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)
Say something about yourself!
An informative, detailed account of some of the key events leading up to 9/11 and some of the personalities behind al-Queada and within the US Intelligence community. The portraits of Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahri, and various other al-Quaeda principals helps humanize these men and, in the process, makes their actions seem (if possible) even more horrific. One finds oneself asking what went wrong to cause relatively comfortable and educated human beings to plan and carry out mass murder on a global scale. Wright clearly, and correctly, points to absolutist ideology as a primary cause; a conviction that a particular set of beliefs represents universal truth that cannot withstand the presence (anywhere, ultimately) of people who believe differently to any degree. Al-Queada, of course, is only a more recent incarnation of this age-old cause of human suffering.
The book also casts blame on the US Government for emboldening al-Quaeda and failing to correctly interpret intelligence data, focusing primarily on petty infighting within and between various intelligence agencies and blundering misapplications of US military power. Especially in these areas, Wright sometimes appears to suffer from a certain amount of hindsight bias, though this is a minor distraction in an overall noteworthy book.
I was a little skeptical when I first heard the narrator. He sounds a bit like a cowboy with one too many empty Marlboro packs on the floor of his pickup. However, it wasn't long before the voice grew on me and I could recognize it for all its gravitas. The narrator even demonstrates remarkable command of the Arabic names.
I hesitated to buy this book, because I typically like books with a grand scope (i.e. terrorism in the 20th century vs. the 9-11 attacks). The book did not disappoint me. It begins much earlier than I anticipated and chronicled some of the early figures in the radical Islam movement and the Muslim Brotherhood. Unfortunately, despite glimmers of hope that our heroes would succeed, the book concludes with the inevitable scene of destruction in New York.
The writing itself is staggeringly good. Poetic when it needs to be, but, more often than not, simply concise and vivid. The subject matter moves the story along. There isn't a lot of need for flowery language. I also applaud the author for his measured perspective. We are privy to many poignant moments with the likes of Osama bin Laden, and we are invited to make our own moral judgments and condemnations, rather than having them shoved down our throats by a heavy handed author.
Buy this audiobook! It's intriguing, entertaining, informative, scary, tragic, maddening, inspiring, etc, etc. My only suggestion would be to borrow out a copy from your local library simultaneously. If you're unfamiliar with Arabic names, they can be difficult to keep track of. Having the hardcopy close at hand to reference would be an invaluable resource. As for me, I'm going to go get my hands on a hardcopy and read it again, from cover to cover.
It was worth every second of listening...a complete and thorough examination of history, people, and beliefs that transpired toward 911. I highly recommend this book!
I bought this book for all the good reviews it received. However, I was disappointed. It was not bad, just not good either and didn't live up to the ratings. The story line was very disjointed and without a real focus. Way too long, including fictious dialog that was totally unnecessary and made it tedious at times.
Well written and narrated, the narrative moves at a reasonable pace and helps explain how we got into our current predicament. I finally feel like I understand the driving forces behind something that from our perspective looks like insanity.
This is a very good book. The author was able to tell two parallel stories that end up uniting. The reaserch for the book is really amazing. The author moves the author from times and places in the midle east in a very natural way. Excellent book.
This amazing book chronicles the ongoing jihad mentality in the Islamic world, and the failings of the FBI/CIA in preventing 9/11. This book is the best ammunition against the theory that the invasion of Iraq is the cause of Islamic radicalism, and has instead been simmering since the 1940s with the indignation of Sayyid Qutb to the perceived Godlessness of Western Society.
A thoughtful story of the world's most wanted man, Osama Bin-Laden, and his genesis from a young man trying to fit into his father's construction conglomerate, to his travels in the jihad in Afghanistan, and his morphing into an Islamic radical after considering a farmer's life in Sudan.
A tragic story of FBI career-man, John O'Neil, and his tracking of Osama when Al'Queda was considered to be just a rag-tag group of annoyances, and the obstacles him and the other FBI agents faced due to the "wall" erected during the Clinton administration. Listening, I wanted to jump into my iPod and get the CIA agents to give the FBI the evidence they needed, yet were withholding, which prevented the FBI from connecting the dots.
Every literate American needs to read this fascinating book about Osama bin Laden, about Islam, about US intelligence, and ultimately about why our government failed us in not stopping 9/11 before it happened.
But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - J.D. 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.
I really wanted to read the history but wayyy too many names that all sounded the same and very complicated to understand. Unless you are an avid follower of the details, this information goes in one ear and out the other. However, i did learn a lot and was very distressed of what really goes on in this world.
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