The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu and Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews


This is the best kind of nonfiction: a heart-pounding story that also contains an immense education. The story starts with hundreds of years of intellectual culture in western Africa centered in the city of Timbuktu, distilled in wonderful anecdotes and cogent story arcs, and climaxes in the the risky smuggling of ancient illuminated manuscripts out of danger during the early 2000's.  Hammer's exciting reporting from Mali over the last decade reveals the cyclical struggle between tolerant and extremist forms of Islam, the complexities of the West's relationship with militants, and the courage of Muslims in nonviolent defense of  art and culture.  It even has some ideas on how lovers of books might practice their own quiet acts of bravery and resistance in hostile times.

Picked by Jessica in Prospect Lefferts Gardens

— From Staff Picks

Description


To save ancient Arabic texts from Al Qaeda, a band of librarians pulls off a brazen heist worthy of Ocean's Eleven in this "fast-paced narrative that is...part intellectual history, part geopolitical tract, and part out-and-out thriller" (The Washington Post).

In the 1980s, a young adventurer and collector for a government library, Abdel Kader Haidara, journeyed across the Sahara Desert and along the Niger River, tracking down and salvaging tens of thousands of ancient Islamic and secular manuscripts that were crumbling in the trunks of desert shepherds. His goal: to preserve this crucial part of the world's patrimony in a gorgeous library. But then Al Qaeda showed up at the door.

"Part history, part scholarly adventure story, and part journalist survey....Joshua Hammer writes with verve and expertise" (The New York Times Book Review) about how Haidara, a mild-mannered archivist from the legendary city of Timbuktu, became one of the world's greatest smugglers by saving the texts from sure destruction. With bravery and patience, Haidara organized a dangerous operation to sneak all 350,000 volumes out of the city to the safety of southern Mali. His heroic heist "has all the elements of a classic adventure novel" (The Seattle Times), and is a reminder that ordinary citizens often do the most to protect the beauty of their culture. His the story is one of a man who, through extreme circumstances, discovered his higher calling and was changed forever by it.
Product Details
ISBN: 9781476777412
ISBN-10: 1476777411
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: April 4th, 2017
Pages: 288
Language: English