The Storied City by Charlie English
The Quest for Timbuktu and the Fantastic Mission to Save Its Past

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Mr English tells the new and the older tales in parallel. The evacuation of Timbuktu’s manuscripts has been recounted by others in many newspaper articles and another recent book. But the history of European exploration is a compelling enough subject in its own right, and much less well-known.
-The Economist

Synopsis

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.

"A fascinating interweaving of past and present: meticulously researched, powerfully written and riveting." –Ben Macintyre, author of Rogue Heroes and A Spy Among Friends
 
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.
 

About Charlie English

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Charlie English has held numerous positions at the Guardian, most recently as head of international news. A fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the author of a previous book, The Snow Tourist, he lived in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier and traveled widely before settling in London with his wife and three children.
Author Residence: London, England Author Image 1
 
Published May 2, 2017 by Riverhead Books. 410 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Sports & Outdoors, Travel, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Storied City
All: 2 | Positive: 0 | Negative: 2

The Economist

Above average
on May 11 2017

Mr English tells the new and the older tales in parallel. The evacuation of Timbuktu’s manuscripts has been recounted by others in many newspaper articles and another recent book. But the history of European exploration is a compelling enough subject in its own right, and much less well-known.

Read Full Review of The Storied City: The Quest f... | See more reviews from The Economist

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Tom Zoellner on Jun 02 2017

But English deals with the inconsistencies in a transparent way — even if a bit late in the game — and, curiously, it even fits perfectly into the ongoing narrative of Timbuktu, a place where the magnificence of the tale can occlude the plain facts of what’s there.

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