Bibliomania by the Bay

Allison Hoover Bartlett's The Man Who Loved Books Too Much is book porn of the highest order. As befitting the genre, it’s filled with rare books, rare bookstores, tales of famous collectors and collections, and author ephemera — if the words “J.D. Salinger autographed first edition” get you excited, this is your book. But it has two unexpected twists: First, it’s set almost entirely in San Francisco, and if you’ve ever tried to tell someone how cool the Concourse’s California International Antiquarian Book Fair is, you’ll give silent thanks to Bartlett, who knows exactly that. Second, it’s also set in a local prison, and one of the main characters is a book thief who worked at the Union Square Saks. His tale is crazy: He stole credit card numbers from customers, used them to buy rare books — maybe hundreds of them — from all over the Bay Area (and the country), and then he deposited his booty in his shabby apartment on Treasure Island. He didn’t steal to get rich, but to get a nice collection and be admired. He’s been in and out of jail, but barely — the man who did most of the investigative legwork was not a cop but a rare-book dealer. The thief is still out there right now, actually, stealing books (last port of call: Canada). His name is John Gilkey. Like we said, he likes to be admired — and what better place to be admired than at an author reading of his story. High alert, local booksellers!
Fri., Oct. 2, 7 p.m., 2009

 
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