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Looming Tower, by Lawrence Wright

By an everyday book reader
May 1, 2007

A gripping narrative that spans five decades, The Looming Tower explains in unprecedented detail the growth of Islamic fundamentalism, the rise of al-Qaeda, and the intelligence failures that culminated in the attacks on the World Trade Center.

The author re-creates firsthand the transformation of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri from incompetent and idealistic soldiers in Afghanistan to leaders of the most successful terrorist group in history. He follows FBI counterterrorism chief John O'Neill as he uncovers the emerging danger from al-Qaeda in the 1990s and struggles to track this new 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

Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11
by Lawrence WrightBook Picture

Softcover: 576 pages
ISBN: 9781400030842, 1400030846
Vintage
August 2007

Packed with new information and a deep historical perspective, The Looming Tower is the definitive history of the long road to September 11.

It's been named "Best Book of the Year" by Time, Newsweek, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and The New York Times.

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 searing view of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, a view that is 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, an account that indelibly illustrates how the political and the personal, the public and the private were often inextricably intertwined." - Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"Deeply researched... immaculately crafted." - Peter Bergen, The Wall Street Journal

"A page-turner... encompassing religion, politics, economics and more. If you've been meaning to sharpen your understanding of what all led up to September 11, 2001, then Wright may have written just what you've been waiting for." Tom Gallagher, San Francisco Chronicle

"Wright, a New Yorker writer, brings exhaustive research and delightful prose to one of the best books yet on the history of terrorism. He begins with the observation that, despite an impressive record of terror and assassination, post - WWII, Islamic militants failed to establish theocracies in any Arab country. Many helped Afghanistan resist the Russian invasion of 1979 before their unemployed warriors stepped up efforts at home. Al-Qaeda, formed in Afghanistan in 1988 and led by Osama bin Laden, pursued a different agenda, blaming America for Islam's problems. Less wealthy than believed, bin Laden's talents lay in organization and PR, Wright asserts. Ten years later, bin Laden blew up U.S. embassies in Africa and the destroyer Cole, opening the floodgates of money and recruits. Wright's step-by-step description of these attacks reveals that planning terror is a sloppy business, leaving a trail of clues that, in the case of 9/11, raised many suspicions among individuals in the FBI, CIA and NSA. Wright shows that 9/11 could have been prevented if those agencies had worked together. As a fugitive, bin Ladin's days as a terror mastermind may be past, but his success has spawned swarms of imitators. This is an important, gripping and profoundly disheartening book." - Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

"Lawrence Wright's book is my new touchstone. None of the previous books led me to say 'Aha, now I think I understand' as frequently." - Steve Weinberg, The Boston Globe

"What a riveting tale Lawrence Wright fashions in this marvelous book. 'The Looming Tower' is not just a detailed, heart-stopping account of the events leading up to 9/11, written with style and verve. [It's] a thoughtful examination of the world that produced the men who brought us 9/11, and of their progeny who bedevil us today. 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. 'The Looming Tower' is a thriller. And it's a tragedy, too." - Dexter Filkins, The New York Times Book Review

"A magisterial, beautifully crafted narrative... This focus on character, along with Wright's five years of fierce on-the-ground reporting (he lists 560 interviewees), pays off." - Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, Los Angeles Times

"Don't read The Looming Tower in bed. This book requires a straight spine and full attention... The reporting is so good that it will matter in 100 years. Wright's determined, disciplined work has made his book indispensable." Karen Long, The Plain Dealer

"Should be required reading for every American; yes, it is that good. It is hard to imagine a better portrait of 9/11 and its causes emerging anytime soon." - The Christian Science Monitor

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.

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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