Pulitzer Prize, General Nonfiction, 2007This 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
"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)
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
This is an excellent story that brings the events leading up to 9/11 into human focus. This is a story of people, not politics and individuals not technology. It examines the terrorists and western intelligence agents all as human beings focusing on their fluid motivations and goals along with both strengths and limitations. This is a down to earth analysis of the factors and people that lead to 9/11. It does not cast blame or propose solutions, it just tells the story. Although it is not a perfect book it fills a gap that definitely needed filling. The book is not for everyone as it is not a ???big picture??? story, but instead it focuses on the details of relationships and events.
This is thoroughly engrossing and compelling read, tracing the origins of al Qaeda from its philosophical founding through to the overthrow of the Taliban. Rich with details, the pacing nonetheless never lags - lets call it a non-fiction thriller. There are lots of interesting bits throughout but what really surprised me was were the numerous occasions where what we now call al Qaeda might never have come to be if not for some combination of luck, timing, or inadvertent consequences. Easily, OBL or his organization might have faded into obscurity on more than a few occasions - it's amazing that they didn't. Overall, the author does a great job of shepherding the reader through the evolution of al Qaeda and it's prime movers and shakers. As we get closer to 9/11 he also weaves into the narrative the growing awareness of the threat al Qaeda posed to the US and how it began to track this. Fascinating from beginning to end. All in all, a very compelling and entertaining read for anyone who wants a better understanding of the growth of Islamic terrorism and the personalities, players, and their motives.
Comprehensive history of Al Qaeda tracing to its Islamic, Egyptian root, how it was propelled by corrupt and brutal Middle Eastern regimes, fueled by Arab-Israeli conflict, and steered toward its anti-America focus by the charismatic yet quixotic Bin Laden. Shockingly, US had amble clues and leads that would have prevented the 911 attacks only to have faltered because of the intense antagonizing cultures between CIA and FBI. Well researched, and succinctly presented.
Max Fisher of Rushmore Academy
This is a deeply compelling history of radical Islam and the circumstances that led to the events of 9/11. Finally, all the strange-sounding Arabic names that have come up since that day have meaning and context. A very powerful work, which I was sad to see end.
The Looming Tower is well-written, incredibly well-documented, and, if it is possible with such a highly charged subject, well-balanced. 17 hours of audio may seem daunting, but Lawrence Wright is such a gifted story teller that the time just flew by. He brings you inside the discussions of Bin Laden's inner circle and the FBI. This is a must read for every American who is concerned about our future in a world where Islamic Fundamentalism does not differentiate between mass murder and political gain.
I really enjoyed this one, got thru it much faster than usual. Found myself extending my drives and walks to hear more. Wright has obviously done his homework here, as evidenced by the Pulitzer. It's extremely well researched and thought-provoking. The book focuses primarily on the backgrounds and actions of Bin Laden, Zawahiri and John O'Neill and really gets you into the minds of these men. It's sad to hear how stymied the FBI agents were by "The Wall" and CIA in-fighting. Everyone knows how it ends of course, but the journey there was fascinating for me.
I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^
"Wherever you are, death will find you, even if you are in looming towers" ("أينما تكونوا يدرككم الموت ولو كنتم في بروج مشيدة")
- Qur'an 4:78
A great narrative history of the rise of al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. Wright's journalism takes the reader from Sayyid Qutb's youth to the destruction of the twin towers and includes most of the major characters both in al-Qaeda, and Zawahiri's al-Jihad to Saudi Arabia to the FBI, CIA, and NSA. The focus of the book, however, is obviously Bin Laden and O'Neill who both seem iconic symbols of radicalized Islam and the US.
The research and narrative of the book is impressive and even though many of these stories and ideas have been floating for years (some of what I seem to have known is probably due to Wright's groundbreaking reporting in this book (It was originally published in 2006). The narrative is complex and jumps back and forth across countries and cultures and institutions, but never loses the central theme and historical elements. It is a masterpiece of narrative history in both focus and scale.
Reading, the arts and physical activity clarify, explain, illustrate, and interpret life’s goods and bads.
Author Lawrence Wright, in his Looming Tower, tells the full and complete story of 9/11. The book’s instructions on what occurred, the people involved, his research, presentation and conclusions are a perfect study into history.
Mr. Wright has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1992. He is also an author, screenwriter, and playwright. In 1993, Wright published a two-part article in the magazine about recovered memories, titled “Remembering Satan,” which won the National Magazine Award and the John Bartlow Martin Award for Public Interest Journalism. He won another National Magazine Award for his 2011 profile of Paul Haggis, “The Apostate.” That article became a part of his most recent book, “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief” (2013). His history of al-Qaeda, “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11” (2006), was translated into twenty-four languages and won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. Parts of that book originally appeared in The New Yorker, including a Profile of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader of al-Qaeda, which won the 2002 Overseas Press Club Award for magazine reporting.
Given those credentials one would expect nothing but the best, and the reading delivers just that.
This is the best book yet about Al-Qaida. Lawrence Wright is a superb journalist and his tale starts over fifty years ago when a discontented Islamic scholar visited the United States. He goes on to recount the various incarnations of Islamic groups that eventually became Al-Qaida.
He also gives us a chilling account of the dogged pursuit of A-Q that paralleled the combination of laziness, intra-service rivalries, blindness, inattention, and error that allowed A-Q to proliferate and grow, culminating in 9-11.
This is absolutely a MUST READ for anyone who plans to have an intelligent conversation about A-Q or Islamic terrorism. If you find yourself in dialogue with someone who has not read The Looming Tower, save yourself a bout of frustration and high blood pressure and end the conversation immediately.
A history of Islamic fundamentalism.
An empathetic, but not sympathetic window in to the minds of terrorists.
An answer to the question of how it was allowed to happen.
A heart-achingly sad tale of incredible coincidence and horrific destruction.
All told in very readable (listenable), concise and unemotional clarity by the author.
Perfectly read by a great narrator.
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