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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.

About the Author

Joshua Hammer

Joshua Hammer was born in New York and educated at Horace Mann and Princeton University, graduating with a BA in English literature. In 1988 he joined Newsweek Magazine as a business and media writer, transitioning to the magazine's foreign correspondent corps in 1992. Hammer served, successively, as bureau chief in Nairobi, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Berlin, Jerusalem, and Cape Town, and also was the magazine's Correspondent at Large in 2005 and 2006. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in the 2004-2005 academic year. Since 2006 Hammer has been an independent foreign correspondent based in Berlin. Hammer is a contributing editor at Smithsonian Magazine and Outside, writes frequently for the New York Review of Books, and has contributed often to GQ, the New York Times Magazine, and countless other US publications. He was a finalist for the National Magazine Award in reporting in 2003, and won the award, for his writing about the Ebola crisis in West Africa, in 2016. He is also the author of four non-fiction books, including the New York Times bestseller, "The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu," which was published by Simon & Schuster in April 2016. Hammer lives with his partner and their five-year-old son, and a mile away from his two older sons (and ex-wife) in the Wilmersdorf neighborhood in western Berlin, where he continues, sadly, to wrestle with the German language after more than 10 years of using Germany as a base. He's also hard at work on his new book, tentatively titled "The Falcon Thief," about a notorious wildlife smuggler and the British detective who finally ran him in. S&S will publish it, if all goes according to plan, in 2019.

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