The Book Collectors: A Band of Syrian Rebels and the Stories That Carried Them Through a War

Farrar. Oct. 2020. 208p. ISBN 9780374115166. $25. POL SCI. POL SCI
During the early years of the ongoing Syrian civil war, in the town of Daraya, southwest of the capital of Damascus, civilians were subjected to a ruthless siege by government forces and affiliated militias. Despite this devastation, a few dozen people created an oasis of peace by forming an underground library, salvaging thousands of books from the ruins of their beloved community. In 2015, French Iranian journalist Minoui (I’m Writing You from Tehran) discovered the library via Facebook and interviewed the activist librarians, following their activities on social media from her headquarters in Istanbul, then traveling to Beirut, Lebanon, and close to the Syrian borders to meet some of these book collectors. The group is depicted as part of a moderate, pacifist civil disobedience opposition, whose mission is a movement toward individual freedom by keeping dreams alive through books that take them beyond the misery of their besieged town.
VERDICT This compassionate portrayal of an engaging group of rebels serves as a testament to both the resilience of the human spirit and to the power of story. Highly recommended for those interested in current events, Middle East history and politics, and personal accounts of war. [See “Turn the Page,” p. 18.]
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