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I don't know if Frank Kryza made much money from this. I suspect a lot of the historical writers I have been reading have not made a ton off of their books, but I certainly respect and enjoy their efforts even if they are not making the bucks of a John Grissom. It is this kind of effort that now and then brings fascinating people like Laing, Clapperton and Warrington to us 21st century readers and keep their names from being forgotten. Herodotus said history is written so great men and their deeds are not forgotten-or something like that. Thanks Frank, I appreciated the book and the effort.

May 22, Kenny rated it really liked it. Really enjoyed this. Back in the 18th and 19th century, more was known about the face of the moon than the interior of Africa. Good fact that. So Victorians, with their sense of order and derring do - combined of course with superiority and racism set out to discover the lost city of Timbuktu which may have been a surprise to its residents, who must have felt they always knew where they were. Anyway, well know fact in those days that you weren't anywhere until a white bloke wandered in and Really enjoyed this.

Anyway, well know fact in those days that you weren't anywhere until a white bloke wandered in and said you were now an official somewhere. Those guys were hardy, resourceful, plucky, greedy, evil, good or some combination, but they were all a bit mental. And this is their story, concentrating on Alexander Gordon Laing, the first man to reach Timbuktu, as well as previous expeditions - Mungo Park and the Denham, Clapperton and Oudney expedtiions- with Denham winning the dubious award of most odious malevolent person to step out of Britain in that possibly most era.

And frankly I'd include fiction as well as non-fiction there. Anyway, the events this chronicals are hard edged explorations, dangers and dealings with the locals, and with the UK Consul in Tripoli, Warrington, a major in every sense character throughout the whole period, it would actually be difficult to make these larger than life characters dull. Which thankfully the book doesn't do.

Quite the opposite, it picks up pace through to Timbuktu, and I found really keeps the interest for a lengthy debate started by Warrington accusing the foul French had absconded with some priceless papers that clouded relations, and made things Clips along nicely, with good use of the original surviving letters, but with an accessible, not overly academic style but copious notes if you like that sort of thing.

Digging Into the Myth of Timbuktu

View 1 comment. Exciting account of the first recorded European experience with a fable city, the reality and the tragic aftermath Feb 06, Marty Reeder rated it really liked it Shelves: acquired. Having been piqued with a recent fetish for African exploration and discovery by Europeans as well as the pre-existing cultures, kingdoms and peoples, I grabbed for The Race for Timbuktu, a book I acquired long ago just as a similar desire flamed out and left it gathering dust on my to-read shelf.

So, when my yearning was rekindled this past year, I eagerly snatch up The Race for Timbuktu, ready to dive in.

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No further questions … and no cross examination! For me, however, I more felt that this would be a dutiful, fact-finding read. No one had recommended it.

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Boy was I surprised when I actually found the background info on African exploration being fascinating, if not exciting. I was in awe.

Jihadists return to northern Mali a year after French intervention

Both of them faced daunting, though highly different, tasks jungle survival versus desert survival. Both of them succeeded in some measure thanks to their passionate determination. Most of all, Kyrza allows the most distinct character of these stories to take precedence--the setting. So amazing was his storytelling, that at one point I thought I had to be in fiction story territory. One of the characters being left for dead, yet not only surviving but pushing on. Later, I would question the true ending of the story for a couple of chapters, fully expecting a twist ending in the vein of a mystery novel.

So devastating were some events, one in particular, that after reading, it threw me off for half the day as I mourned for a tragic turn of events that seemed unfair to me.

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What a wonderful mixture of researching a story worth telling, and then finding a way to tell it right. Having said that, Kyrza is not perfect. In fact, in some ways, he feels quite amateur.

Some of the cobbling together of tales are sloppy enough that they needlessly repeat details, chapters apart from each other. The focus of some chapters seem to be built into a bigger whole, while others are strangely isolated or thematically irrelevant. When I read his afterword and saw how many hands touched the manuscript, how many people helped to decide the direction of the research and narrative, and his own journey and motivation in writing it, that made the discombobulated feel of the book make more sense, even if it did not fix some of the overarching problems.

While that does affect the reading experience, however, Kyrza succeeds even where he may not intend to. Jan 25, Joel rated it really liked it. This event, famous for its extravagance, was the introduction of Mali into the popular imagination — and economies — of the Islamic caliphates of old. A perfect jumping off point — and an ideal meeting place of cultures — Timbuktu rapidly became an epicenter of trade and Islamic learning, with a university founded by Musa reaching 25, students and boasting libraries with almost half a million books during a time when Oxford had only hundreds, maybe a thousand.

A place where, it is fabled, the currency was not in gold or silver but in books. But the legend continued. Specifically, it is the story of how a group of British explorers tried to penetrate the dark heart of Africa. Braving Tuareg raids, desperate Saharan expanses devoid of water, disease, betrayal, tribal wars and Muslim Jihads a group of intrepid explorers sought to penetrate the unknown to arrive at last to Timbuktu. I like this story because, above all, it is a human story. Kryza delves into the personal travails of the travelers on their journey, never whitewashing their not insignificant interpersonal weaknesses, while nevertheless also highlighting the tremendous bravery and courage of conviction of these singular men as they competed for the great prize — to be the first white man to visit Timbuktu, and return.

It is a hard story, because it is one of suffering and pain and betrayal. It is a disappointing story, because the characters themselves often leave so much to be desired. And it is a sad story because so many died on the journey; while for those who made it, their frustration as they enter Timbuktu to find that the glory days of that fabled city were centuries in the past is almost tangible. Jun 22, Brian rated it liked it. The beginning and end of this book are difficult to get through. It's the juicy middle that's entertaining.

African History Timbuktu Journey To The Empire Of Knowledge

The first third of the book works its way through a long line of unfortunate explorers. After a while, I found it tough to get invested in any character because I figured he wouldn't live more than a few pages. These stories demonstrated just how daunting it was to get to Timbuktu. It was satisfying when the author finally focused on a team that made some headway into the interior of the The beginning and end of this book are difficult to get through. It was satisfying when the author finally focused on a team that made some headway into the interior of the continent.

I enjoyed hearing about their interactions with one another and with their African hosts. It was especially interesting to learn about African leaders' initial reactions upon meeting them. The Europeans were part extra-terrestrial and part ominous prelude to Africa's foreign relations.

Legend of Timbuktu

The anxiety was especially on the minds of those Africans who had heard about Great Britain's work in India. All this goes to show that there was a lot more to this book than a simple race to find an exotic city. It was a pivotal moment in history for two continents. The end of the book lost me though. It got really overbearing with the many details of the Timbuktu quest's post mortem. It was an unsatisfying conclusion in light of all the general themes that the author could have reinforced, touching on colonialism and European urges to gather Africa's resources.

This was a good book, but you have to be willing to skim when the details get overwhelming. Mar 08, Crash rated it liked it. This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers.