Thank you to everyone who contributed suggesitons! We’re back (as promised) with the decision for our first read. We got about a dozen and a half books from you readers and countless others from inside the office. After some serious deliberation, we have decided that the book we will read will be…drum roll please…
The Badass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer!
Here’s the synopsis of this fresh-off-the-presses, soon-to-be-classic tale:
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.
We chose this book because we believe that it is worldly, enlightening, and sometimes suspenseful. Above all, it is a book that celebrates literature as an important art form and advocates for its existence in the face of suppression. Our first episode with Emily and Zane will appear on the blog as both an audio conversation and its transcription on June 10th. Buy your books and set your clocks, we’re about to go clubbing!