Monday, October 11, 2010

Books By Theme: Life on the Wrong Side of the Law

Man who loved books too much by Allison Hoover Bartlett book coverThe Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession 
by Allison Hoover Bartlett

Is a thief less culpable if he steals for love rather than profit? John Gilkey has stolen more than $100,000 worth of rare books, a "hobby" that has landed him in jail on numerous occasions. Yet Gilkey pilfers books in order to build his own collection, believing that one day he'll be admired for what he's accumulated. In The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, author Allison Bartlett tells not just Gilkey's unusual story, but also that of Ken Saunders, the rare book dealer who has made it his personal quest to bring Gilkey to justice.

confessions of a master jewel thief by Bill Mason book cover
Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief
by Bill Mason and Lee Gruenfeld

If the phrase "cat burglar" conjures up intriguing images of a Cary Grant-like thief breaking elegantly into the homes of the rich and famous, then Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief is a book for you. Bill Mason freely shares the dubious story of how he stole millions of dollars worth of jewelry from luminaries such as Bob Hope, Phyllis Diller, and Johnny Weissmuller (though he returned Weissmuller's Olympic gold medal). In addition to discussing the details of his crimes, Mason also describes the toll his work took on his family, offers insight into the criminal justice system, and provides tips for deterring burglars.

Five Finger Discount by Helene Stapinski book cover
Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History
by Helene Stapinski

Those who love reading about highly dysfunctional families will find plenty of fodder in Helene Stapinski's memoir of a Jersey City family filled with all manner of middling crooks, from bookies and con artists to embezzlers and mobster-wannabes. Expanding upon the story of her own unsavory childhood, Stapinski also introduces readers to life in pre-renaissance Jersey City, where rampant crime and little punishment was a way of life for many residents. Fans of Five-Finger Discount will also enjoy All Souls: A Family Story from Southie by Michael Patrick McDonald.

Jesse James by T. J. Stiles book cover
Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War
by T. J. Stiles

Americans often romanticize outlaws of the Wild West, and Jesse James is no exception. Raised in Mississippi, James fought with a group of lawless Confederate guerillas in the Civil War before embarking on a crime spree through America's frontier. Though some have gone so far as to portray James as a Robin Hood figure, in Jesse James, author T. J. Stiles asserts that James should more accurately be called a terrorist; operating with a political agenda, James used the media to promote a distorted interpretation of his crimes. Kirkus Reviews calls Jesse James "a thoroughly impressive, eminently readable work of revisionist history."

~ For more themed book lists, check out Listless by One Librarian's Book Reviews and Listed by Once Upon a Bookshelf ~ 


Lisa said...

Why do you suppose it is that we love books about criminals so much?

Unknown said...

I loved The Man who Loved Books Too Much.

I like this book theme your doing here Amanda.

Lisa -
I think we love drama as humans....especially if its not directly happening to us... then it stinks.

JaneGS said...

The Jesse James bio intrigues me--it's so easy to fall into a romantic view of the dirty, dangerous Old West and this book sounds like it doesn't reinforce that rosy view.

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