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The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11by Lawrence Wright
Synopses & Reviews
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...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.
Brilliantly conceived and written, The Looming Tower draws all elements of the story into a galvanizing narrative that adds immeasurably to our understanding of how we arrived at September 11, 2001. The richness of its new information, and the depth of its perceptions, can help us deal more wisely and effectively with the continuing terrorist threat.
"A towering achievement. One of the best and more important books of recent years. Lawrence Wright has dug deep into and written well a story every American should know. A masterful combination of reporting and writing." Dan Rather
"Lawrence Wright provides a graceful and remarkably intimate set of portraits of the people who brought us 9/11. It is a tale of extravagant zealotry and incessant bumbling that would be merely absurd if the consequences were not so grisly." Gary Sick
"Lawrence Wright's integrity and diligence as a reporter shine through every page of this riveting narrative." Robert A. Caro
"What a riveting tale Lawrence Wright fashions in this marvelous book....The portrait of John O'Neill, the driven, demon-ridden F.B.I. agent who worked so frantically to stop Osama bin Laden, only to perish in the attack on the World Trade Center, is worth the price of the book alone." Dexter Filkins, The New York Times Book Review
"At once wrenchingly intimate and boldly sweeping in its historical perspective... a narrative history that possesses all the immediacy and emotional power of a novel." Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
"Mr. Wright provides a cohesive narrative tying together what previously seemed to be loose ends. But he is wise enough to know that although he presents a version of horrifying truth, the full truth might be more horrifying still." Dallas Morning News
Book News Annotation:
Wright (a staff writer for The New Yorker) combines a journalistic history of the origins and evolutions of Al Qaeda with the story of American intelligence and military responses to the threat posed by the organization. His account begins with experiences of the organization's ideological father, Sayyid Qutb, in the United States in the 1950s, and then traces Qutb's involvement in Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and how it eventually led to the founding by Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri of Al Qaeda. His treatment of these figures, and of the CIA and other officials tracking their movements, discusses their ideological, organizational, and political evolution, but also places a greater emphasis on personal and family relationships than might be commonly expected in such a narrative. Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
Lawrence Wright graduated from Tulane University and spent two years teaching at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. He is a staff writer for The New Yorker and a fellow at the Center on Law and Security at New York University School of Law. The author of five works of nonfiction — City Children, Country Summer; In the New World; Saints and Sinners; Remembering Satan; and Twins — he has also written a novel, God's Favorite, and was cowriter of the movie The Siege. He and his wife are longtime residents of Austin, Texas.
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