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  • Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu

  • And Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts
  • By: Joshua Hammer
  • Narrated by: Paul Boehmer
  • Length: 9 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 277
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 260
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 259

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.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Extraordinary archivist

  • By Jan on 05-09-16

Bad-Ass Librarians Do Exist

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-02-18

Some time ago a friend of mine shared her upcoming reading list for her book club with me. As I looked through the list, one title jumped out at me from the page: The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer. The title intrigued me. I’ve been shushed by more than one librarian as I made my way through school. However, I cannot think of any silent stair or waggling of the finger that would’ve led me to think of them as bad-ass librarians. The next thing that intrigued me was Timbuktu. I knew that it was in Mali in West Africa and I that it had been linked with the salt trade throughout West Africa for millennia. However, I would never in a million years have associated it with a library. Perhaps this was something new. Maybe a bold plan to create a lending library using camel caravans to circulate the bestselling books in Lagos or Cairo to senior living villages deep in the Saharan desert. In any event, I needed to read this book. The second part of the title was: And Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts. I clearly didn’t know anything about the manuscripts, precious or not. However I’ve been in the desert and it’s hard to imagine racing to do anything. When it’s hot you slow down and take it easy. So, what would cause a librarian to race? Now let’s think about precious. When I think of the world’s most precious manuscripts I think of Johann Gutenberg’s Bible or John James Audubon's Birds of America. I do not think of West African manuscripts. If we were talking Egypt or Nubia that would be different. Over time we have discovered troves of early Egyptian and Christian writings hidden away in the desert. Such findings are rare, and the manuscripts are often in danger of becoming dust before they could even be digitized. What sort of manuscripts could one find if one traveled halfway across the world to Timbuktu? The book starts with the passing of the duties of the family librarian from Mamma Haidara to his son Abdel Kader Haidara. That’s fascinating, a family library. Perhaps they were a family of scholars and they had collected some manuscripts over time. While that turns out to be true, the even more amazing truth is that they were just one family out of thousands who had amassed a sizeable library. Where did the manuscripts come from? The book reveals that they were often the creation of West African scholars, poets, and philosophers. Some were copies of prized works like the Koran. Some were 500 years old. Now let that origin and the age of these manuscript sink in. I can remember reading books about Africa that depicted most of the continent outside of Egypt as backward, ignorant, without sophistication, and of little to show for millennia of existence. Abdel Kader Haidara’s family library alone shatters this myth with in your face evidence of nuanced, imaginative, critical thinking set down on manuscripts that in many cases were equal parts art and scholarly thought. The existence of even a few of these works is cause for literary joy, the reality that there are hundreds of thousands of such manuscripts shatters the European myth of African inferiority. Conceding that the manuscripts are precious, it’s clear that Haidara’s efforts to preserve them is laudable. But with a change in the political winds in Mali these manuscripts were about to need protection not from termites but from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). The MNLA took control of Timbuktu in 2012 and immediately imposed a very strict version of Sharia law. Now the very presence of the manuscripts placed Haidara and every other family librarian in grave personal danger. The MNLA leadership had beheaded tourists simply because their governments hadn’t paid their ransom. The manuscripts were far more dangerous. What makes a manuscript dangerous? Certainly, age and rarity can make any book valuable, but only its content can make it dangerous. Consider Salman Rushdie’s book The Satanic Verses. Not long after it was published in 1988 he had to go into hiding to save his life. Why, because some Muslims accused Rushdie of blasphemy or unbelief. Then in 1989 the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie. As we learn from the book, the MNLA had their own Imams and could issue similarly fatal fatwas. Therefore, content matters, and religious manuscripts that contained wrong thinking could get you killed. The book tells how this became a life and death matter to Abdel Kader Haidara who publicly displays his families works and is entrusted with the safe keeping of thousands of other family’s treasures. If the danger doesn’t jump right out at you consider the events in Palmyra Syria in 2015. After the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) occupied Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, they set about destroying priceless antiquities with brazen hostility for worldwide condemnation of their actions. When they summoned Khaled al-Asaad the Syrian archaeologist and the head of antiquities for the ancient city of Palmyra and demanded that he reveal the hiding place of the antiquities he was protecting he refused their demands. For his bravery and service to the world ISIS publicly beheaded him. While these horrid events were still a few years into the future at the time of the Jihadi occupation of Timbuktu, this book reveals that Haidara and those who helped him move and hide the manuscripts were hyper aware that they could each suffer the same fate. So, let’s wrap up this review with the race. The MNLA occupation of Northern Mali was settling in on Timbuktu like a heavy wooden yoke. With each passing day the Jihadi occupiers imposed ever greater controls and extracted ever more sever punishments from their captive population. Then after a falling out with their Tuareg allies the Jihadi quickly removed all constraints on their imposition of sharia law as they defined it. The manuscripts would certainly not pass critical review with this brand of Jihadi. Haidara and those like him who were committed to their preservation had to act fast, had to race against death itself to preserve these precious manuscripts. It’s a race worth reading about. I recommend this book.

