'An exemplary work of investigative journalism that is also a wonderfully colourful book of history and travel' Observer, Books of the Year 'A piece of postmodern historiography of quite extraordinary sophistication and ingenuity... [written with] exceptional delicacy and restraint' TLS The fabled city of Timbuktu has captured the Western imagination for centuries. The search for this 'African El Dorado' cost the lives of many explorers but Timbuktu is rich beyond its legends. Home to many thousands of ancient manuscripts on poetry, history, religion, law, pharmacology and astronomy, the city has been a centre of learning since medieval times. When jihadists invaded Mali in 2012 threatening destruction to Timbuktu's libraries, a remarkable thing happened. A team of librarians and archivists joined forces to spirit the precious manuscripts into hiding. Based on new research and first-hand reporting, Charlie English expertly tells this story set in one of the world's most fascinating places, and the myths from which it has become inseparable.
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. To Westerners, the name "Timbuktu" long conjured a tantalising paradise, an African El Dorado where even the slaves wore gold. Beginning in the late eighteenth century, a series of explorers gripped by the fever for "discovery" tried repeatedly to reach the fabled city. But one expedition after another went disastrously awry, succumbing to attack, the climate, and disease. Timbuktu was rich in another way too. A medieval centre of learning, it was home to tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts, on subjects ranging from religion to poetry, law to history, pharmacology, and astronomy. When al-Qaeda-linked jihadists surged across Mali in 2012, threatening the existence of these precious documents, a remarkable thing happened: a team of librarians and archivists joined forces to spirit the manuscripts into hiding. Relying on extensive research and firsthand reporting, Charlie English expertly twines these two suspenseful strands into a fascinating account of one of the planet's extraordinary places, and the myths from which it has become inseparable.
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. To Westerners, the name "Timbuktu" long conjured a tantalising paradise, an African El Dorado where even the slaves wore gold. Beginning in the late eighteenth century, a series of explorers gripped by the fever for "discovery" tried repeatedly to reach the fabled city. But one expedition after another went disastrously awry, succumbing to attack, the climate, and disease. Timbuktu was rich in another way too. A medieval centre of learning, it was home to tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts, on subjects ranging from religion to poetry, law to history, pharmacology, and astronomy. When al-Qaeda-linked jihadists surged across Mali in 2012, threatening the existence of these precious documents, a remarkable thing happened: a team of librarians and archivists joined forces to spirit the manuscripts into hiding.Relying on extensive research and firsthand reporting, Charlie English expertly twines these two suspenseful strands into a fascinating account of one of the planet's extraordinary places, and the myths from which it it has become inseparable.
“Timbuktu is a real place, and Charlie English will fuel your wanderlust with true descriptions of the fabled city’s past, present, and future.” –Fodor’s Two tales of a city: The historical race to “discover” 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. To Westerners, the name “Timbuktu” long conjured a tantalizing paradise, an African El Dorado where even the slaves wore gold. Beginning in the late eighteenth century, a series of explorers gripped by the fever for “discovery” tried repeatedly to reach the fabled city. But one expedition after another went disastrously awry, succumbing to attack, the climate, and disease. Timbuktu was rich in another way too. A medieval center of learning, it was home to tens of thousands—according to some, hundreds of thousands—of ancient manuscripts, on subjects ranging from religion to poetry, law to history, pharmacology, and astronomy. When al-Qaeda–linked jihadists surged across Mali in 2012, threatening the existence of these precious documents, a remarkable thing happened: a team of librarians and archivists joined forces to spirit the manuscripts into hiding. Relying on extensive research and firsthand reporting, Charlie English expertly twines these two suspenseful strands into a fraught and fascinating account of one of the planet's extraordinary places, and the myths from which it has become inseparable.
To save ancient Arabic texts from Al Qaeda, a band of librarians pulls off a brazen heist worthy of Ocean’s Eleven in this “fast-paced narrative that is…part intellectual history, part geopolitical tract, and part out-and-out thriller” (The Washington Post). 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 shepherds. His goal: to preserve this crucial part of the world’s patrimony in a gorgeous library. But then Al Qaeda showed up at the door. “Part history, part scholarly adventure story, and part journalist survey….Joshua Hammer writes with verve and expertise” (The New York Times Book Review) about how Haidara, a mild-mannered archivist from the legendary city of Timbuktu, became one of the world’s greatest smugglers by saving the texts from sure destruction. With bravery and patience, Haidara organized a dangerous operation to sneak all 350,000 volumes out of the city to the safety of southern Mali. His heroic heist “has all the elements of a classic adventure novel” (The Seattle Times), and is a reminder that ordinary citizens often do the most to protect the beauty of their culture. His the story is one of a man who, through extreme circumstances, discovered his higher calling and was changed forever by it.
