Thursday, May 10, 2012

Book (and other) Obsessions

Before I worked at the public library it was a dangerous place. I would ride my bike to the Main library with a short list of three titles to get. Once inside, my eyes would be drawn to displays, random book covers that looked interesting, music, etc. and I'd find myself staggering back to my bike with 20 items in hand, practically balancing them on my helmet for the ride home. I called it a book obsession, a relatively harmless disease for me.  Not so for others.

Alison Bartlett's The Man Who Loved Books Too Much is a fascinating story of the rare book world, and some who can't get enough of it. John Gilkey loves rare books, wants to own a collection of them and can't understand why the world hasn't provided him with enough money to purchase them.  Since he deserves to own these books (at least in his mind), he must come up with another way of obtaining them.  Suffice it to say, none of his methods are legal, but they do make for a fascinating tale.

As I've been listening to this book on my commute, it brings to mind another book of obsession, The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean. Similar story of thievery and the eccentric world of collecting, but instead of books the focus is on orchids and other rare plants. This is an older book and we don't have many copies, so I recommend watching the film Adaptation while you're waiting on the reserve list.

Finally, I think the author A.J. Jacobs just belongs in the dictionary as the definition of obsession itself. From reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, to living biblically for a year, to trying a different self-help fad each month for a year, A.J. just doesn't know when to stop. At least he can amuse the rest of us whenever a new obsession hits him.

~More Books

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