  • Strangers in Their Own Land

  • Anger and Mourning on the American Right
  • By: Arlie Russell Hochschild
  • Narrated by: Suzanne Toren
  • Length: 11 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,121
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,010
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,000

In Strangers in Their Own Land, the renowned sociologist Arlie Hochschild embarks on a thought-provoking journey from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into Louisiana bayou country - a stronghold of the conservative right. As she gets to know people who strongly oppose many of the ideas she famously champions, Hochschild nevertheless finds common ground and quickly warms to the people she meets.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Informative, entertaining, and, yes, life-changing

  • By Alexandra Hopkins on 07-22-17

Come again?

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-30-18

I am a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. Before reading this book my perception of tea party conservatives was that they didn't vote or act in their own self interest out of a distorted world view and simple ignorance of the real world. The authors politely but convincingly confirmed that they do indeed see the world very differently than I do and vote accordingly. I doubt that they or I could ever agree on a broad range of issues. As for reaching over the empathy wall the authors talk about, sadly I think that wall is far to high to scale.

  • The Singularity Trap

  • By: Dennis E. Taylor
  • Narrated by: Ray Porter
  • Length: 11 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 14,122
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 13,223
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 13,189

When Ivan Pritchard signs on as a newbie aboard the Mad Astra, it's his final, desperate stab at giving his wife and children the life they deserve. He can survive the hazing of his crewmates, and how many times, really, can near-zero g make you vomit? But there's another challenge looming out there, in the farthest reaches of human exploration, that will test every man, woman and AI on the ship - and will force Ivan to confront the very essence of what makes him human.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent.

  • By Amy Snider on 06-13-18

What's next?

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-30-18

I read "We are Legion" and I was hooked. I've pre-ordered every book since. There simply must be two more books to follow this book. Taylor has imagination and techie driven plots. What does a post singularity word look like? Is there a place for a biological like me? Write it Dennis and I will read it.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Wizards of Once

  • By: Cressida Cowell
  • Narrated by: David Tennant
  • Length: 5 hrs and 56 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 222
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 205
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 203

Once there were Wizards, who were Magic, and Warriors, who were not. But Xar, son of the King of Wizards, can't cast a single spell. And Wish, daughter of the Warrior Queen, has a banned magical object of her own. When they collide in the wildwood, on the trail of a deadly witch, it's the start of a grand adventure that just might change the fabric of their worlds.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Awesome!

  • By Teresa on 11-03-17

A delightful book. A great performance.

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-31-17

I can not wait to read the next book in this series. Also, hats off to the reader. Well done.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Island 731

  • By: Jeremy Robinson
  • Narrated by: R. C. Bray
  • Length: 10 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 2,032
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,888
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,887

Mark Hawkins, former park ranger and expert tracker, is out of his element, working onboard the Magellan, a research vessel studying the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But his work is interrupted when, surrounded by 30 miles of refuse, the ship and its high-tech systems are plagued by a series of strange malfunctions and the crew is battered by a raging storm. When the storm fades and the sun rises, the beaten crew awakens to find themselves anchored in the protective cove of a tropical island...and no one knows how they got there.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Interesting fun story

  • By Rise on 01-24-16

Unimaginative Tripe

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-02-16

From its opening paragraphs this book goes south. For example, in Island 731 Jeremy’s Navy had a Master Chief Petty Officer during WWII. In reality the Navy didn’t promote anyone to this rank until May 1959. Oh well, why bother to get it right?

In his opening scene Mark Hawkins, an otherwise smart fellow jumps overboard – from the second deck – to save a man who’d gone overboard. This is neither noble nor smart. Mark had no idea what he was jumping into nor where the man had gone overboard.

The man overboard turns out to be Avril Juliette. She saw a misshaped sea turtle and immediately jumped into a potentially lethal tangle of sea trash. Not a very bright action for a person with two PhDs. However, this is essence of this book: people doing stupid things, who then have to be rescued by more stupid people, until the only possible way to save Mark and his lady love is to use a large dose of literary magic.

Ok, I know that only about 2% of Mr. Robinson’s readers would care in the least that his plot and his characters are unimaginative tripe. However, if your mind extends to such things, be forewarned Island 731 will render you insane by page 11.

  • Oryx and Crake

  • By: Margaret Atwood
  • Narrated by: Campbell Scott
  • Length: 10 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 5,644
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,427
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,457

As the story opens, Snowman is sleeping in a tree, mourning the loss of his beloved Oryx and his best friend Crake, and slowly starving to death. How did everything fall apart so quickly? Why is he left with nothing but his haunting memories? Alone except for the green-eyed Children of Crake, he explores the answers to these questions in the double journey he takes - into his own past, and back to Crake's high-tech bubble-dome, where the Paradice Project unfolded and the world came to grief.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Very Scary Stuff

  • By Doug on 07-21-03

Too Preachy for me.

