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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

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Eunice Harrodsburg, KY, United States 08-07-09
    Eunice Harrodsburg, KY, United States 08-07-09 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Grateful for such an excellent narrative."

    Such a comprehensive well-written narrative of the events leading to the 9/11 attacks is hard to find, but this book truly delivers! The insights of those whose beliefs and actions led to today's terror networks are thoroughly explored and extremely helpful.

    Looking at the excellent reviews posted here, it is hard to find anything unique to say. Just add my voice to the choir of those who say, "Well done! Bravo!!!"

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathy Davis, CA, United States 07-30-09
    Kathy Davis, CA, United States 07-30-09 Member Since 2008

    Newly retired, I am a reading fiend! I like many types of books, both fiction and non-fiction, with the exception of romance and fantasy

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent account!"

    This book picks up momentum as it gradually draws you in to a story everyone should know. Fascinating, scary, and frustrating all at the same time. You shake your head and wonder just how this could have happened when all the pieces of the puzzle were there all along.
    I thought the narrator was wonderful and added to the experience of the book immensely.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew Tucson, AZ, USA 01-01-08
    Andrew Tucson, AZ, USA 01-01-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Looming Tower a must read"

    This book is a revealing window into why America was attacked on Sept 11 2001. It traces the history of the current radical Islamist thinking, and shows how it culminated in the 9-11 attack. It also gives the reader an understanding of why the Islamists cannot be negotiated with, in the usual understanding of the word.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim Helena, MT, USA 12-02-07
    Jim Helena, MT, USA 12-02-07 Member Since 2006
    ratings
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    3
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    "required reading"

    I can't think of a more important book for anyone who wants to understand the root causes of militant Islam. I thought I had done a fair amount of reading on this subject previously, but this book was truly revelatory.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Castro Valley, CA, USA 06-29-07
    Richard Castro Valley, CA, USA 06-29-07 Member Since 2003
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    "Very Good Book;; Mediocre Narrator"

    First off, the author definitely shows a bias toward the FBI over the CIA. However, given the evidence he presents, it's easy to agree with his conclusion. While the FBI was trying to prevent Al Qaeda from executing further attacks, the CIA was withholding vital information.

    Second, how can this be a defense of Clinton policies? Their main attempts to thwart Bin Laden were with cruise missiles. Does anybody really think you can assassinate a guerrilla with a cruise missile? And failing to respond to the Cole incident, even as a lame duck, was a disastrous mistake.

    Finally, although I found the material very compelling, the narrator frequently put me to sleep. For more background on this topic, I highly recommend Charlie Wilson's War, America's Secret War and the 9/11 Commission Report

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kirk Dahlonega, GA, United States 10-19-06
    Kirk Dahlonega, GA, United States 10-19-06 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Engrossing yet Flawed"

    The Looming Tower is the wide-ranging story of the attacks of 9/11. Lawrence Wright's research into the events and personalities involved in the attacks is impressive, yet it is what he neglects to mention that sheds light on his purpose.

    In The Looming Tower, the CIA is Wright’s scapegoat. Wright cites the failure of the transfer of information from the CIA to the FBI as the central reason for the success of 9/11. Wright mentions the now-famous "wall" between the CIA and the FBI that prevented the transfer of information pre-9/11, yet Wright characterizes the wall an entire bureaucracy of lawyers feared as more imaginative than real. His premise is that the CIA took the law too literally when it could have easily ignored it. Interestingly, within the minutiae of detail that Wright presents, he never mentions the creator of the wall--Jamie Gorelick--a Democrat who was chosen to sit in the 9/11 Commission.

    The hero of this work is John O' Brien, an unsympathetic FBI agent who aggravates practically everyone in his orbit. O' Brien is the establishment as antihero, a sociopath who senses that 9/11 is looming, yet cannot get out of his own way while efforting to communicate his fears to the powers that be. Another hero is Richard Clarke, who Wright paints as yet another stereotypical antihero. Tellingly, Michael Scheuer of the CIA is characterized as "burnt-out" and mentally unstable. It is Scheuer who has repeatedly made headlines by insisting that the Clinton administration missed numerous chances to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden.

    This book is the Rosetta stone for the Clinton apologists, and the philosophy contained within will undoubtedly be the template for arguments supporting Clinton’s administration in future campaigns.

    23 of 53 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daryl Tucson, AZ, USA 11-18-08
    Daryl Tucson, AZ, USA 11-18-08
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    15
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    "excellent"

    fascinating account of events leading up to 9/11.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul Virginia Beach, VA, Virgin Islands, U.S. 08-15-07
    Paul Virginia Beach, VA, Virgin Islands, U.S. 08-15-07 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Hello!!!!!!"

    Good idea for westerners to listen to this book and get a clue about the minds of the people who hate us.

    1 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Margo New Mexico 04-24-12
    Margo New Mexico 04-24-12 Member Since 2002

    Tucked away in the beautiful mountains of New Mexico.

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    "Not Exactly Riveting"

    First, it's tough to follow a book that has so many players named Abdullah this or Mohammad that. This book starts way back in time and seems to take forever to get to anything contemporary where I can even recognize the names. I guess I'm hard-pressed to say much good about this book, so I'd recommend using your credits elsewhere.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    alanterra 10-28-07
    alanterra 10-28-07 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not promising"

    My wife and I put this on at the beginning of a long trip, and could only get thru the introduction. The writing was very repetitious, and felt like he had sat in front of his typewriter (computer) and just bashed out words until he met his quota.

    The New York Times lists this as one of the best books of 2006, but after listening to the introduction, we couldn't find the energy to find out.

    1 of 13 people found this review helpful
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