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

Extended Audio Sample The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession, by Allison Hoover Bartlett Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (4,303 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Allison Hoover Bartlett Narrator: Judith Brackley Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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John Charles 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. Journalist Allison Hoover Bartlett befriended both eccentric characters and found herself caught in the middle of efforts to recover hidden treasure. With a mixture of suspense, insight, and humor, she not only reveals exactly how Gilkey pulled off his dirtiest crimes 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 listener 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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A captivating cat-and-mouse game and a fascinating exploration of why people are so passionate about books.”

    Julia Flynn Siler, New York Times bestselling author of The House of Mondavi

  • “Bartlett’s sketches of bibliomania are breezily drawn and often fascinating.”

    New York Times

  • “Tautly written, wry, and thoroughly compelling, The Man Who Loved Books Too Much unfolds like a great mystery.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “[An] excellent tale of people’s intimate, complex, and sometimes dangerous relationships to books.”

    Library Journal (starred review)

  • “Brackley’s enthusiasm is welcome; she excels when exploring the minutiae and arcana of the book collecting subculture.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “[Brackley’s] soft voice, often near a toned whisper, adds the right atmosphere to a biography of a creepy man and a reporter’s long search for his motive.”


  • A Library Journal Best Audiobook
  • A Library Journal Best Book

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Valley Cottage Library | 2/9/2014

    " What keeps a librarian up at night? John Gilkey is the answer. Gilkey is a subject of this true crime tale of book theft. While primarily stealing from rare book stores, libraries are not safe from the bibliomania of this man that led him to be incarcerated again and again for the same crimes - book theft. The author befriends Gilkey and takes the reader not only into his world where he feels that it is his right to possess these books, but the reader also journeys into the world of the booksellers who the victims of the crimes. One judge terms theft of book as crimes against humanity because these books often are never recovered. What made me read this book now? An announcement on a library discussion list that Gilkey was just released from prison and for book industry folks to be on the alert. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Anne | 1/31/2014

    " The synopsis for this book reminded me of Edward Dolnick's books about art theft. Though this time, with books as the object of desire, I figured it was even more up my alley. This book focuses on John Gilkey, a man obsessed with books - not necessarily for their stories, but for their value. He fancies himself a sort of aristocrat who deserves the life and respect he believes comes with owning rare first editions and other highly sought after collectors items. He makes his way through book shows and used bookstores swindling owners left and right. The author meets with him in prison in an effort to understand why he steals. In addition she meets with the man who hunted Gilkey down, as well as various booksellers to understand the world of bookselling, and to uncover how such a wide-spread deception could occur. While the fundamental premise of this book is fascinating to me - unfortunately, I did not feel completely satisfied with the execution. I thought that the author touched on the psychological problems Gilkey suffered from and made an effort to speak to his family hoping to uncover more. In the end, however, I thought the book posed more questions than answers. This did, however, open my eyes to an entirely new world with respect to book loving. I don't really understand the value in old books - I just like them for their stories - though I do appreciate some good cover art. I'm not a collector of objects, so paying large sums for books that will never actually be touched or read is foreign to me. I thought the author explored this well - why Gilkey would become enamored with such a world, and how the various players in this world interact. I think so much more could have been done with the book, but it is an interesting story about a very strange character. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Glenda | 1/31/2014

    " I saw this on the library shelf, was intrigued and am pleased I decided to read it. Allison Bartlett does a great job of writing an interesting story about rare books, a true life book thief and the book seller whose passion involves catching thieves as well as selling rare books. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Tom Buske | 1/29/2014

    " A pretty good story of the identity thief who uses stolen credit card information to buy rare books and, to his mind, establish his reputation as a gentleman and scholar. His complete and utter lack of remorse is somewhat interesting. What isn't so much is all the rumination on why books fascinate collectors so. I guess I don't have a lot of interest in that question, a fact that was brought home when it was mentioned that book collectors rarely read the books they collect. As an indefatigable reader, this to me is literally judging a book by it's cover. "

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About the Author
Author Allison Hoover Bartlett

Allison Hoover Bartlett works as a freelance writer for newspapers and magazines. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Salon, the San Francisco Magazine, Alternative Health, and other publications. Her story about a rare book thief that was published in San Francisco Magazine was included in Best American Crime Reporting 2007. Bartlett is a cofounder of the writing group North 24th, and she works at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and two children.