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The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 Paperback – Aug 21 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (Aug. 21 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400030846
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400030842
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.9 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 454 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #16,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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–WWarII, 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. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Wright, a talented New Yorker staff writer with a diverse portfolio and a long-standing personal interest in the Middle East, was on the al-Qaeda beat within hours of the 9/11 attacks. The product of his efforts is more deeply researched and engagingly narrated than nearly all of the looming stack of books on Osama bin Laden and his cohorts published in the past five years. The events are familiar: this account begins with theorist Sayid Qutb, covers the trajectories of bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, and culminates with Mohammed Atta and the collapsing Trade Center. But Wright's interview--fueled, character-driven approach captures both the complexity of individual actors--Qutb's alienation, for example, and bin Laden's struggle for legitimacy--as well as the fluid internal dynamics of the often covert terrorist organization. The tragic centerpiece of the book, familiar to New Yorker readers, is Wright's sensitive portrayal of John O'Neill, the deeply flawed working-class FBI gumshoe from New Jersey who may have been the only American to fully understand the al-Qaeda threat before 9/11. Wright seems to have found his calling: a perceptive and intense page-turner, this selection and Peter Bergen's The Osama bin Laden I Know (2006) should be considered the definitive works on the topic. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Sept. 11 2006
Format: Hardcover
Although I read this book some weeks ago, I've been saving my review for the fifth anniversary of 9/11. Let me also take this moment to ask all those who read this review to say a prayer for the victims of 9/11.

The roots of 9/11 trace back far into history, arguably to the 7th century when Islam was born. The Looming Tower takes up the story in November 1948 when Sayyid Qutb, an important Egyptian figure in the development of Islamic extremism, sailed for the United States where he was appalled by what he saw and experienced. Mr. Wright then nicely makes the connection to the Muslim Brothers movement which aimed at Egyptian nationalism. These twin roots developed a strain of Islam that was anti-modern and which dictated that all others must be violently conquered.

The book next picks up the thread of Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the key al-Qaeda leader, and how he became an Islamic radical through being tortured in Egyptian prison.

The story then turns to Saudi Arabia where the legendary Mohammed bin Awahd bin Laden, Osama bin Laden's father, is described. From his long shadow (even after death), Osama emerged slowly through his attraction to the Muslim Brothers movement. Sheikh Abdullah Azzam provided the radical model that further involved Osama into opposition.

You'll be amazed, I'm sure, by seeing how ineffective Osama bin Laden and his colleagues were during the Afghan war. The story has a Keystone Kops quality at this point.

Because of his family connections, Osama is kept under the eye of Saudi intelligence . . . but is treated like someone who doesn't present much of a threat.

By 1992, Osama sets up operations in the Sudan. By then, he sees Christianity as the arch-enemy of Islam and the U.S.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Laurence R. Hunt TOP 500 REVIEWER on Sept. 11 2007
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
A brief comment. Alan Sklar is, in my experience, the best reader I have ever listened to. I would probably buy almost any credible CD read by him. He is a master narrator, with seeming complete understanding of every word of text. Impeccable pacing and pronunciation balances gripping narrative to cause Sklar's work to exceed what could be gained by decoding the printed page without his aid. Five stars without a doubt.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Handmade Christmas Cards on Nov. 21 2006
Format: Hardcover
The book discusses the American failure in dealing with terrorism. But most importantly it goes to the root of anti-American terrorism. Why these things happen? What are the historical and cultural causes for such otherwise intelligent men like Al-Zawahiri or Bin Laden to become cold blooded killers? Read the book if you are intrigued by these and many other questions. This book is well researched and very well written.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is the best book I've read about the events leading to 9/11. It won a Pulitzer Prize in 2007, and deservedly so.

The author's research is thorough, his writing style is very good and he presents the information in a very interesting way, tracing al-Qaeda's ideological and philosophical roots through Islamic theorists like Sayeed Qutb and Ayman al-Zawahiri up to Osama bin Laden.

He also examines the US positions and actions in exhaustive detail by concentrating on several key FBI and CIA figures. His account of Saudi Arabian political and security arrangements comes primarily from a Saudi Prince who was ousted as the Kingdom's Chief of Intelligence after 9/11.

In short, a fascinating book. If you want to understand 9/11, this book should be at the top of your reading list.

The mp3 audio book is well done. The reader does a good job with the material and the writer's style adapts easily to narration. My only complaint with the audio book is that the individual audio tracks are often divided in the middle of sentences and/or paragraphs, so there are frequent short delays and pauses in the narration in the middle of sentences and paragraphs as the player changes tracks. But that's a technical production issue which does not reflect in any way on the quality of the author's work.

But overall, this is an excellent book and audiobook. If you only have time or money for one book about 9/11, this one would be a good choice.
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