coming from a thief), it was more about the way they made him feel. Interesting. Gilkey is a criminal but he has such an interesting psyche- there were several times I had to re-read what he said because I was sure I had it wrong the first time, he didn’t seem to have a strong grounding in reality and yet he comes across so average. Gilkey stole rare books not for profit, but (supposedly) for love. I have to say, of all the types of crimes I’ve read about this one makes the most sense to me, although I’m much more interested in saving money to buy a first edition than stealing one. Prison would not suit me. But to be honest, I don’t think Gilkey loved books so much. I think he was just a kleptomaniac who stole rare books because it was easier than stealing jewelry- at least it was much less guarded. Sanders is the rare book dealer turned detective that catches Gilkey. He was incredibly fascinating as well. Not because he loved books so much but because he took a job he hadn’t asked for, security chairman of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America, and carried it out so diligently. I mean, Gilkey stole books but the grand total of what he stole was about $100,000, which is not even close to what some very rare first editions are worth. (Seriously, a first edition Slaughter-House Five goes for about $7,000). Why was Sanders so hell-bent on catching Gilkey? Because it was his job I guess, although not one he got paid for or even- it seems- likes that much. More than anything, what I really loved about this book was the tales of bibliomania, my favorite being the story of a professor who had to sleep on a cot in his kitchen because his home was filled with 90 tons of books. Some would call that crazy, I call that a dream come true. Do I suffer from bibliomania? No, I don’t think so. I wouldn’t be willing to kill anyone for a book, and I wouldn’t trade my relationships for them either. I just love books. A lot. A lot a lot. And though I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a bibliomaniac, I realized after reading this book, that I love books, but I’m no maniac. Which, was nice to realize actually.