Apr 17, 2020Gareldb rated this title 3.5 out of 5 stars
I liked the book although it was not exactly what I was expecting. With that title I had assumed it would involve more intrigue and, while there was some of that, it was primarily a depressing description of the recent history of failures by the Mali government, the corruption and inadequacy of the Malian army, and the ruthlessness and fanaticism of all of the various jihadi terrorist groups that continually seem to occupy the country. The libraries of Islamic books that had been collected in Timbuktu sound amazing. The artistry and knowledge contained in them sound unbelievable. It is hard to imagine the effort to collect and preserve 377,000 of these books, many of which are several hundred years old, in what in some cases amounted to little more than mud huts while these various jihadi groups swept through, bent on destruction of anything and anyone that disagrees with their religious beliefs. The writer does an excellent job of capturing all of that while never getting boring or preachy. This is definitely a case where you wish the world were different but, based on what I read, it makes it seem very doubtful that it ever will be.