Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Book Thief, by Travis McDade

No, the OTHER Book Thief. This one is a true account of a guy who stole a lot of books. And maps, and manuscripts, and letters.

What I thought of this book
: Well, I liked it okay. Maybe about 3 stars. Maybe only 2 1/2. I did finish it, which I won't if I really don't like the book. Except for the chapter which describes, in exhaustive detail, the history and philosophy of sentencing guidelines. I skipped most of that. I think that this would have been a great long article, rather than short book. It also could have used a really talented editor. And maybe a slightly less biased author. On the other hand, this is a really interesting story, one I'm glad to have discovered.

Where I heard about this book
: I saw it in the library catalog as I was placing a hold on the Markus Zusak book of the same name.

What this book is about
: This is the story of a man called, among other things, Daniel Spiegelman. A canny criminal and apparently all-around unpleasant character who managed to steal hundreds of documents from the rare books library at Columbia. The book describes the crime and the efforts of both librarians and law enforcement to determine who he was and how he'd managed to steal so much stuff without detection. A great deal of the book is given over to the sentencing trial, which takes place in several segments over the course of a year. This leads to an interesting discussion of whether rare and ancient manuscripts should be valued above what they could get in the marketplace. Does the theft of these types of items deprive the world of an opportunity for scholarship that outweighs their mere cash value? The presiding judge in this case seemed to think so.

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