The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu

By Charlie English,

Book cover of The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu

Book description

Two tales of a city: The historical race to reach one of the world's most mythologized places, and the story of how a contemporary band of archivists and librarians, fighting to save its ancient manuscripts from destruction at the hands of al Qaeda, added another layer to the legend.


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Why read it?

2 authors picked The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This book is a ‘gold standard’ piece of investigative journalism, a travelogue about a people I will probably never meet, rolled into the intriguing history of a unique city.

The book interweaves the tale of the efforts local people made to save priceless manuscripts from al-Qaida in 2012 with the West’s fascination of fabled Timbuktu since the 18th century.

It is an un-put-downable example of creative non-fiction at its most interesting and easily readable.

From Diane's list on understanding the locals.

Has a city ever been more mythologised than Timbuktu? Sure, it has been exaggerated in Western  Orientalist imaginations - but Malians have also subscribed to, and helped to create, this myth. I’ve spent quite a lot of time in Timbuktu, and this non-fiction investigation into the “rescue” of  Timbuktu’s sacred manuscripts after Islamist attacks, is a brilliant combination of a real-life thriller and a biography of the enigmatic city herself. The realities of Timbuktu are not disappointing: it remains a well-preserved UNESCO World Heritage site, and a living city of trade, with ancient mosques and churches, erected amidst Saharan sand…

From Louisa's list on the intimate lives of landscapes.

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