The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett

the maan who loved books too muchPublished by Riverhead Books, 2009 *****

Any lover of books would adore this particular story that combines true crime, psychological analysis, and some good old fashioned bibliomania. John Gilkey is a man with grand ambitions and a limited budget. He aspires to own a world-class personal library of rare books, but lacks the necessary funds to acquire such sought after collectables. He also lacks a conscience. He is more interested in being perceived as a man of culture, and he has no scruples about stealing to fulfill his grand desires. Over the years he acquired hundreds of rare and valuable books by writing bad checks and stealing credit card numbers. It is obvious he has a skewed perception of reality and he rationalizes his thefts by life’s unfairness, claiming that the world owes him. “What must it be like… to view the world in such a way, to feel entitled to all one desired and to be able to justify oneself any means of obtaining it?”

But it’s more than just Gilkey’s criminal history presented here. There’s a glimpse into the lives of the dealers he victimized, the community of book sellers that put him [temporarily] behind bars, and the motives of legitimate book collectors. The author concludes that Gilkey has not stopped acquiring books illegally, but his activities have been greatly constricted because of his convictions, though the majority of his stolen cache is still out there somewhere. Perhaps there will be another installment detailing more of Gilkey’s crimes as they become known. I would certainly read it!



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Nonfiction November – Added to My TBR

nonfiction november 2014

Nonfiction November is wrapping up, and I wanted to share with you books I have added to my TBR…

Thanks to again to the lovely ladies who hosted:  Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, Leslie at Regular Rumination, Katie at Doing Dewey, and Rebecca at I’m Lost in Books!


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The Reluctant Midwife by Patricia Harman

the reluctant midwifePublished by William Morrow, March 2005 ****

Though not quite as captivating as The Midwife of Hope River, this was still a very solid follow up novel. It skillfully portrayed the difficulty and desperation of the Great Depression in rural Virginia, told from the perspective of Nurse Becky Myers. Becky returns to Hope River in an attempt to establish some sort of life for herself and her catatonic charge, Dr. Isaac Bluhm. Both the nurse and the doctor have experienced tragedies, but Isaac’s past has left him a shell of a man. Becky is tough, smart, and quick to solve problems, but she has her own insecurities and flaws, which makes her all the more relatable.

Midwife Patience Murphy returns as a calming presence and a force to be reckoned with. Taking Becky under her wing, they do whatever they can to survive the harsh conditions of their situation. Though no one has much, the entire community comes together to provide support. As Becky finds her footing and Isaac returns to himself, their purpose in Hope River becomes clear and they heroically rally to save lives. It’s a great story of determination, cooperation, and loyalty.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.

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Bookish (and not so bookish) Thoughts

I decided I needed one extra nonfiction book to tie me over for the rest of the month in honor of Nonfiction November, so I meandered over to my TBR pile and picked The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett.

the maan who loved books too much

I love this quote at the beginning of the book.  I’m going to have to print bookmarks for whenever I lend a book:

For him that stealeth, or borroweth and returneth not, this book from its owner… let him me struck with palsy, & all his members blasted… Let bookworms gnaw his entrails in token of the Worm that dieth not, & when at last he goeth to his final punishment, let the flames of Hell consume him forever. –Anathema in a medieval manuscript from the Monastery of San Pedro in Barcelona

And for good measure, I’m reading snippets from Unsolved Mysteries of American History.  I’m not a huge American history buff, but I think I might enjoy this.  A few pages of historical anecdotes in small doses here and there…

I was reading this Huffington Post Books article and you know I love gore and disturbing things.  When I read this about Ian McEwan’s novel, The Innocent, I was like, Why haven’t I read this yet?!  I own it!

Then the pair have to dispose of the body. The scene in which they cut up Otto’s body is the most vivid, the most gruesome and the most horribly believable disposal of a body I’ve ever read.

Every year for my birthday, The Hubs indulges me with a box of books.  I have earmarked several on my Amazon Wish List for him to purchase for me.  No, they won’t be a surprise, but these are books I reallyreallyreally want and I’m thinking I’m going to devote to December reading whatever the hell I want for the fun of it.  New Jodi, book 3 in the Follett trilogy, The Goldfinch, among others.  So much to anticipate!

Amazingly enough, I have no Vine, review, or tour books in my queue!

I’m having a little get-together the weekend after Thanksgiving and I wanted to keep the food prep relatively simple.  I’m going to get two crockpots going, one for Jack Daniels pulled pork, and the other for buffalo chicken.  A few different types of buns and some fixings and Slider Bar!

I’ve been quite the chef lately, trying new recipes from Pinterest and I’ve found things even Super Picky ShortMan enjoys.  This week we’re going to try parmesan baked pork chops.  This past weekend I made chicken gyros and homemade tzatziki sauce.  Two weeks ago we made a batch of balsamic vinegar glazed pork.  Screw the pork, we are going to put this glaze on everything.

