Book 33 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from April 25 - May 1, my husband returned it to the library before I was done,
read and finished from June 14 - 27
The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu and Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer
Summary (via the book jacket)
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 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 farmers. His goal was to preserve this crucial part of the world's patrimony in a gorgeous library. But then Al-Qaeda showed up at the door.
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, became one of the world's greatest and most brazen smugglers by saving the texts from sure destruction. With bravery and patience, he organized a dangerous operation to sneak all 350,000 volumes out of the city to the safety of southern Mali. This real-life thriller is a reminder that ordinary citizens often do the most to protect the beauty and imagination of their culture. It is also the story of a man who, through extreme circumstances, discovered his higher calling and was changed forever by it.
Such dedication to preservation is inspiring to read about but ultimately, I don't have much to say about this book.
A Few Quotes from the Book
"Haidara had, almost singlehandedly, transformed Timbuktu from a depressed backwater into a Mecca for researchers, diplomats, and tourists from around the world."
" 'Haidara is a man obsessed with the written word,' wrote Peter Gwin in a lengthy piece, "The Telltale Scribes of Timbuktu," that appeared in National Geographic in early 2011. 'Books, he said, are ingrained in her soul, and books, he is convinced, will save Timbuktu. Words form the sinew and muscle that hold societies upright...Thousands upon thousands of words infused with the full spectrum of emotions fill in the nooks and corners of human life.' "