True Crime has always been a guilty pleasure of mine – maybe it’s the lawyer in me. Generally not the violent stuff (although Truman Capote’s classic In Cold Blood and Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City are two of my all-time favorites); I gravitate more toward true stories of con men, conterfeiters and swindlers. I’m not sure what that says about me. I try not to think too hard about it.
Like many of the most interesting (to me) literary true crime books, The Man Who Loved Books Too Much explores the nuts and bolts of how a crime was committed, but also takes a shot at understanding the thief’s motivation. And all of this is set against the background of the arcane (and often seedy) world of rare book collecting, which is fascinating in itself. I’ve been lucky enough to tap into a stream of similarly rich true crime books recently: The Forger’s Spell, about a master Vermeer forger and the art collecting world he duped; The Billionaire’s Vinegar (wine collecting and forgery); The Art of Making Money (counterfeiting); and The Poet and the Murderer (forged Emily Dickinson poems). Riveting stuff all, particularly if you have a taste for reading about the dark side of humanity.