Many feared the permanent loss of thousands of precious manuscripts and relics after insurgents razed Timbuktu’s Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research. The Institute was home to over 30,000 manuscripts dating back to the 13th century. Or was it? In a fascinating report, Rukmini Callimachi details the extraordinary efforts of the some passionate locals that wound up saving much of the collection.
For most people, Mario Puzo’s The Godfather is the beginning and end of mafia books, the sole notable entry in a sparse and little-known genre. That’s why it’s helpful that Roberto Dainotto, in The Guardian, published this list, which includes The Godfather, Eric Hobsbawm’s Primitive Rebels, and Alexander Stille’s Excellent Cadavers, among other picks.
“[I]n the world of letters, it is hard to imagine a more seismic change than this one.” The New York Times announces that its longtime book critic Michiko Kakutani is stepping down after nearly four decades of reviews.
The Times also offers a roundup of her greatest hits, including writeups of Beloved, Infinite Jest, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and Bill Clinton‘s memoir My Life:
The book, which weighs in at more than 950 pages, is sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull — the sound of one man prattling away, not for the reader, but for himself and some distant recording angel of history.
This announcement was followed by the great news that repeat Year in Reading alumna Parul Sehgal will join Jennifer Senior and Dwight Garner as a Times book critic, leaving her position as senior editor of the NYT Book Review. Congratulations, Parul!
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the “Ted Wilson Reviews the World” series over at Electric Literature. This week, he takes on everyone’s (least?) favorite confection — sprinkles. Unsurprisingly, sprinkles score a bit higher than Anxiety did a couple weeks ago: “Sprinkles can take an ordinary cupcake and turn it into a cupcake that looks like a rainbow shattered and fell all over it, and then the leprechaun at the end of that rainbow hid inside the cupcake and the only way to get him is to eat it.”