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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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  •  
    Mark Altamonte Springs, FL, USA 07-22-09
    Mark Altamonte Springs, FL, USA 07-22-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Kicks Ass"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kelly Charlottesville, VA, United States 11-14-08
    Kelly Charlottesville, VA, United States 11-14-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
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    "superb"

    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!

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John United States 09-23-08
    John United States 09-23-08 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    26
    ratings
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    18
    13
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    "Still don't know what happened"

    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.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Josh Alwitt Newton, MA USA 12-10-07
    Josh Alwitt Newton, MA USA 12-10-07 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
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    10
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    "Enlightening"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Guido San JuanPuerto Rico 11-06-07
    Guido San JuanPuerto Rico 11-06-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    15
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    "Excellent book to learn about fundamentalism"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Douglas Kent, WA, USA 10-11-07
    Douglas Kent, WA, USA 10-11-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    5
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    "Wow...Just Wow."

    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.

    Absolutely riveting!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Fairfax, VA, USA 07-09-07
    James Fairfax, VA, USA 07-09-07 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    43
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    43
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    "Essential!"

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kay DeForest, WI, USA 02-02-08
    Kay DeForest, WI, USA 02-02-08 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Looming Tower"

    This was an extraordinary book and I learned a lot about the decades preceding 9/11. Additionally, it was a objective and scholarly examination of Muslim culture and customs. The story of the tragedy of errors of policy and diplomacy by the U.S. is told in a compelling manner. Narration was superb and enhances the extraordinary history lesson.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Glen Mills, PA, USA 05-02-07
    William Glen Mills, PA, USA 05-02-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "All the details you would want"

    If you are interested in getting the big historical picture of radical movement, read this book. So much lead to 9-11. I would suggest Charlie Wilson'r War also.
    Great read.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Harvey Half Moon Bay, CA, USA 03-23-07
    Harvey Half Moon Bay, CA, USA 03-23-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting but marred by reader"

    The reader, Alan Sklar, made this audiobook less enjoyable than a more enthusiastic reader with a better sense of drama and the ability to interpret the natural cadence of the dialog would have made it.

    As for the book itself, I thought it was too long. The endless lists of names and meeting dates were not of great interest. I book shined when it discussed the underlying causes and history of the Islamists' hatred of modernity. I also thought the characterizations of Richard Clark and John O'Neill as well as the whole bureaucratic bungling involved in the anti-terrorism effort were well done.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
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