This slim little nonfiction book is weightier than its size suggests. McDade is a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law, and I imagine his classes must be fascinating. In Thieves he has perfectly blended history, law, and bibliophilia. In less than 200 pages of text, he recounts the history of the thriving booksellers’ district in New York known as Book Row, the infancy of public librarianship on the East Coast, the individual lives of the library detectives, book thieves, and booksellers, and the various methods thieves used to identify, steal, and disguise valuable library books.
The book does incline to be academic. The writing is (very occasionally) dry, and the lengthy cast of characters can be hard to follow, particularly as many used aliases. But overall, it’s the most fun I’ve had reading about book theft since library school. Required reading for library staff, historians, and literate street gangs.
Read if you enjoyed: Bookhunter by Jason Shiga, Scribes, Script, and Books by Leila Avrin