The Book Smugglers is the nearly unbelievable story of ghetto residents who rescued thousands of rare books and manuscripts-first from the Nazis and then from the Soviets-by hiding them on their bodies, burying them in bunkers, and smuggling them across borders. It is a tale of heroism and resistance, of friendship and romance, and of unwavering devotion-including the readiness to risk one's life-to literature and art. And it is entirely true. Based on Jewish, German, and Soviet documents, including diaries, letters, memoirs, and the author's interviews with several of the story's participants, The Book Smugglers chronicles the daring activities of a group of poets turned partisans and scholars turned smugglers in Vilna, "The Jerusalem of Lithuania." The rescuers were pitted against Johannes Pohl, a Nazi "expert" on the Jews, who had been dispatched to Vilna by the Nazi looting agency, Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, to organize the seizure of the city's great collections of Jewish books. Pohl and his Einsatzstab staff planned to ship the most valuable materials to Germany and incinerate the rest. The Germans used forty ghetto inmates as slave-laborers to sort, select, pack, and transport the materials, either to Germany or to nearby paper mills. This group, nicknamed "the Paper Brigade," and informally led by poet Shmerke Kaczerginski, a garrulous, street-smart adventurer and master of deception, smuggled thousands of books and manuscripts past German guards. If caught, the men would have faced death by firing squad at Ponar, the mass-murder site outside of Vilna. To store the rescued manuscripts, poet Abraham Sutzkever helped build an underground book-bunker sixty feet beneath the Vilna ghetto. Kaczerginski smuggled weapons as well, using the group's worksite, the former building of the Yiddish Scientific Institute, to purchase arms for the ghetto's secret partisan organization. All the while, both men wrote poetry that was recited and sung by the fast-dwindling population of ghetto inhabitants. With the Soviet "liberation" of Vilna (now known as Vilnius), the Paper Brigade thought themselves and their precious cultural treasures saved-only to learn that their new masters were no more welcoming toward Jewish culture than the old, and the books must now be smuggled out of the USSR. Thoroughly researched by the foremost scholar of the Vilna Ghetto-a writer of exceptional daring, style, and reach-The Book Smugglers is an epic story of human heroism, a little-known tale from the blackest days of the war.
The first book for general readers about the storied past of one of the world’s most fabled cities. Timbuktu — the name still evokes an exotic, faraway place, even though the city’s glory days are long gone. Unspooling its history and legends, resolving myth with reality, Marq de Villiers and Sheila Hirtle have captured the splendour and decay of one of humankind’s treasures. Founded in the early 1100s by Tuareg nomads who called their camp “Tin Buktu,” it became, within two centuries, a wealthy metropolis and a nexus of the trans-Saharan trade. Salt from the deep Sahara, gold from Ghana, and money from slave markets made it rich. In part because of its wealth, Timbuktu also became a centre of Islamic learning and religion, boasting impressive schools and libraries that attracted scholars from Alexandria, Baghdad, Mecca, and Marrakech. The arts flourished, and Timbuktu gained near-mythic stature around the world, capturing the imagination of outsiders and ultimately attracting the attention of hostile sovereigns who sacked the city three times and plundered it half a dozen more. The ancient city was invaded by a Moroccan army in 1600, beginning its long decline; since then, it has been seized by Tuareg nomads and a variety of jihadists, in addition to enduring a terrible earthquake, several epidemics, and numerous famines. Perhaps no other city in the world has been as golden — and as deeply tarnished — as Timbuktu. Using sources dating deep into Timbuktu’s fabled past, alongside interviews with Tuareg nomads and city residents and officials today, de Villiers and Hirtle have produced a spectacular portrait that brings the city back to life. From the Hardcover edition.
Usefully Useless is a gloriously diverse volume dedicated to the most engrossing trivia in the world. Guaranteed to excite the curiosity and amuse, its pages are filled with the sort of remarkable information you would never learn, but will be overjoyed to discover. Each fact is irresistibly fun and fascinating - the essence of anecdote and dinner-party conversation that is essential in the adult world - and, above all, usefully useless. Guaranteed to improve your mind, Usefully Useless contains a wealth of miscellany on a vast range of topics, including Literature, Geography, Food, Science, the Natural World, Sport and Politics - from the export of frogs' legs to the longest Monopoly game completed in the bath. Usefully Useless provides answers to such eternal questions as: What was Margaret Thatcher's favourite sitcom? Which British league football team's name has no letters that one could colour in with a pen? How many calories do you consume when you lick a stamp? What was the original colour of Coca-Cola? Which key do toilets flush in? Find out these answers and many, many more in Usefully Useless, the essential guide to the facts you never thought you'd need to know.
