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 had fallen into obscurity. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu tells the incredible story of how Haidara, a mild-mannered archivist and historian from the legendary city of Timbuktu, later became one of the world's greatest and most brazen smugglers.
In 2012, thousands of Al Qaeda militants from northwest Africa seized control of most of Mali, including Timbuktu. They imposed Sharia law, chopped off the hands of accused thieves, stoned to death unmarried couples, and threatened to destroy the great manuscripts. As the militants tightened their control over Timbuktu, Haidara organized a dangerous operation to sneak all 350,000 volumes out of the city to the safety of southern Mali.
Over the past 20 years, journalist Joshua Hammer visited Timbuktu numerous times and is uniquely qualified to tell the story of Haidara's heroic and ultimately successful effort to outwit Al Qaeda and preserve Mali's - and the world's - literary patrimony. Hammer explores the city's manuscript heritage and offers never-before-reported details about the militants' march into northwest Africa. But above all, The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu is an inspiring account of the victory of art and literature over extremism.
©2016 Joshua Hammer. Recorded by arrangement with Simon and Schuster, Inc. (P)2016 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books
I missed this book on a Goodreads Giveaway, but I caught up with it as Whispersync on the cheap courtesy of BookGorilla. It combines histories of North Africa (especially Mali), Islam, religious scrolls and the people who have been protecting them, and so much more. The title's catchy, but it ought to be Bad-a$$ Archivists, I think. One man made it his life's work to gather and protect scrolls from everywhere he could, despite extremists and other crazies. It is a very involved and often tense tale, but also written with a detail and sensitivity that makes it riveting. There is much to be learned here, and we all hope for positive change.
Paul Boehmer is a fine audio performer and brings so much to life with his talents.
I couldn't stand the narrator. He put a strong emphasis on vowel sounds that quickly became grating. The book itself might have been good, I can't say. I really struggled to keep listening, but realized that my brain was only paying attention to the pronunciation, and gave up.
I was familiar with the events surrounding this story and eager to learn more. Even as a fan of nonfiction and history, I almost abandoned this book several times. This story is better suited to a long magazine feature. The writing is dry and fails to capture the nuanced characters who collaborated to save the manuscripts of Timbuktu.
You can tell that the author put an incredible amount of research into the book but in the process lost sight of the real story. I had an incredibly hard time following the characters and story line because it was all over the place and I wasn't clear on how it all tied together. Overall, the narration and story line were a mess making it pretty unbearable.
A wonderful Rick weaving of the cultural history of the Timbuktu region, a chilling view of the rise and subsiding of Al Qaeda in the area, and the courageous work of saving the ancient folios containing Timbuktu's history.
Although I struggled a bit around the halfway point in the detailed-for-me description of the jihadist movement in the area, & perhaps again close to the end, nonetheless, I was glad I did read & finish this admirable not-yet-finished history. I appreciated the tenacity of a man who seemed to feel absolutely " called" to the protection of this huge body of work. and I appreciated the author/documentarian.
I am only on Chapter 2, but I will have to listen to it again because I have no idea what I just heard. The staccato narration makes it hard to focus on the meaning of the words spoken. This could be the most fascinating book...but I'll probably not be able to stick through it long enough to know!
not so far
I think this is an important book to read because it gives a preview of what it would be like to live under Sharia law...my main criticism of this audio version is the speaker. He has an energetic voice but it is maddening to hear him put the wrong emphasis on certain syllables or hear him pause in the wrong places. It does not sound professional and is very maddening.
I also criticize the writers simplistic sentence structure. The subject matter of the book is very informative and should be read widely in spite of the simplistic writing style.
Timbuktu is a city with a storied history, and one lesser-known piece of that history is that twice during the Middle Ages it was the center of a flowering of education and scholarship. In the 1980s, a young man named Abdel Kader Haidara, a collector for a government library, traveled the Sahara Desert and the Niger River, collecting ancient Arabic manuscripts, both religious and secular, rescuing them from decay and destruction, and bringing them back for preservation. This part of the story include some amazing adventures in itself. But there's more.
Haidara over the years matured into a mild-mannered archivist and historian, along with marrying and raising a family. Then in 2012, Al Qaeda militants seized control of Mali, including Timbuktu, and the marvelous collection and the scholarship around it was in danger of being destroyed.
At first Al Qaeda leaders were outwardly respectful of the collection and its value, but as their grip tightened, that didn't last. Priceless manuscripts representing an important part of Mali and the world's literary heritage, was in danger of being destroyed.
Haidara, thirty years after his original adventures, organized a massive smuggling operation, to get that amazing collection of priceless manuscripts out of the country, right under the noses of the Al Qaeda occupiers. No short review can capture how thrilling this story is, or how well Hammer recounts it. Haidara and his crew of scholarly librarians risked their lives and smuggled crates of manuscripts downriver to safety at risk of horrible punishments Al Qaeda imposed on those who violated their version of Sharia law. It's an exciting, amazing, thrilling story, and an exceptional example of the devotion of dedicated librarians to preservation of and access to knowledge.
I bought this book.
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