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The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 | [Lawrence Wright]

The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

This is a sweeping narrative history of the events leading to 9/11, a groundbreaking look at the people and ideas, the terrorist plans, and the Western intelligence failures that culminated in the assault on America. Lawrence Wright's remarkable book is based on five years of research and hundreds of interviews that he conducted in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, England, France, Germany, Spain, and the United States.
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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, General Nonfiction, 2007

This is a sweeping narrative history of the events leading to 9/11, a groundbreaking look at the people and ideas, the terrorist plans, and the Western intelligence failures that culminated in the assault on America. Lawrence Wright's remarkable book is based on five years of research and hundreds of interviews that he conducted in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, England, France, Germany, Spain, and the United States.

The Looming Tower achieves an unprecedented level of intimacy and insight by telling the story through the interweaving lives of four men: the two leaders of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri; the FBI's counterterrorism chief, John O'Neill; and the former head of Saudi intelligence, Prince Turki al-Faisal.

As these lives unfold, we see revealed the crosscurrents of modern Islam that helped to radicalize Zawahiri and bin Laden; the birth of al-Qaeda and its unsteady development into an organization capable of the American embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania and the attack on the USS Cole; O'Neill's heroic efforts to track al-Qaeda before 9/11, and his tragic death in the World Trade towers; Prince Turki's transformation from bin Laden's ally to his enemy; and the failures of the FBI, CIA, and NSA to share intelligence that might have prevented the 9/11 attacks.

The Looming Tower broadens and deepens our knowledge of these signal events by taking us behind the scenes. Here is Sayyid Qutb, founder of the modern Islamist movement, lonely and despairing as he meets Western culture up close in 1940s America; the privileged childhoods of bin Laden and Zawahiri; family life in the al-Qaeda compounds of Sudan and Afghanistan; O'Neill's high-wire act in balancing his all-consuming career with his equally entangling personal life (he was living with three women, each of them unaware of the others' existence); and the nitty-gritty of turf battles among U.S. intelligence agencies.

©2006 Lawrence Wright; (P)2006 Tantor Media

What the Critics Say

  • Pulitzer Prize, General Nonfiction, 2007
  • Audie Award Finalist, Non-Fiction, Unabridged, 2007

"Comprehensive and compelling." (Kirkus)
"Deeply researched...immaculately crafted." (The Wall Street Journal)
"Important, gripping....One of the best books yet on the history of terrorism." (Publishers Weekly)
"A thoughtful examination of the world that produced the men who brought us 9/11, and of their progeny who bedevil us today....The Looming Tower is a thriller. And it's a tragedy, too." (The New York Times Book Review)

What Members Say

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  •  
    John HIGHLANDS RANCH, CO, USA 09-06-08
    John HIGHLANDS RANCH, CO, USA 09-06-08
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    "Riveting... Sobering... Chilling..."

    Audio: Excellent. Clear, well-enunciated, easy to understand. Authentic pronunciations of the many Arabic names and places (as far as I know). To my ears the narrator has a North American English accent (Canadian or American, not British).

    Content: Riveting... Sobering... Chilling... A thoroughly detailed history of modern Radical Islam and Islamic terrorism from the 1940's through 9/11/2001. Despite the obvious culmination in 9/11 I'd say 90% of the book is spent on the 40's through the 90's. A lot of encounters amongst the terrorists are described in a story and dialogue style, bringing the history alive. Though an audiobook listener doesn't have access to references or index the author must have used interviews and eyewitness accounts for such reconstructions. It certainly makes for an engrossing read. This book was published around Aug. 2006 and though I'd heard about it often I assumed it was "just about 9/11". It is much more than that and I'm glad I finally got around to it. This is a must-read historical primer and I put it right up there with anything by Robert Spencer or books such as The Shia Revival, America Alone, or Kite Runner. I highly recommend this book.

    17 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ohioblue63 05-29-08
    ohioblue63 05-29-08 Member Since 2012
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    "A complex series of events made clearer"

    Americans may wonder why Al-Queda and Osama bin Laden wanted to attack America. One may also wonder how they were able to carry it out. This book makes it all much clearer. Placing the events of September 2001 in a long historical perspective, the work is excellent. The narrator does a wonderful job with the many complex names of the Egyptians, Saudis, and others living in the Middle East. Well worth listening to.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Teresa A. Hayes 11-17-06 Member Since 2006
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    "a hair short of objective"

    Write's account of the history of the radical fundamentalist Islamic movement is thorough, detailed, insightful and very digestible. A great primer for understanding why Americans' belief in the "irresitible lure of democracy and the American way of life" is a dangerous fantasy when trying to deal with what is truly a religious war that has been declared on America.

