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The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu

Nonfiction: History
Unabridged   9 hour(s)
Publication date: 04/19/2016

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu

And Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts

Available from major retailers or BUY FROM AMAZON
Audio CD ISBN:9781681681429
Digital Download ISBN:9781681681436


To save precious centuries-old Arabic texts from Al Qaeda, a band of librarians in Timbuktu pull off a brazen heist worthy of Ocean’s Eleven.

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Product Description

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 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.


"Boehmer powerfully delivers this chilling history of altruism, of survival in the face of religious fundamentalism." —AudioFile

"Narrator Paul Boehmer does author Joshua Hammer's extraordinary account full justice, making The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu very highly recommended for both community and academic library audio book collections." —Midwest Book Review

"Listeners are treated to an exciting history of the turbulence of Islamic leadership spanning several centuries and the historical and cultural importance of the 370,000 documents in question." —Library Journal

"I've long known that the versatile Joshua Hammer could drop into the midst of a war or political conflict anywhere in the world and make sense of it. But he has outdone himself this time, and found an extraordinary, moving story of a quiet and successful act of great bravery in the face of destructive fanaticism." —Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold's Ghost and To End All Wars

"Hammer has pulled off the truly remarkable here book that is both important and a delight to read. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu is the wonderfully gripping story of Abdel Kader Haidara and the hundreds of ordinary Malians who, at great personal danger, endeavored to save the ancient fabled manuscripts of Timbuktu from destruction by Islamic jihadists. It is also an inspirational reminder that, even as the forces of barbarism extend their thrall across so much of the Muslim world, there are still those willing to risk everything to preserve civilization. A superb rendering of a story that needs to be told." —Scott Anderson, author of Lawrence in Arabia

"On one level,The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu is a thriller that revolves around one long chase scene, as librarian race through the deserts of Mali trying to salvage a trove of precious manuscripts from jihadists hell-bent on their destruction. The stakes in this chase are no less than civilization itself. On another level, Joshua Hammers book is about a struggle between Islamic ideologies one jihadist, inflexible and violent, and the other open and intellectual. Joshua Hammers book could not be more relevant to today's events." —Barbara Demick, author of Nothing To Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

"A picaresque and mysterious adventure that rushes across the strife-torn landscape of today's Mali, The Bad-Ass Librarians tells the unlikely but very real story of a band of bookish heroes from Timbuktu and their desperate race past dangerous checkpoints, through deserts, and often in the dead of night to save a culture and a civilization from destruction. Josh Hammer has seen firsthand how ordinary people can respond with extraordinary heroism when faced with evil. He also gives us a dramatic example of what it means to stick with a story; he knows this one from the beginnings in the late 1300s up until the present day, with its extremism and acts of cultural repression and erasure. Hammer has an unerring sense of what matters and his storytelling is impassioned and fun at the same time." —Amy Wilentz, author of Farewell, Fred Voodoo

"A completely engrossing adventure with a sharp--and prescient--political edge. Josh Hammer, a veteran correspondent of numerous conflict zones, tells a fascinating story about the quest to save Timbuktu's priceless Islamic writings from the grasp of jihadists. This is an entertaining, and extremely timely, book about the value of art and history and the excesses of religious extremism." —Janet Reitman, author of Inside Scientology

Author Bio

Joshua Hammer was a bureau chief for Newsweek and correspondent-at-large on five continents. He is now a contributing editor to Smithsonian and Outside, and a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books. He is the author of three nonfiction books and has earned a National Magazine Award, among other honors.