I really enjoyed the way The Man Who Loved Books Too Much was written. The author’s style was very conversational and she did a nice job of blending descriptions of her own experience with those of her two “main characters” the book dealer/detective and the thief. I really enjoyed her attempts to understand why so many people love and collect rare books, including dabbling in collecting herself. As she concludes, a lot of people build an identity out of the books they collect. For that reason, I very much enjoyed her descriptions of the collectors she met, the sort of books they collected and the the reasons for their collections. The book was definitely less of a thriller or a mystery than I though it might be, but there were a few moments of tense anticipation and certainly lots of curiosity about what might happen next. As Erik Larson said in his own review, it really was “the author’s cozy, quiet style” which kept me turning the pages on this one. I felt like a friend was relating a story to me.
Although a few of the book dealers the author interviewed were afraid this book would be too much of a glorification of the thief, I think the author did a very nice job presenting both sides of the story. She does definitely come down on the side of the book dealers though and based on quotes from her interviews with the thief, I very much agree with her. I feel as though I came away from the book with some interesting insights into the rather warped perspective which allowed the thief to believe his actions were justified.
Connections – Two connections from this section to my life. First, I stayed in one of the hotels where the thief was caught in a sting operation! A very nice Sheraton near Stanford University (where I stayed during grad school interviews there) which the author accurately describes as suffering “from a split personality: Spanish-style architecture on the outside…and pan-Asian details…on the inside”. And second, I have come away from this determined to attend a rare book festival. I love being around books and while I value them more for their content than their physical presence (unlike many of the collectors in the book) I do love browsing for books! Unfortunately, the only book fair in my area is in July, but I’ve already put it on my calendar for next year.
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much – 4 stars – An engrossing story, especially for those who can understand the love the collectors in the story feel for their books.