This month’s book for San Jose Public Library’s Online Book Club is The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett. This exciting book features the author enmeshing herself in the world of rare books. The book discusses collecting, dispenses facts about rare books and details the dogged determinism of Ken Sanders in stopping a book thief. Partially set in the Bay Area, this book has a wide cross section of interest; book lovers, true crime aficionados and a dash of technology and history. Each week, we'll put forth a different question to prompt reflection on the book and its ideas. We hope you will participate in the discussion by leaving comments below!
Question for Week 2: Why do book collectors go to such great lengths to obtain their prized books?
Rare books signify originality and taste. Books in the 19th century and before were hand bound and strong, meant to last. They were embroidered, and decorated. First editions must come with dust jackets to be valuable and the condition of the book is very important to its worth. There are only so many true rarities. And the more a copy of a book is read, the more its usage shows. So Gilkey was right to not read the books very often, that would lower the value. Like collectible cars or antiques, the less it's used the better.
Often collectors are attached to a book from their childhood or they want to own something they feel is culturally significant. It could be a perfectionist strain of hobbying. They are banking on certain styles of literature being perpetually popular. The author does find some collectors who are interested in off beat books; they keep the field fresh by expanding the market. Some collectors are trying to find a relatively unknown author today, who will be the future's classic and definitive writer of the current era.