Tag: american animals

Bookstr’s Three To Read This Week 03/13

Welcome back, book lovers! These are some scary times, with what seems like every major city taking drastic steps to limit the spread of a certain novel virus. Take some time out from the panic and take a look at our Three to Read. After all, with schools closing and people working from home, the books on our TBR lists finally have a shot at getting read! Settle down, brew a tea, and let’s get into it.


hot pick

The body politic

by Brian Platzer

The Body Politic: A Novel by [Platzer, Brian]


New York City is still regaining its balance in the years following 9/11, when four twenty-somethings—Tess, Tazio, David, and Angelica—meet in a bar, each yearning for something: connection, recognition, a place in the world, a cause to believe in. Nearly fifteen years later, as their city recalibrates in the wake of the 2016 election, their bond has endured—but almost everything else has changed.

As freshmen at Cooper Union, Tess and Tazio were the ambitious, talented future of the art world—but by thirty-six, Tess is married to David, the mother of two young boys, and working as an understudy on Broadway. Kind and steady, David is everything Tess lacked in her own childhood—but a recent freak accident has left him with befuddling symptoms, and she’s still adjusting to her new role as caretaker.

Meanwhile, Tazio—who once had a knack for earning the kind of attention that Cooper Union students long for—has left the art world for a career in creative branding and politics. But in December 2016, fresh off the astonishing loss of his candidate, Tazio is adrift, and not even his gorgeous and accomplished fiancée, Angelica, seems able to get through to him. With tensions rising on the national stage, the four friends are forced to face the reality of their shared histories, especially a long-ago betrayal that has shaped every aspect of their friendship.


With the backdrop of societal uncertainty and political tyranny, this novel switches point of view periodically, introducing us to the inner workings of both the mind and human relationships. The novel has been praised for how it honestly – and brutally – hones in on the American political climate, which is particularly relevant in light of this year’s presidential race. It captures exactly how people felt during the trying times following two major events in history. The novel shows us just how linked our physical and emotional selves are to our political body. It is as insightful as it is truthful, and likely to resonate with a lot of readers, American or otherwise. 

“Brian Platzer has done something marvelous — transmuted the queasy early years of the Trump presidency into a novel that’s a delight to read. The Body Politic is a book about many things — what it means to be unwell, what it means to heal, how deep and strange friendships can be, and how hidden things never stay hidden for long. I was grateful for its engaging, empathetic company during these fractious times.” —Rachel Monroe, author of Savage Appetites



american animals 

by Eric Borsuk

American Animals: A True Crime Memoir by [Borsuk, Eric]


American Animals is a coming-of-age crime memoir centered around three childhood friends: Warren, Spencer, and Eric. Disillusioned with freshman year of college, and determined to escape from their mundane Middle-American existences, the three hatch a plan to steal millions of dollars’ worth of artwork and rare manuscripts from a university museum. The story that unfolds is a gripping adventure of teenage rebellion, from page-turning meetings with black-market art dealers in Amsterdam, to the opulent galleries of Christie’s auction house in Rockefeller Center. American Animals ushers the reader along a gut-wrenching ride of adolescent self-destruction, providing a front-row seat to the inception, planning, and execution of the heist, while offering a rare glimpse into the evolution of a crime—all narrated by one of the perpetrators in a darkly comic, action-packed, true-crime caper.


This memoir is fascinating, largely due to its completely true story. Little imagination is needed to see the story, when you can watch the film of the same name, and digest the media coverage of the case itself. American Animals takes the age-old story of young rebellion and a search for more, and turns it on its head. Borsuk’s writing is darkly comedic and bizarre, sure to keep you hooked. Plus, the novel rings in at a concise 147 pages, making it quickly digestible. You’ll be racing to the end.

“American Animals is a book unlike any I’ve ever read. The twist and turns and audacity can lend themselves to incredulity, but at the heart of this book is a humanness that even those shaking their heads the most will have to recognize. Eric Borsuk’s work here is as daring as any heist.”– Jared Yates Sexton, author of The People Are Going To Rise Like The Waters Upon Your Shore: A Story of American Rage. 


dark horse

you let me in

by Camilla Bruce

You Let Me In by [Bruce, Camilla]


Cassandra Tipp is dead…or is she?

After all, the notorious recluse and eccentric bestselling novelist has always been prone to flights of fancy—everyone in town remembers the shocking events leading up to Cassie’s infamous trial (she may have been acquitted, but the insanity defense only stretches so far).

Cassandra Tipp has left behind no body—just her massive fortune, and one final manuscript.

