WestportREADS 2024

A good book is an immersive experience, an opportunity for the reader to get lost in imagination and explore a new world. A great book does that and more — it brings a community together to discuss, debate, and share in its wonder.

The Art Thief by Michael Finkel is a great book — and even better than that, it is the WestportREADS 2024 book selection.

The Westport Library is thrilled to announce this year’s selection and even more excited to welcome Finkel to the Trefz Forum on Friday, January 26, for a conversation about his captivating account of master thief Stéphane Breitwiese.

Copies of the book are available for borrowing now. The Art Thief is also available as a digital copy (e-book) and as an audiobook!

About WestportREADS
Created in 2002, WestportREADS is a way for the Westport community to bond over a book and is designed to deepen our community’s engagement in literature.

Throughout January, there will be events and programs centered on The Art Thief, book discussions, celebrations, and much more. It is a chance to not only read a great book but to engage with the community, meet new people, and celebrate our shared love of reading.
About The Art Thief

For centuries, works of art have been stolen in countless ways from all over the world, but no one has been quite as successful at it as the master thief Stéphane Breitwieser. Carrying out more than 200 heists over nearly eight years — in museums and cathedrals all over Europe — Breitwieser, along with his girlfriend who worked as his lookout, stole more than three hundred objects, until it all fell apart in spectacular fashion.

In The Art Thief, Michael Finkel brings us into Breitwieser’s strange and fascinating world. Unlike most thieves, Breitwieser never stole for money. Instead, he displayed all his treasures in a pair of secret rooms where he could admire them to his heart’s content. Possessed of a remarkable athleticism and an innate ability to circumvent practically any security system, Breitwieser managed to pull off a breathtaking number of audacious thefts. Yet these strange talents bred a growing disregard for risk and an addict’s need to score, leading Breitwieser to ignore his girlfriend’s pleas to stop — until one final act of hubris brought everything crashing down.

This is a riveting story of art, crime, love, and an insatiable hunger to possess beauty at any cost.

About the Author

Michael Finkel is the best-selling author of The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit and True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa. He lives with his family in northern Utah.

Click here to read more.

WestportREADS 2024 Keynote Livestream
WestportREADS 2024 Events

Beginning Wednesday, December 27
Tell a Yarn... reads The Art Thief
1:30 pm

Saturdays, January 6-27
Artful Saturdays: A WestportREADS Celebration for Kids
11 am
Higgins Room

Friday, January 12
WestportREADS Film Series: The Duke
2 pm
Komansky Room

Tuesday, January 16
PageTurner's Book Discussion Group
11 am

Friday, January 19
WestportREADS Film Series: The Lost Leonardo
2 pm
Komansky Room

Tuesday, January 23
WestportREADS Book Pub at Walrus Alley
7 pm
Walrus Alley (90 Post Road East)
* Rescheduled from January 16

Friday, January 26
Keynote Conversation: Michael Finkel on The Art Thief
7 pm
Trefz Forum

Wednesday, January 31
Pages Through the Ages: The Art Thief
7 pm

Wednesday, February 7
Looting Through the Ages
7 pm

Friday, February 9
WestportREADS Film Series: The Thomas Crown Affair
2 pm
Komansky Room

Thursday, February 15
WestportREADS Book Discussion Group
7 pm

WestportREADS 2024 Scavenger Hunt

Uncover the Great Library Heist

There’s been a heist at The Westport Library! A piece of art from our permanent collection has gone missing. We need your help to recover this priceless item and return it to its rightful place on our walls. Whether you’re an expert detective or a junior investigator, we’ve got a scavenger hunt for all ages, full of riddles and clues that will take you throughout the Library, in search of our stolen art.

From Friday, January 12, through Thursday, February 15, you can help solve the theft by picking up your investigative materials at Patron Services (for adults) or the Children’s Library (for kids).
Happy sleuthing!


Reviews of The Art Thief

“Meticulously detailed, [a] page-turning account….As much a crime caper as a psychological thriller, Finkel’s narrative interweaves gripping descriptions of Breitweiser’s in-plain-sight thefts armed with nothing more than stealth and a Swiss Army knife, a concise history of global art theft, and psychologists’ musings on Breitwieser’s unconscious motivations….Finkel deftly keeps us swaying between great sympathy for his central character and profound suspicion.” —Jenny McPhee, Air Mail

“It is romantic to liken art thieves to Pierce Brosnan’s glamorous character in The Thomas Crown Affair. The reality is far less charming. Case in point: Stéphane Breitwieser, one of the most successful art thieves of all time. From roughly 1994 to 2001, Breitwieser executed more than 200 heists. The book’s first lesson? Europe has a lot of understaffed historic buildings. The second? Even a kleptomaniac with delusions of grandeur can be made mildly sympathetic in the hands of a skilled writer.” —Bloomberg

“This is an absorbing and astonishing portrait of a fascinating and complicated character—a riveting story of obsession and misplaced brilliance.” —Kirk Wallace Johnson, best-selling author of The Feather Thief and The Fishermen and the Dragon

“In this masterful true crime account, Finkel traces the fascinating exploits of Stéphane Breitwieser, a French art thief who stole more than 200 artworks…turning his mother’s attic into a glittering trove of oil paintings, silver vessels, and antique weaponry….Drawing on art theory and Breitwieser’s psychology reports, Finkel speculates on his subject’s addiction to beauty. ... It’s a riveting ride.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“The tale of a strong candidate for the title of ‘most prolific art thief ever….’ Finkel’s play-by-play of each theft has the pacing and atmosphere of a good suspense tale….The author describes each acquisition as well as Breitwieser’s simple but effective methods….Finkel’s extensive research, survey of art history, and hours of interviews with his subject combine for a compelling read. —Kirkus

“The Art Thief, like its title character, has confidence, élan, and a great sense of timing. It is propelled by suspense and surprises….This ultra-lucrative, odds-defying crime streak is wonderfully narrated by Finkel, in a tale whose trajectory is less rise and fall than crazy and crazier….Part of what makes Finkel’s book so much fun is that, without exception, [Breitwieser’s] strategies are insane.” —Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker

“A mesmerizing true-crime psychological thriller….The Art Thief develops the tension of a French policier, where the crook (for whom you alternately feel sympathy and disgust) has Maigret or Poirot hot on his trail. The final outcome is a shock. Mr. Finkel tells an enthralling story. From start to finish, this book is hard to put down.” —Moira Hodgson, The Wall Street Journal

“From the opening chapter, Finkel’s tight prose heightens the drama of each theft, as Breitweiser and his girlfriend Anne-Catherine Kleinklaus, who serves as his lookout, enter Belgium’s Rubens House amid visitors and guards. ... A fascinating read. Finkel will have art history and true crime lovers obsessively turning the pages of this suspenseful, smartly written work until its shocking conclusion.”
—Library Journal

“From the opening chapter, Finkel’s tight prose heightens the drama of each theft, as Breitweiser and his girlfriend Anne-Catherine Kleinklaus, who serves as his lookout, enter Belgium’s Rubens House amid visitors and guards. ... A fascinating read. Finkel will have art history and true crime lovers obsessively turning the pages of this suspenseful, smartly written work until its shocking conclusion.”
—Library Journal

Resources and Guides
WestportREADS Community Sticker Art

Stop by the teen section on the main floor of the Library from Tuesday, January 2, through Wednesday, January 31 to explore the sticker-by-number depicting a famous work of art. Be sure to add some stickers while you’re there!

Children’s Selections
Past WestportREADS Celebrations

WestportREADS is supported through a generous bequest by the estate of Jerry A. Tishman.

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