How has ISIS been able to muster support far beyond its initial constituency in the Arab world and attract tens of thousands of foreign volunteers, including converts to Islam, and seemingly countless supporters online? In this compelling intervention into the debate about ISIS’ origins and future prospects, the renowned French sociologist, Olivier Roy, argues that while terrorism and jihadism are familiar phenomena, the deliberate pursuit of death has produced a new kind of radical violence. In other words, we’re facing not a radicalization of Islam, but the Islamization of radicalism. Jihad and Death is a concise dissection of the highly sophisticated narrative mobilised by ISIS: the myth of the Caliphate recast into a modern story of heroism and nihilism. According to Roy, this very contemporary aesthetic of violence is less rooted in the history of Islamic thought than it is entrenched in a youth culture that has turned global and violent.
From Jeffrey Gettleman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist, comes a passionate, revealing story about finding love and finding a calling, set against one of the most turbulent regions in the world. A seasoned war correspondent, Jeffrey Gettleman has covered every major conflict over the past twenty years, from Afghanistan to Iraq to the Congo. For the past decade, he has served as the East Africa bureau chief for the New York Times, fulfilling a teenage dream. At nineteen, Gettleman fell in love, twice. On a do-it-yourself community service trip in college, he went to East Africa—a terrifying, exciting, dreamlike part of the world in the throes of change that imprinted itself on his imagination and on his heart. But around that same time he also fell in love with a fellow Cornell student—the brightest, classiest, most principled woman he’d ever met. To say they were opposites was an understatement. She became a criminal lawyer in America; he hungered to return to Africa. For the next decade he would be torn between these two abiding passions. A sensually rendered coming-of-age story in the tradition of Barbarian Days, Love, Africa is a tale of passion, violence, far-flung adventure, tortuous long-distance relationships, screwing up, forgiveness, parenthood, and happiness that explores the power of finding yourself in the most unexpected of places.
One of America's leading curators, "a woman of resilience and vision, a writer of clarity and ardor" (Chicago Tribune), takes you on a personal tour of the world of modern art. In the Depression-era climate of the 1930s, Katharine Kuh defied the odds and opened a gallery in Chicago, where she exhibited such relatively unknown artists as Fernand L�ger, Paul Klee, Joan Mir�, Ansel Adams, Marc Chagall, and Alexander Calder. Her extraordinary story reveals how and why America became a major force in the world of contemporary art.
From the internationally acclaimed and bestselling historians William Dalrymple and Anita Anand, the first comprehensive and authoritative history of the Koh-i-Noor diamond, arguably the most celebrated jewel in the world. On March 29, 1849, the ten-year-old leader of the Sikh kingdom of the Punjab was ushered into the magnificent Mirrored Hall at the center of the British fort in Lahore, India. There, in a formal Act of Submission, the frightened but dignified child handed over to the British East India Company swathes of the richest land in India and the single most valuable object in the subcontinent: the celebrated Koh-i-Noor diamond, otherwise known as the Mountain of Light. To celebrate the acquisition, the British East India Company commissioned a history of the diamond woven together from the gossip of the Delhi Bazaars. From that moment forward, the Koh-i-Noor became the most famous and mythological diamond in history, with thousands of people coming to see it at the 1851 Great Exhibition and still more thousands repeating the largely fictitious account of its passage through history. Using original eyewitness accounts and chronicles never before translated into English, Dalrymple and Anand trace the true history of the diamond and disperse the myths and fantastic tales that have long surrounded this awe-inspiring jewel. The resulting history of south and central Asia tells a true tale of greed, conquest, murder, torture, colonialism, and appropriation that shaped a continent and the Koh-i-Noor itself.