Then again, there are enough bodies in her past—her husband Tommy Tipp, whose mysterious disembowelment has never been solved, and a few years later, the shocking murder-suicide of her father and brother.

Cassandra Tipp will tell you a story—but it will come with a terrible price. What really happened, out there in the woods—and who has Cassie been protecting all along? Read on, if you dare…


This novel is a genre-bending mix of fairytale/folklore and mystery. It is frightening and thrilling all at once. Perfect for fans of Shirley Jackson, the story is unsettling and, at times, horrifying. It is a dark family drama that just so happens to have its fair share of evil faeries. You’ll be left guessing throughout the novel, making up your own assumptions, just to have them dashed at the next turn. The story is fast-paced and the fantasy elements set it apart from many other novels under the dark mystery umbrella. One thing is for sure, this is no bedtime story.

You Let Me In is a bewitching, beguiling, and deeply unsettling tale of one woman’s strange life. It will ensnare you from page one and keep you riveted until the end.” ―Caitlin Starling, author of The Luminous Dead.

all images via amazon, bookstr

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A man rappels from the ceiling into a pile of books. Dramatization.

A Brief History of 7 Book Heists

You shouldn’t take a page from these criminals’ books. While library theft and the black market rare book trade can offer up million-dollar scores, there are plenty of reasons why these thefts don’t work out. The first reason is that after the heist, the re-sale poses a second, greater risk of capture. The second reason is that, sometimes, the book thieves are stoned when they enter the library in old man costumes. For more book heist shenanigans, read on:

1. The Transylvania University Book Heist


Kentucky's Transylvania University - "Majoring in Crime"

Image Via Vanity Fair


Get ready for the first time you’ll hear the phrase “one part Ocean’s Eleven, one part Harold & Kumar” used to describe a large-scale heist… or really anything at all. Stoned out of their minds— not just then but also, perpetually—a group of four college students blundered through one of the FBI’s most significant cases of art theft (the story behind recent film American Animalsstarring Evan Peters). When student Warren Lipka’s beloved soccer coach father (Big Warren) amassed a big gambling debt, Small Warren (not his actual nickname) withdrew to the fringes of university life. After learning the basics of identity theft from a shady-but-still-preppy alumni, Lipka’s freshman orientation tour of Transylvania University’s library gave him a twelve-million-dollar idea: to steal the university’s first-edition copy of John James Audubon’s Birds of America


"A brazen plot doomed to fail"

Image Via Kentucky News


Lipka recalls telling a co-conspirator: “there was zero security other than an old librarian named BJ and having to sign a fucking book.” So the gang did what anyone would do— they made a fake ‘professor’s’ email, wore old-man makeup so bad two of the would-be criminals were turned away from the library, and tasered the hell out of BJ. After the theft, they booked it to Christie’s auction house to get the book appraised. Co-conspirator Spencer Reinhard reflects on the decision:


The way I rationalized it was: it’s the biggest auction house. If we go in there they’re not going to suspect that we stole these. Because no one would go to Christie’s with stolen books to get them appraised—that’s how we did a lot of stuff, like, we would smoke weed directly under the [security] camera on the Transy campus, park a car right underneath it and then smoke for like an hour. We figured the more obvious [we were], the less likely [we would be suspected].


Even Peters as Warren Lipka in 'American Animals'

Image Via Seattle Weekly


Reinhard’s recollection becomes even more ironic when you consider they were caught when—while under FBI surveillance—the gang saw heist film Ocean’s Twelve and verbally compared it with their own heist as they sat in the public movie theater. The kicker? They never even managed to sell the books.


2. The ‘Mission Impossible’ Rare Book Thieves


A man rappels from a ceiling to a stack of books. Dramatization.

Image Via YouTube


In January of 2017, three thieves rappelled from the skylight of a London warehouse to steal over 160 books, among them original works of Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, and Galileo Galilei. Though they covered a distance of over forty feet from the roof to their 2.5 million dollar score, they managed never to trigger the warehouse’s motion detectors. Though the Transy heist is more infamous, there’s one major difference between the two robberies: these criminals were never caught. (And even if they were, they probably aren’t hiding the stolen goods in a bag beneath their marijuana grow.) Based on the lack of evidence, authorities suspect the books were not stolen for resale but for a private collection—which is evidence that the ridiculously wealthy must get pretty bored.


