Thursday, November 10, 2016
The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer
The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu is supposed to be about Abdel Kader Haidara, who saved thousands of incredibly rare manuscripts from Al Qaeda militants. And you know, all the parts of the book that concerned him were fantastic. I really loved reading about him and how he collected the books then protected them. This would be the first half of the book, which I found very enjoyable.
However, the book spends too much time on backstory. And not the kind that I was looking for. I thought the history of the scribes in Timbuktu was important and well written, but the history of Al Qaeda and Islamic purists in the region? Not what I wanted to read. Quite a few chapters could have been summarised into a page or less, because while the background is important, I didn't pick up the book to learn about that.
So while I started out very positive and liking this book, by the time I finished, I was rather disappointed. The story of how priceless manuscripts were preserved was completely overwhelmed by history and detailed explanation of how Islamic militants were taking over and operating in Timbuktu and the region.