**Best Nonfiction Books of 2012**
From the Reviews
"Steve Kemper’s elegant, richly rewarding biography should go a long way toward correcting [Barth's obscurity]. On one level, the book is a superb chronicle of Barth’s travels, from the harrowing heat and physical danger to the dazzling diversity of people he encountered on his path. It’s also an astute character study of a relentlessly curious scientific personality." --Kate Tuttle, Boston Globe
"Heinrich Barth belongs in the ranks of the greatest explorers of Africa. But unlike most of the others, he was less interested in imperial conquest and self-promotion than in the cultures, the peoples, the languages, and the ancient manuscripts that he found there. It's a pleasure to see a lively, readable biography of him in English at last." --Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold's Ghost and To End All Wars
"Kemper's majestic account of Barth's journey restores the reputation of an explorer who was as passionate about science as he was about rigorous travel. It's an enthralling adventure, captivatingly told." --Ziauddin Sardar, The Times of London
"Sometimes a book grabs you by the throat and won’t let you put it down. I recently experienced that with Steve Kemper’s A Labyrinth of Kingdoms: 10,000 Miles Through Islamic Africa. I got so wrapped up in the story that I broke my long-standing rule about traveling with hardcover books because I wanted to finish it. I read on the plane. I read whenever there was a pause in vacation activities (and sometimes when there wasn’t). I read on the train from the airport and was so engaged that I almost missed my stop.” --Pamela Toler, History in the Margins
"If you have an ounce of historical exploratory curiosity in your veins, course through this forgotten tale. Timbuktu awaits." --Robert F. Wells, Expedition News
"...an enjoyable account of Barth's great journey packed with arresting details..." --Tim Jeal, Wall Street Journal
"A Labyrinth of Kingdoms is a fascinating account both of one man's journey and of African cultures on the eve of European expansion. . . . Barth's story is equal parts adventure and scholarship. Kemper treats both with a sure hand." --Shelf Awareness
"Stories in the vein of explorer Heinrich Barth’s are seldom told outside of the summer blockbuster.” --Erin Day, Louisville.com
"Journalist Kemper tells the engrossing story of a German scholar’s five-and-a-half year, 10,000-mile journey across North and Central Africa in an age when that continent was as remote and exotic to Europeans as the North Pole." --Publishers Weekly
"Kemper weaves information from Barth’s own publication about the journey as well as the notes of his fellow companions to paint an in-depth and vividly descriptive account of this remarkable expedition." --Booklist
"A spirited reconstruction of the arduous five-year trek into Central Africa by Heinrich Barth (1821–1865), a German scientist exploring for England." --Kirkus
"The Victorian-era reading public was enamored with the swashbuckling yarns of 'intrepid' white explorers, such as Richard Burton, among people they depicted as savages, and they by and large ignored Barth’s 'meticulous scholarship.' Yet today, Barth is decidedly more relevant for our post-colonial global world." --History Book Club
A true story that rivals the travels of Burton or Stanley for excitement, and surpasses them in scientific achievement.
In 1849 Heinrich Barth joined a small British expedition into unexplored regions of Islamic North and Central Africa. One by one his European companions died, but he carried on alone, eventually reaching the fabled city of gold, Timbuktu. His five-and-a-half year, 10,000-mile adventure ranks among the greatest journeys in the annals of exploration, and his discoveries are considered indispensable by modern scholars of Africa.
Yet because of shifting politics, European preconceptions about Africa, and his own thorny personality, Barth has been almost forgotten. The general public has never heard of him or his epic journey or his still-pertinent observations about Africa and Islam, and his monumental five-volume Travels and Discoveries in North and Central Africa is rare even in libraries. Though he made his journey for the British government, he has never had a biography in English. Barth and his achievements have fallen through a crack in history.
This is a forgotten story of survival, adventure, and scientific discovery by a remarkable man.