3. The Ironic (and Iconic) Harvard Bible Thief


The Harvard University library

Image Via Garden Home & Party


The ‘Mission Impossible’ book thieves weren’t the only ones to try some spy-movie action moves in order to commit a totally badass white collar theft—they were just the ones who could pull it off. In 1969, burglar Vido Aras  (his lack of a code name should foreshadow just how well this goes for him) attempted to rappel into the Harvard University library to steal its rare Gutenberg Bible. The alarm system was easy. The climb? Not so much. After slipping from his rope, Aras fell forty feet, where police soon found him unconscious on the floor, Bible still in hand. Looks like thou shalt not steal… from Harvard University.


4. The 8-Million-Dollar Carnegie Library Theft


Gregory Priore Arrested

Image Via Pittsburgh CBS


Though no one discovered the theft until this past year, it’s been going on for nearly twenty. Greg Priore, sole archivist of the rare books collection, made an excellent case for not leaving only one person in charge of incredibly valuable things by stealing 8 million dollars of material. An inside job, the thefts were primarily ‘cannibalism,’ a term which in this case refers to removing pages or sections from valuable works. (It doesn’t refer to the consumption of human flesh, which would make this a very different sort of crime.) This technique of stealing pages instead of volumes makes the materials easier to sell and more challenging to track. Rather than using elaborate methods to extract the documents, Priore admitted to flat-out rolling them up. His explanation? “Greed came on.” When caught, he told authorities: “you got me, I screwed up.” Slick.

5. The Case of Hemingway’s Lost Novel


Earnest Hemingway

Image Via Biography


In 1922, Hadley Hemingway (wife of Ernest Hemingway— the first of many, though she presumably didn’t know that at the time) brought the longhand originals of her husband’s ongoing novelization of his WWI experiences with her on a train to Paris. Though nobody is certain exactly what happened, one thing is tragically apparent: her suitcase was stolen, and the novel was lost to time. Hemingway famously stated that he “would have opted for surgery if he knew it could erase the memory of his loss,” though it was, of course, 1920, when surgery could hardly do anything at all. When drunk (so, often) Hemingway frequently claimed this theft was the reason behind his divorce from Hadley. It still doesn’t explain his divorce from all the others.


6. The Original Master Book Thief


James R Shinn, renowned book thief

Image Via Tumblr


In 1981, the police questioned a sloppily-dressed man in Muhlenberg College’s Haas Library on his second suspicious visit. Understandably nervous, the unknown man asked if he could smoke in the conference room. When the officers left to get him an ashtray (as if only to demonstrate that this case is from the 1980s), the man bolted. It might have been a cool move—had his driver’s license and motel receipt not fallen from his pocket with the cigarettes. Upon searching the room, Pennsylvania law enforcement discovered twenty-six valuable stolen books, along with plans to steal over a hundred more. Proving he was an expert, the unknown man also had dyes, counterfeit title pages, and a cache of fake IDs. Proving he was shady, he also had a gun and a copy of How to Disappear and Live Freely.


A masked burglar hauls a sack through a library. Dramatization.

Image Via Satirev


Investigations revealed that culprit James R. Shinn didn’t just steal books—he tricked people into giving them away. Shinn was also a con man who frequently posed as a reputable book dealer, receiving rare book shipments and then falsifying the payment. And he didn’t just rob Muhlenberg College—he’d robbed dozens of other college libraries. Authorities marvelled: “he’s always sloppy… he never carries identification— that way, even if he’s stopped, they figure he’s just a sloppy bum.” The law might have taken his books and twenty years of his life, but they couldn’t take his legacy: Shinn is the reason the criminal charge ‘Library Theft‘ exists.


7. The Book Heist Road Trip


A burglar in a library. Dramatization.

Image Via Blogspot


Robert Kindred was a thirty-four-year-old high school dropout with no plans of attending college. He was wrong about one thing—he would go to a prestigious university, not just one but several, just not go as a student. Tearing across Texas in his Cadillac, he carried with him a trunk full of stolen books and a roadmap of universities that offered open library stacks, whose commitment to intellectual enthusiasm was exactly what made them so easy to rob.


The University of Illinois' Library

Image Via Cappex


After moving on from Texas to sack universities in New Orleans and Washington D.C., Kindred and accomplice Green encountered an obstacle—the closed library at the University of Illinois, which tantalizingly contained many books on Kindred’s wish list. His plan was simple: break in, loot books, and lower the goods to the parking lot by rope. Startlingly, the plan itself didn’t go wrong—instead, a security guard pulled, unbothered, into the parking lot for the first time in five nights. The heist went wrong, but not even that wrong: as we’ve already established that library theft was not yet a criminal charge, Kindred only got probation. Accomplice Green received no punishment at all.



Featured Image Via Thedailybeast.com