The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts– Joshua Hammer

I’m going to get right into it this time.

Everything I read online gave rave reviews of Joshua Hammer’s The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu. I decided it was time to pick it up on my last library run.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu focuses on Mali’s manuscripts. It’s about one man who journeys through the country convincing others to trade or donate their manuscripts to a library. However, the journey changes to getting these manuscripts, which totals to be more than 350,000, smuggled out to safety after rebel insurgents take control.

Ugh. I wish I had better things to say about this book.

This was way more historical in nature than I thought it would be. Many pages were filled with details about the region as it moved through the manuscripts being centralized in Timbuktu and then smuggled out. It was hard not to get bogged down in the details especially considering I have little background of the area. This, coupled with my interest in fiction and/or travelogues lately made this book a little dry for me. I was hoping for more focus on stories about the manuscripts actually being smuggled out.

They did describe one incident where rebels did burn a bunch of manuscripts. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to think about any group of individuals just destroying ancient world artifacts like it’s nothings. I just don’t understand it. What value does that bring to your movement? I believed I touched upon this when I read about Afghanistan and how the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas of Bayman. I’ve heard more and more about ISIS doing the same thing in Syria, Libya and Iraq. I mean think about how the world reacted recently when Notre Dame in Paris caught fire by accident. These people are destroying relics for fun.

I do need to mention the man of the manuscripts. (Punny.) Abdel Kader Haidara was the brave soul at the head of both movements. He followed in line of his father and worked towards earning the trust of people to take their beloved manuscripts and keep them safe. He also was the main man in charge of the many operations to get the manuscripts to safety. Truly this man is a hero in many ways and is responsible for safeguarding such and important chunk of Mali’s history. He is the leading badass librarian of Timbuktu. (And fun fact: when on a tour of the United States, he stopped in Buffalo.)


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