The Man Who Loved "The Man Who Loved Books Too Much"

May 26, 2011

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

Wikipedia defines "bibliomania" as "an obsessive–compulsive disorder involving the collecting or hoarding of books to the point where social relations or health are damaged." Having "bibliomania" is probably bad, but being a "bibliophile" (someone who "who loves to read, admire and collect books, often amassing a large and specialized collection"), is more admirable.

Do we have a word the digital book (audio and e-book) enthusiasts among us? Maybe "digi-bibliophile" or "e-bibliophile"? Can I trademark these terms? (A quick google search, done after thinking of the name, shows that I did not get to this first - oh well).

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much is about bibliomaniacs, bibliophiles, and all the people in between. Bartlett structures her story around a John Gilkey, a mentally unbalanced thief who managed to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of rare books via credit card fraud in the 1990s. Gilkey's crimes give us a window into the rarified world of rare book dealing and collecting.

I had no idea that there exists an "Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America" (ABAA), or that antiquarian book shows were such a big deal. It came as a surprise to me that rare book collectors collect mostly not to read their acquisitions, that the value of the book is less in its content but in its scarcity and historical significance. The catchphrase in rare book circles is to "never judge a book by its contents". Only first edition, first run books - in mint condition with their dust jackets intact - are valuable.

Some people think that the ascension of e-books will only increase the value of paper books that are beautifully constructed and have historical significance. The thinking goes that the rise of e-books will make paper books even more rare, and that we will do the bulk of our reading digitally while cherishing those certain physical books that we have an emotional connection with. Maybe.

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much is a great read for the bibliophiles, e-bibliophiles, and e-bibliomaniacs among us. Highly recommended.

What books are you reading (or collecting)?


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