We got iPhone 6’s a couple of weeks ago and these things are pretty sweet.  I thought my 4 was working just fine, but man, compared to the new one, it was super slow, the battery sucked, and the 3G was struggling.  I like how everything mapped over from the cloud, even my ringtones.  The one thing that really pissed me off was that I lost my Simpsons game.  I had to start my Springfield over from scratch after building it for 3+ years.  First world problems, right?

Have you ever heard of Eucalyptus sheets?  I bought some a month or so ago and they are The Shit.  They seem to retain heat better than cotton (and supposedly stay cool in the summer), and they’re super soft and silky.  You must get some.  Or at least go to a Bed Bath and Beyond to cop a feel.

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Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer

seven years in tibetPublished by Tarcher, 1997 (first published 1952) *****

The most enjoyable aspect of Herrer’s memoir is his straightforward approach and the accessibility of his narrative. While he is very matter-of-fact in recounting his experiences, he also expresses his awe and wonder of a land so few westerners have had access to. I initially thought the book would be more about his personal relationship with the Dalai Lama, but Herrer doesn’t even reach Lhasa until halfway through the book and does not meet His Holiness in person until the last quarter. It is remarkable how over the course of seven years, Herrer went from a destitute escaped POW, traversing the Himalaya in search of safe passage, to a respected member of the Lhasa community and a confidante of the Dalai Lama.

I appreciated the way he portrayed the Tibetans, acknowledging that though they are superstitious and often uneducated, they are intelligent and resourceful in their own right. I was especially moved by the Dalai Lama’s endearing curiosity and aptitude for learning. But as the Chinese encroach upon Tibet’s borders, it is clear that the way of life the natives have known for centuries is threatened.

“…in the old scriptures it was prophesied that a great power from the north would overrun Tibet, destroy religion, and make itself master of the whole world.” The fate of the nation is certainly tragic, and it was heartbreaking that the Dalai Lama had to flee upon reaching his majority and ascending to his throne. Herrer gives a voice to the occupied and exiled Tibetans and it is and enduring testament to the plight of his adoptive country.

Side note:  I appreciated that Harrer encountered a few of the people mentioned in Lost in Tibet, and acknowledged the presence of the American airmen just a few years before his own arrival.



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Nonfiction November – Diversity

nonfiction november 2014

I don’t have a whole lot to say on this week’s topic of Diversity and Nonfiction:

 What does “diversity” in books mean to you? Does it refer to book’s location or subject matter? Or is it the author’s nationality or background? What countries/cultures do you tend to enjoy or read about most in your nonfiction? What countries/cultures would you like nonfiction recommendations for? What kind of books besides different countries/cultures do you think of as books of diversity?

I don’t care to define diversity and what it means to me, but I do try to broaden my horizons when a subject intrigues me.  For instance, this month I’m reading about Tibet, having finished Lost in Tibet and I’m almost through with Seven Years in Tibet.  They seemed like good companion books when I selected some nonfiction books from by TBR shelf.  Previously I read and enjoyed Escape from the Land of Snows: The Young Dalai Lama’s Harrowing Flight to Freedom and the Making of a Spiritual Hero by Stephan Talty and Murder in the High Himalaya: Loyalty, Tragedy, and Escape from Tibet by Jonathan Green and those definitely piqued my interest in Tibetan history and the political upheaval in the region during the 20th century.  I’ve always been interested in Asian culture, but one that is so steeped in mystery and tragedy makes for powerful storytelling.

Sorry, I got off track there.  Back to Diversity (in a very broad sense)…  The most wonderful thing happens when exploring a certain period of history: one topics leads to further curiosity on related subjects.  Some of examples from my own experiences would be:

  • Romanovs –> Russian Revolution
  • Israel –> Jewish Diaspora
  • WWII –>Partition of Berlin

So it is these particular topics that I am looking for further recommendations on from my fellow NonFicNov-ers.  Please and thank you!


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Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar

vanessa and her sisterPublished by Ballantine Books, December 2014 ***

I was initially intrigued by a fictionalized account of Virginia Woolf’s life as told by her sister Vanessa. When I realized it was an epistolary novel, I was even more excited. Too bad there just wasn’t enough substance to make it captivating. Yes, we get a glimpse of the famed Bloomsbury Group, but the entire book takes place before Virginia is a novelist or even a Woolf. She is an unmarried literary critic who is so jealous of her sister, she will do anything to sabotage her happiness. While it does demonstrate her volatile character, I don’t really like to read about people who are so utterly selfish and constantly brooding. Her brushes with madness could have been explored more, but from Vanessa’s perspective, Virginia’s episodes are an inconvenience.

As for the cast of eccentric characters that orbit the sisters, while they are an interesting bunch, these people do horrid things to their friends. They can be spiteful and carry on with flirtations and affairs without regard to anyone else’s feelings. While they consider themselves progressive and modern, seeking to challenge social convention, they are a pretentious lot. As much as I enjoyed the epistolary device, I didn’t think the characters warranted much esteem.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via the Goodreads First Reads program.

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