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)
The first half is a little slow, which is why I'm not giving 5 stars. But this is an amazing look into all of the screw ups that lead to 9/11.
Runner, Commuter, Dietitian with a passion for U.S. History.
A highly readable version of the events of the 9-11 report with more skilled character development than much of popular fiction. My only problem was keeping the arabic names and minor players straight.
Very good perspective about the events leading up to 9/11, the dysfuntion of our intelligence agencies and a good insight into the 2 key figures of Al Queda and how they started and how long they have been around and a feel for how formidable they are. Very relevant and eye opening. Worth the read.
It's nice to see that al-qaeda is subject to the same backbiting, backstabbing, and dissent that any corporation in America is prone to. It's also important for Americans to understand how systemic failures on the part of our government lead to the disaster that was 9/11.
I compare this book to a book written years ago called "Case Closed", about the JFK assasination. The author studied in depth Lee Harvey Oswald then proceeded to squash all conspiracy theories. You walk away confident Oswald acted alone.
Lawrence Wright does the same with Osama bin Laden. You wonder what in god's name we're doing in Iraq. It also highlights the incompetency of the CIA.
The recent history of the Middle East is enormously complex and this book helps make it clearer. I appreciate the reader since his voice is neutral - it doesn't dominate the text as other reader's voices can.
This book is a real eye opener. It traces its origin to the origins of radical Islam itself and then follows the path to the 9/11 attacks. The story takes you meeting by meeting along the paths of both sides in this story. You get to go inside AQ meetings and hear who said what to whom, then moments later, you are inside the struggles of the FBI and CIA trying to deal with the "Wall" separating the Intel from the Law Enforcement entities in our government. Lawrence Wright looks to have done some homework on this one.
Every westerner every non Muslim should read this. I never understood where the Islamic fundamentalist got the inspiration to commit mass murder. I now have some insight into their history and the madness they believe.
Lawrence Wright did an excellent job tracking the development of al-qaeda, and the genesis of its philosophies. I learned a lot about Islam and the internal division and struggles within it, and appreciated the author's efforts to provide a fair and unbiased history beginning in the mid-20th century. Listeners will be delighted to find that Alan Sklar's reading of this book truly does it justice. This is perfect pairing not to be missed!
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