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-07-16

Margret Atwood is not the easiest author to read. Her books have a real substance to them. They challenge me to thing about her characters and the story she's telling. This book is no exception, but she just got a bit over the top preachy on the subject of bio engineering and her view of our future. It was worth the read, but it could have been a lot more if she'd toned it down a bit.

  • Reconsidering the American Way of War

  • US Military Practice from the Revolution to Afghanistan
  • By: Antulio Joseph Echevarria
  • Narrated by: James Killavey
  • Length: 8 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 74
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 68
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 69

This audiobook challenges several longstanding notions about the American way of war. It examines US military practice (strategic and operational) from the War of Independence to the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan to determine what patterns, if any, existed in the way Americans have used military force. Echevarria surveys all major US wars and most every small conflict in the country's military history.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Excellent overview of complex subject

  • By Joe on 11-25-14

At best a summary of Other Author's works.

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-07-16

The best thing about this book was its cover. The contents were largely a bibliography of other authors works. The summaries were so many and so brief as to be useless. If one was already familiar with all of the cited authors one wouldn’t need a summary. If one wasn’t familiar the summary was too brief to be of any value.
It’s very hard to determine exactly what Antulio J. Echevarria contributed to the reader’s understanding of the American way of war. From my perspective there isn’t and never was “an” American way of war. Each war was fought with the resources -both political and military – available to the generals and admirals and their political leaders. Each war was fought with the technology available. Clearly as we transitioned from muskets to laser guided bombs we changed our tactics. Each war was fought with the human capital the political leadership could muster. The generals and admirals did the best they knew how to do with what they were given. When we fought less capable opponents we’ve done well. When we’ve fought capable, determined, and equally well resources opponents we’ve prevailed sometimes and failed at other times. What more is there to say? Echevarria didn’t have much to say and I recommend you read someone else book if you are looking something of substance on this subject.

0 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • The Maltese Falcon

  • By: Dashiell Hammett
  • Narrated by: William Dufris
  • Length: 7 hrs and 5 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 1,128
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 627
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 623

Hard-boiled detective Sam Spade is hired to locate a client's sister by tailing the sister's companion. Spade's partner Miles Archer takes on the assignment, and quickly both Archer and the man he was shadowing are murdered. As Spade pursues the mystery of his partner's death, he is drawn into a circle of colorful characters, and they are all after a legendary statuette of a falcon that had long ago been made for King Charles of Spain. Encrusted with jewels, it is worth a fortune.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Play it again, Sam.

  • By Christopher on 04-01-04

Still a good read

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-16-15

I saw the movie a long time ago. Reading the book brought back the period. The smoking stood out. Back then I wouldn't have noticed it, but times have changed. Another interesting thing was that most of the story and clues found our detective rather than the other way around. Still, this is a classic I'm glad I read.

  • Louder Than Words

  • The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning
  • By: Benjamin K. Bergen
  • Narrated by: Benjamin K. Bergen
  • Length: 8 hrs and 1 min
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 373
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 339
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 335

Whether it’s brusque, convincing, fraught with emotion, or dripping with innuendo, language is fundamentally a tool for conveying meaning - a uniquely human magic trick in which you vibrate your vocal cords to make your innermost thoughts pop up in someone else’s mind. You can use it to talk about all sorts of things - from your new labradoodle puppy to the expansive gardens at Versailles, from Roger Federer’s backhand to things that don’t exist at all, like flying pigs.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Almost too thorough

  • By kwdayboise (Kim Day) on 06-04-17

Too Technical for me

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-17-15

After the first 10 minutes I knew I was in over my head. I'm not a linguistics post grad looking for a new research project. I'm an average Joe looking for a little enlightenment. If you're not deep into language you may want to pass this book bye for something simpler.

43 of 49 people found this review helpful

  • The Best American Short Stories

  • By: Edgar Allan Poe, Hermann Melville, Mark Twain, and others
  • Narrated by: Cathy Dobson
  • Length: 12 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    2.5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Performance
    2.5 out of 5 stars 3
  • Story
    2.5 out of 5 stars 3

A wonderful collection of short stories" by some of the all-time great American writers: 1. "The Diamond Lens" by Fitz James O’Brien; 2. "Titbottom’s Spectacles" by George William Curtis; 3. "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe; 4. "The Eyes of the Panther" by Ambrose Bierce; 5. "The Lightning Rod Man" by Hermann Melville; 6. "Seeds" by Sherwood Anderson; 7. "Who Was She?" by Bayard Taylor; 8. "The Man who stole a Meeting House" by John Townsend Trowbridge; 9. "Memoirs of a Yellow Dog" by O. Henry

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Difficult to listen to

  • By S. Russell on 08-28-16

A few good stories and several duds.

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-07-15

As always, Mark Twain rules the day. The other stories don't rise to a memory.

0 of 5 people found this review helpful