    The only disappointing aspect of Write's account is that he seems to have "taken sides" with FBI sources for his book. He characterizes the failures to do more to prevent 9/11 as largely a question of intelligence community turf protection. The "wall" he flippantly writes off as imaginary was very real to the people in both intelligence and law enforcement who were constantly under threat not to jeopardize prosecutions by "polluting" cases with intelligence information that could not be revealed in court. It was so real that nothing short of the tragegy of losing almost 3000 souls finally led to the legislation necessary to bring it down.

    That one flawed lack of objectivity, however, is overridden by the value of insight this book brings to understanding the motivations behind the new reality our world is facing. An excellent book, and a great narrator.

    29 of 31 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Columbus, OH, USA 11-14-06
    James Columbus, OH, USA 11-14-06
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    "Looming Tower - Excellent"

    This is a book that all thinking Americans should read, regardless of one's politics. It provides a straighforward explanation of the history of the radical Islamic movement.

    19 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul Mullen Waukesha, WI 03-04-08
    Paul Mullen Waukesha, WI 03-04-08 Member Since 2004
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    "Fabulous summary and perspective"

    Like many Americans, I watched the news, read the papers, listened to the reports... I had the facts, but there were too many and I could not synthesize them into a meaningful understanding.

    This book brings it together, drawing together the threads of this story in a clear and useful way. The story paints both many of the characters with both the brush of respect and the brush of critical examination. This fact-based history is also woven together in the multi-threaded style of current fictional adventure stories, making it both informative and attention grabbing simultaneously.

    In turns, I was frustrated, angry, disbelieving, and amazed. In the end I was grateful for the broader principles and understanding that came from absorbing this account.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CMontgomery 02-13-08
    CMontgomery 02-13-08 Member Since 2007
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    "powerful and informative"

    This is a fascinating history of Islamic Fundamentalism. It sets forth clear and balanced explanations of different theories of Islam and how fundamentalists have interpreted those theories to justify modern terrorism. At the same time, the book explains the history (over decades) of the fundamentalist movement, as well as the US government mistakes -- and successes -- in responding to the impending threat. I found the narration to be well-paced: it was slower in places discussing ideas, names, and terms with which most Americans are not familiar, which allowed me to process and remember foreign names and terms without having to backtrack to cover the same ground again. The narration's pace was faster when discussing the work performed by US agents and the government in-fighting that hampered the detection of the 9/11 plot.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leslie West Roxbury, MA, United States 06-10-07
    Leslie West Roxbury, MA, United States 06-10-07 Member Since 2004

    Like mainly mystery and suspense with a bit of chick lit and non-fiction thrown in. Severe addiction going on 10 years to Audiobooks.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very interesting historical account"

    After 9/11 I read and read and read trying to find a reason for "why" these radical Muslims hate us. This book gives an insightful history of Bin-Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and others involved in the current "jihad" against the West. It gives a history of many countries in the region, most notably Egypt's political struggles and how Saudi Arabia went from sand to wealth and the elder Bin-Laden's role in its development.

    If you are looking for answers as to why 9/11 happened, well I don't think any sane person will ever have that answer. If you are looking for a history of how distorted ideologies created such monsters, then you will get that from this book.

    Anyone interested in learning more about a region, the evolution of a very distorted ideology, and in my opinion, the destruction of a peaceful religion, you will be satisfied with what you learn.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Judith Boston, MA, United States 03-26-09
    Judith Boston, MA, United States 03-26-09
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    "Clearly laid out path to the 9/11 debacle"

    This was a perfect book to go through as an audiobook. Lawrence Wright manages to provide a historical perspective on the Jihadi movements, a detailed look at Bin Laden and his closest associates, and at the same time fleshes out the squables between the CIA, FBI, and the Clinton and Bush administrations that provided Bin Laden with an openning to bring down the World trade center and the Pentagon as well as a fourth plane planned for the White House or Capitol. Not only was the text well conceived, it was very well read and easy to listen to. Altogether very worth the time.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas Chapel Hill, NC, United States 04-11-08
    Thomas Chapel Hill, NC, United States 04-11-08 Member Since 2006
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    "outstanding"

    One of the best audiobooks I have listened to. May be a little slow at first, but this builds an entire history of the rise of islamic fundamentalism from the 1940s on. In particular, the final chapters track closely the rise of Al Quada and make for fascinating listening. The amount of research/interviews the author must have done is almost incomprehensible, as he brings the reader right into meetings/conversations that occurred in the most isolated countries in the world. A truly phenomenol comprehensive review, that keeps building and getting better throughout.

    13 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MH Southern Calif 01-01-08
    MH Southern Calif 01-01-08 Member Since 2007
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    "Riveting, eye-opening"

    It took a little bit to get into this one, but once it got going it was absolutely fascinating. To truly understand the world of Islamic terror of our day and it historical roots, this book is indispensible. No agenda, everyone involved is criticized or praised where deserved. Winner of LA Times Book of the Year, Pulitzer Prize...everyone should read.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
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