The Storied City: Book summary and reviews of The Storied City by Charlie English

The Storied City

The Quest for Timbuktu and the Fantastic Mission to Save Its Past

by Charlie English

The Storied City by Charlie English X
The Storied City by Charlie English
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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"English shares his firsthand observations of the region's people and its treasures, offering a no less fantastical or unlikely tale than those imagined in the fever-dreams of the first Europeans to venture up the Niger." - Publishers Weekly

"Where English breaks ground is by rigorously questioning the contemporary myth of Timbuktu as an intellectual hotbed, with libraries containing hundreds of thousands of important historical manuscripts, allegedly rescued by brave librarians from jihadis who wanted to destroy them. He echoes the skepticism of many academics who believe the documents' historical value 'was as over-revved as the numbers' ... English's sources, moreover, dispute the claim of any jihadi threat." - Kirkus

"Clear eyed and straightforward...[English] thoroughly dispels the myths about Timbuktu to reveal a truth that is, in many ways, even more remarkable." - Booklist

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

"In this enthralling book - part historiography, part detective story .... Like the beguiling place it describes, The Storied City is fascinating and surprising at every turn." - Scott Anderson, author of Lawrence in Arabia

"A stirring, page-turning story of thrilling discovery and heroic resistance, peopled by an unforgettable cast of heroes, villains, swashbucklers, scammers, sheikhs, kings, and learned men." - Amy Wilentz, author of Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti

"The actuality of Timbuktu's history, and the remarkable story English tells of the secret 2012 rescue of its invaluable manuscripts, is far richer than the mounds of gold envisioned by the many explorers who perished trying to get there." - Peter Stark, author of Astoria: Astor and Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire

This information about The Storied City shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Charlie English Author Biography

Charlie English is a former journalist for the Guardian, where he held several positions including arts editor and head of international news. A fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the author of two previous books, The Storied City and The Snow Tourist, he has traveled and reported widely around the globe. He lives in London with his family.

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