Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett

45. The Man Who Loved Books Too Much
by Allison Hoover Bartlett
nonfiction, 2009
library book
unabridged audio read by Judith Brackley
finished, 8/8/10

I expected to like this book more than I did. I'm sure it is a big hit among book lovers, but I thought it quite weird and sad. Part of it is the subject matter, but also I was uncomfortable with the writer and how she went about her work. When I finished I found myself thinking how Truman Capote got caught up in the In Cold Blood story. He formed a relationship with the killers, as Allison Hoover Bartlett did with the criminal, John Charles Gilkey, the man who stole expensive rare books.

There is an early article by the author on the subject here.

I have a really hard time understanding someone who, 1. steals anything and 2. steals books he doesn't love or even read. I know the book has gotten raves, but the subject matter just isn't for me. It was troubling to me that the guy got the idea from reading John Dunning's Cliff Janeway series.

Although I do feel it is important to preserve old books, I found the whole world of antiquarian bookselling to be most unappealing. And I don't get 'manias' period. And I am not a collector of anything. And I don't care if what I read is a first edition or signed or mine or from the library. So, you may ask, why did she finish the book. And I can't tell you the answer.


  1. It's like a magnet though, if you are a bit obsessed with books, to be drawn to stories about them.
    Still reread Farenheit 451 and have been wanting a copy of the mystery/thriller about antiquarian books by (I think) Stephen King.
    This does look interesting.

  2. I guess that's why the book is a hit, Julie. I just thought the guy was mentally unstable and wasn't interested in him or his life. F451 is a great story, and movie. 'what do you think, Linda?' is one of the phrases Tom and I use all the time. :<)

  3. I had this home from the library but after a few days took it back. I kind of feel the same way you do, Nan. Just didn't have a good feeling about the book so didn't read it. These are my favorite books about books: USED AND RARE by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone, HOW READING CHANGED MY LIFE by Anna Quindlan, and EX-LIBRIS by Anne Fadiman. There are others, of course, but those are my top three.
    Have you read them? Oh, and here's a good fiction read: THE BOOK OF AIR AND SHADOWS by Michael Gruber. It's a terrific story (and oh-so-well written) about the hunt for a 'lost' play of Shakespeare's. Don't miss it.If you haven't already read it, that is. :)

  4. Sorry the book wasn't a good one. I don't like when I think a book is going to be great and it is a let down. Hope your next one is grand!

  5. I love the John Dunning, Cliff Janeway, books and it was from this source that my love of collecting first editions was born. Nothing pleases me more than finding a first edition, or completing the works of a favorite author, by shopping used books and library sales. I've been a book lover since childhood. My first purchase with a saved-up allowance was a boxed set of My Friend Flicka and Thunderhead, by Mary O'Hara. I am a collector on a small scale and each book in my little library is a warm friend.

  6. I am so obsessed by books (especially old ones), but can't understand anyone deriving pleasure from something unearned. I guess I'm with you on this one. I'll pass, although looking at the cover makes me smile.

    Do you think he could become "The Man Who Stole Kindles?"

    Thanks dear,

    Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

  7. Sorry this did not work for you Nan. I thought it was okay, but that was a long while ago it seems.

    Hope u r having a great week.

  8. I don't know if I'd want to read this book for pretty much the same reasons you state. Although I enjoyed reading the book about Scrabble maniacs" I forget the name right now -- but at least that's a legal obsession.

    I had to laugh when you said you didn't know why you finished the book. I occasionally have the urge to throw a book across the room at the end of it -- because I keep plugging away at it even though I've known that I wasn't enjoying it for quite a few pages -- and when I finished it I just think "why didn't I stop this when I first realized how much I didn't like this book?"

    (I've never actually thrown one , but I expect it wouldn't be as satisfying with an audio book!)

  9. I'm currently reading a book that I can't seem to quit on in spite of not really liking it all that well. Don't ask me why!

  10. Dear Nan: Your comment about not being fussy about where your books come from reminded me of something I've enjoyed immensely about your book reviews: they often feature library books! So many book blogs (many of which I adore) only feature shiny new editions--so seeing the battered, taped, "previously loved" editions makes me smile. I'm on the board of the public Library in our city, and seeing such evidence of Library use is great!

  11. Yvette, thank you for the recommendations. I've read the Quindlan and Fadiman books and liked them both. I'll look into the others.

    Sherri, I so seldom finish a book I don't really like that this was quite a rarity and a surprise that I stayed with it.

    Jill, that is what I understand completely! This guy wasn't like you at all. He was just too weird for me to connect with.
    I read My Friend Flicka as an adult and was surprised to find it such a complex story - not really a kid's book in some ways.

    Sharon, I feel that way, too. And that he didn't really love the stories. It reminds me of those people who have an interior designer set up a 'library' in their houses but they don't read the books - they are just for show. So strange to me.

    Bibliophile, it was 'ok' in some parts - but the hoarding of books not ever to be read was so weird to me.

    Sallie, I usually do quit if I don't like a book. Maybe I stayed with this because it was an audio book? I'll be doing a post about the summer and audios soon.

    Les, it is a really rare thing for me to continue, as you know. I think what I just wrote to Sallie may be the key.

    Rebecca, I LOVE the library. If it weren't for the library, I wouldn't have 'met' Miss Read, Gladys Taber, D.E. Stevenson - on and on.

  12. Jill, thanks for reminding me of the Cliff Janeway books by John Dunning. I've read them all and learned a bit about book collecting along the way. I too treasure some signed first/first editions that are on my bookshelves. But now I mainly use the library as well. I understand that Dunning is seriously ill so I don't think there will be anymore Janeway books. Sad.

  13. Yvette, it is hard to get info on Dunning's condition. I did read he had a benign brain tumor partially removed four years ago. There was hope he would begin writing again, but I haven't heard anything more. My favorite book by him is Two O'Clock Eastern Wartime. Have you read it?

  14. I am glad I read your review. I was drawn to this book by the cover and title, but it doesn't sound like I would really enjoy it.

  15. Rose City Reader, I'd hate to put anyone off trying the book. I was just saying how I personally felt. You might want to read a bit and see what you think.


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