'A SERIOUSLY NECESSARY BOOK.' ROWAN WILLIAMS, FORMER ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY 'A MUST READ.' MIQDAAD VERSI, MUSLIM COUNCIL OF BRITAIN 'A COMPELLING AND COMPASSIONATE SURVEY OF BRITISH ISLAM.’ THE GUARDIAN 'A TIMELY BOOK.' BARONESS WARSI 'HUGELY IMPORTANT.' PETER OBORNE 'HEARTENING.' DAVID ANDERSON QC In this groundbreaking book, James Fergusson travels the length of Britain to explore our often misunderstood Muslim communities, and to experience life on both sides of our increasingly segregated society. The face of Britain is changing. The Muslim population has more than doubled over the last twenty years, and is projected to do so again over the next twenty. A societal shift of this size and speed has inevitably brought growing pains, with the impact on our communities becoming ever more profound – as well as painful, because in the eyes of many, Islam has a problem: the extremist views of a tiny minority, which, when translated into action, can result in catastrophic violence. The danger of this extremist threat - or our response to it - is that we are collectively starting to lose faith in the cultural diversity that has glued our nation together for so long. Our tolerance of others, so often celebrated as a ‘fundamental British value,’ is at risk. In this groundbreaking book, James Fergusson travels the length of Britain to evaluate the impact these seismic shifts have had on our communities. With the rise of nationalist movements, growing racial tensions and an increasingly out of touch political elite, what does it mean to be a Muslim in Britain? What is life like on both sides of this growing religious divide? And what can we do to heal the fractures appearing in our national fabric? Al-Britannia, My Country is a timely and urgent account of life in Britain today, a call to action filled with real-life experience, hard truths and important suggestions for our future.
In the last days of World War II, German forces are sent to occupy the Italian hill town, Santa Vittoria, and claim its great treasure: one million bottles of the Santa Vittoria wine that is its lifeblood. The clownish mayor, Bombolini, matches wits with the urbane German captain, Von Prum, as the town unites -- aristocrats and peasants, old enemies and young lovers -- to deceive the Germans and save its wine. Where the wine disappears to is the secret of Santa Vittoria that Robert Crichton brings to life with wit, heart, and suspense in his masterpiece of classic storytelling. First published in 1966, The Secret of Santa Vittoria was on the New York Times bestseller list for 50 weeks -- 18 weeks as #1 -- and became an international bestseller.
"Visionary physicist Geoffrey West is a pioneer in the field of complexity science, the science of emergent systems and networks... Fascinated by issues of aging and mortality, West applied the rigor of a physicist to the biological question of why we live as long as we do and no longer. The result was astonishing, and changed science, creating a new understanding of energy use and metabolism: West found that despite the riotous diversity in the sizes of mammals, they are all, to a large degree, scaled versions of each other... West's work has been gaming changing for biologists, but then he made the even bolder move of exploring his work's applicability...and applied...[it] to the business and social world."--
'Among the many gripping tales of travel and exploration the tale of Alexander Gardner is surely one of the most extraordinary. Master storyteller John Keay deftly sifts truth from myth-making to uncover fascinating new evidence, revealing an amazing tale worthy of Kipling or Flashman of a life lived further out on the edge than most could even imagine' MICHAEL WOOD Like the travels of Marco Polo, those of Alexander Gardner clip the white line between credible adventure and creative invention. Either this Scots-American is the nineteenth century's most intrepid traveller or its most egregious fantasist, or a bit of both. Contemporaries generally believed him; posterity became more sceptical. And as with Polo, the investigation of Gardner's story enlarged man's understanding of the world and upped the pace of scientific and political exploration. Before more reputable explorers notched up their own discoveries in innermost Asia, this lone traveller had roamed the deserts of Turkestan, ridden round the world's most fearsome knot of mountains and fought, as the first American in Afghanistan, 'for the good cause of right against wrong'. From the Caspian to Tibet and from Kandahar to Kashgar, Gardner had seen it all. At the time, the 1820s, no other outsider had managed anything remotely comparable. When word of his feats filtered out, geographers were agog. Historians were more intrigued by what followed. After thirteen years as a white-man-gone-native in Central Asia, Gardner re-emerged as a colonel of artillery in the employ of India's last great native empire. He witnessed the death throes of that Sikh Empire at close quarters and, sparing no gruesome detail, recorded his own part in the bloodshed (the very same featuring as the exploits of 'Alick' Gardner in the 'Flashman' series). Fame finally caught up with him during his long retirement in Kashmir. Dressed in tartan yet still living as a native, he mystified visiting dignitaries and found a ready audience for the tales of his adventurous past. But one mystery he certainly took to the grave: the whereabouts of his accumulated fortune has still to be discovered. Using much original material, including newly discovered papers by Gardner himself, this investigative biography by John Keay, bestselling author of India: A History, takes the reader on a quest from the American West to the Asian East to unravel the greatest enigma in the history of travel.
This book describes life on the contemporary border between Algeria and Mali, exploring current developments in a broad historical and socioeconomic context.
A West African Sufi and religious reformer (c.1794-1864), struggled to reconcile the temporal achievements of his jihad with his mystical calling. The fame of Shaykh Omar rested on his reputation as a worker of miracles, and the success of jihad in his path to Allah.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Chronicles the joint effort of the U.S. government, the publishing industry and the nation's librarians to boost troop morale during World War II by shipping 120 million books to the front lines for soldiers to read during what little downtime they had. 35,000 first printing.