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The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And…
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The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World's… (2017)

by Joshua Hammer

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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8434516,668 (3.58)112
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 twenty 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.… (more)
  1. 00
    Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books by Aaron Lansky (Sandydog1)
    Sandydog1: 'the same story, 'cept suburban Long Island isn't as "sporty" as Mali...
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Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
A book of great immediacy, and an interesting vision of what shifts the retention of knowledge might have to sink to in the face of religious prejudice. Mr. Hammer has an essentially journalistic approach to his account of the period of history which passed in Mali a few years past. In the face of a very fundamentalist uprising against the government of the sub-Saharan state of Mali, the inhabitants of the famous city of Timbuktu were forced to flee, and smuggle their hoarded manuscripts, at the peril of their lives, or of personal mutilation. The prose is clear, and the escapes hairbreadth. So, it is compelling reading, and a cautionary tale in an age of increasing tendencies towards theocracy in Europe and the Americas. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Sep 26, 2019 |
The title of this book is misleading. As much, if not more, of Joshua Hammer's book is about the rise of radical Islamism in northern Mali as it is about the manuscripts of Timbuktu and their preservation. I appreciate the necessity of providing context as to why the manuscripts were threatened in the first place, and the difficulty of interviewing many of the people who were involved in the rescue operation—after all, why talk to a western reporter if you know that's going to draw the attention of Al-Qaeda to you?

But the fact that even the plural in the title (librarians) was a bit misleading got frustrating—only one librarian, Abdel Kader Haidara, is interviewed or discussed in any depth, and only perhaps one other, to my recollection, interviewed at all. Surely there are other employees of the Ahmed Baba Institute or the Mamma Haidara Library with fascinating stories to tell? Or members of the families of Timbuktu who had safeguarded the manuscripts for generations? A single Malian woman?

If you want to read a book on the manuscripts of Timbuktu, I'd recommend Charlie English's more nuanced The Storied City: The Quest for Timbuktu and the Fantastic Mission to Save Its Past instead. ( )
  siriaeve | Aug 2, 2019 |
The Badass Librarians of Timbuktu invites the reader to abandon any previously held notions of Africa and its people. Together with the narrator, the reader will explore new terrain -both literally and metaphorically - as the world of Africa and its religions are intertwined with the protagonist’s journey. Often the book is slowed by the intricate negotiations that are hindered by a past littered with intrigue, war, and distrust. Governments and men step in and muddy the waters for the reader as well as our heroes. In the end, carefully reading through this mire is worth it and the reader emerges with not only newfound respect for this true story of preservation and resilience but for a continent that is often overlooked. ( )
  CuriousPaper | Jul 8, 2019 |
The book concentrated more on the military and political situation in Mali than on the books. Violence level high. Now if the subtitle had been 'and the fight to save Mali from radical Islamists' that would have been fine. But I expected more about the librarians and much more about the books. ( )
  MarthaJeanne | May 16, 2019 |
An unusual book about an area of the world, and a subject that I didn't know very much about. For that reason, I found it very interesting. I did find some portions of the book slow going when they were going over the background to the conflict in the area. All in all, an absorbing book about an unusual subject. ( )
  geophile | Feb 19, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joshua Hammerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Boehmer, PaulNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kim, NaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee-Mui, RuthDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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He shifted nervously in the front passenger seat of the four-wheel-drive vehicle as it approached the southern exit of the city.
Abdel Kader Haidara was a small boy when he first learned about the hidden treasures of Timbuktu.
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To save precious centuries-old Arabic texts from Al Qaeda, a band of librarians in Timbuktu pulls off a brazen heist worthy of Ocean’s Eleven.

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 twenty 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. [retrieved 6/9/2016 from Amazon.com]
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