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)
This was a difficult book to listen to -- not surprisingly, considering that it's about violent people and violent events. But Lawrence Wright is a wonderful writer who presents complex events and people without flinching and without sensationalism or sentimentalism. And Alan Sklar's narration captures the text perfectly (for me, at least); he's clear and consistent, serious as befits the subject without being boring. I don't know if he's pronouncing all the names correctly, but he never stumbles and is consistent across the book.
I feel smarter after listening to this book -- maybe a bit wiser, a bit more understanding. Definitely more knowledgeable. I don't know if I really am smarter -- this is the first book I've read on the Middle East except a few novels and some histories of Israel. Wright could be slanting things in a way I just don't see -- but he's a reputable journalist and his point of view seems clear-eyed and non-judgmental. After reading this book I certainly have a more expanded view of human beings and what we're capable of, and how our societies are shaped by us and shape us.
The book presents a terrifying view of a part of the world so distant from mine. I'm working on a computer; I'm listening to music; I make music and love art; my dogs are at my feet. I'm a woman, with a career and a car and all the accoutrements of modern Western life ... and there are people -- serious, thoughtful, dedicated people -- to whom I am an abomination. The ones in this book are mostly Muslims, though certainly they don't represent all (or even the majority of) Muslims in the book. And yet there are no two-dimensional villains in the story Wright tells, no individual person setting out to do evil for its own sake. The story leading to 9/11 includes lots of people who want to make the world a better place (though defining "better" can be a bit of a problem). Also lots of people just wanting to get by and live. There are frightened people, lost people, brave people, selfish people, gentle and cruel people. They're all here in our world with us -- which is the same as saying we're in their world with them.
I highly recommend this book. But it's not an easy listen.
I liked learning all the behind info on Bin Laden's life, the rise of Al qaeda, learning about the rival groups and about the social-political environment that fueled Bin Laden and his cohort. Unfortunately, all the Arabic and South Asian names were hard to keep track of. My western ears had difficulty remembering which name belonged to which person.
I enjoyed learning about the transition Bin Laden had in his unfortunate life.
Sometimes I felt like I was listening to poetry vs book on the most wanted man/men in US history.
The Looming Tower is a compelling and frustrating telling of the birth of radical Islam through the attacks of 9/11. Compelling because of the weaving of the story to where you don't want to stop listening. Frustrating because of the knowledge afterwards that it was highly likely the 9/11 plot could have been prevented, or at least disrupted, if the territorial mindset of the CIA, FBI, NSA, et al. would have been put aside. The painstaking research that went into the writing of this book is evident on every page. This book is a cautionary warning that there are still radical Islamists out there bent on killing all "non-believers" and respect nothing short of brute force and a willingness to apply such force to protect the innocent people the Islamists are targeting. I give nothing short of the highest recommendation of this book.
I liked how in depth this book was. How al Qaeda got started from a philosophical standpoint. However the author spends too much time talking about one of the early influencers that I felt could have been a 5 minute background and instead seemed to take over an hour. Then there were circumstances I wanted to learn more about, that I wish were an hour long that we're gleaned over in 5 minutes. It was also difficult to follow along with the many Arabic names- I lost track easily and wished I had the printed or iBook version, so I could make notes and refer back to keep track. Overall I am glad I read this book, I feel like I have a better understanding of the issues in the Middle East
Not sure depends on subject matter
The performance was fine, but I did find it slightly distracting that you could tell when he was recording at different times.
I would like to know more in depth about the CIA and how they investigated terrorism pre 9/11 and how it has changed since.
Great flow of information. I learned a lot.
The Way of the Knife.
Each character and their description was of great interest for me.
Walking over dollars to pick up pennies.
After reading The Looming Tower and The Way of the Knife, I feel an understanding of our nations information gathering techniques entirely in a different light then I did before these readings.
A primer in the roots of terrorism.
No, too much to digest.
A well researched book.
Near the top. It really spells out how 911 came to be right from the start. Who would have thought the depth of it all.
No Easy Day. Because that book put the period at the end of the sentence for the Looming Tower and 911.
I have no preference.
Things you never knew about the road to 911.
My friend was listening to the book in my car and liked it so much he bought a copy so he could finish listening to it. He also was amazed and his eyes opened.
I never listen to any book twice.
How anyone could read this book & not understand how we've had a middle ages style religious war thrust upon us, is more than I could comprehend.
Among the top-ten.
Richard Clarke's book -- I forgot the title
That this story began in the US more than 50 years ago.
Exceptional work. Highly recommended.
sneib I am very shy...I love books.
I had not realized all the looming stuff in the backround. It is spelled out perfectly.
The amount of foreign persons in the US that wanted America destroyed.
I am a slow reader, so in audio form everything comes alive.
Report Inappropriate Content