“From fire, water, the passage of time, neglectful readers,and the hand of the censor, each of my books has escaped to tell meits story.”

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—Alberto Manguel

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In an age where we’re inundated with words, it's easy to takethem for granted; to forget how precious they can be. JoshuaHammer's book, “The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu,” details thestory of Abdel Kader Haidara, a collector and scholar who spentmuch of the 1980s gathering and salvaging tens of thousands ofancient Islamic and secular manuscripts that were disappearing intoobscurity and decay. In 2012, when Al Qaeda militants seized thearea and threatened to destroy the irreplaceable collection,Haidara and a network of brave librarians conducted a “brazen heistworthy of ‘Ocean's Eleven’” and snuck all 350,000 volumes out ofthe city.

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History is littered with tyrants, zealots and invaders whounderstand and fear the power that knowledge represents. In 1258,Mongol armies targeted and destroyed the House of Wisdom, a majorintellectual center of the Islamic Golden Age. When Spanishconquistadors invaded the Americas during the 1500s, Catholicpriests collected and burned the books and documents of Mayas,Aztecs and others. During the War of 1812, British forces used3,000 books looted from the Library of Congress to burn down theU.S. Capitol.

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Related: 10 finance books to read thiswinter

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Luckily, there are also countless stories of brave people likeHaidara, or those who thwarted book-burners, anti-vice crusadersand even the U.S Post Office in the 1920s by disguising andsmuggling James Joyce's banned masterpiece, “Ulysses.”

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“For the best return on your money, pour your purse intoyour head.”

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—Benjamin Franklin

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In the increasingly competitive and volatile benefits world,knowledge becomes more valuable by the day. Marcie O’Dwyer notes consultants “[mustseparate themselves] from the pack by not only knowing the … lawsand their implications, but by being able to translate them so thatbusinesses truly understand what it all means for them.” In Face ofChange, John Sbrocoo says: “I’m reading every night andon weekends … I learn in order to win business. That gives me anedge … The more knowledge you have about the system, the more youcan help your clients.”

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The benefits consultants I talk to every day are curious,passionate and thirsty for knowledge. As we close out anothertumultuous year, I look forward to hearing your stories—andlearning more about you—in 2018.

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Paul Wilson

Paul Wilson is the editor-in-chief of BenefitsPRO Magazine and BenefitsPRO.com. He has covered the insurance industry for more than a decade, including stints at Retirement Advisor Magazine and ProducersWeb.