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The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

4.35 of 5 stars 4.35  ·  rating details  ·  9,678 ratings  ·  1,218 reviews
UPDATED AND WITH A NEW AFTERWORD

National Book Award Finalist

A Time, Newsweek, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and New York Times Book Review Best Book of the Year

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 a
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Paperback, 551 pages
Published August 21st 2007 by Vintage (Random House) (first published 2006)
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Community Reviews

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Jessica
Lawrence Wright is one of those guys who could easily put novelists out of business, and this book made me question why I read fiction at all. The locations, characters, and events in The Looming Tower are so much more fascinating than anything an author could invent, and the fact that they're real makes them seem important in a way fiction almost never does. I loved this book, and my picayune quibbles -- a few recurring awkward sentence constructions, inexplicably referring to domestic terroris ...more
Bart
Nov 05, 2007 Bart rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Any American
What a great surprise this book was. I first read about The Looming Tower (the title comes from the Koranic verse Osama bin Laden used as a coded message to the 9/11 hijackers) in a number of political op/ed columns. Finally, though, it was conservative writer Jonah Goldberg's heavy reliance on The Looming Tower for an L.A. Times column that sent me looking for the book.

Lawrence Wright's treatment of the jihadist movement is thorough to the point of being almost sympathetic. It goes deeply into
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brian
there are the books that make our heads explode, that make every minute of the day a chinese water torture of waiting for the chance to get the hell home and read some more, the books that live inside us all through the day, the books that make us excited to take a crap just so we can shut the door behind us (or not) and sneak in a few pages, the books which cause horn-honking at red lights from drivers irritated we're reading at the fucking wheel... the looming tower is one of 'em. as riveting ...more
Eric_W
Well, I finally found my notes and got this review finished - long overdue.

For all the energy, lives and treasure we have devoted to Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s important to remember that they had nothing to do with 9/11 which became the excuse for our actions rather than the proximate rationale. We are now in a war that would appear to have literally no end, this “war of terror,” one that any sane person who recently traveled on an airplane can see the terrorists have won as we meekly surrender
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Paul
You can be nerdy and geeky and boring about all manner of things, railway timetables, cricket, fine wine, Marvel comics, Beatles flipsides, the confectionary you used to scoff when you were little (ah the nostalgic sweetmeats of childhood, how much of a lump in your throat were they then and still are now), campy 70s sitcoms, Jean-Marie Straub movies, the best places to go backpacking in Andalucia, bootlegs of the Velvet Underground, and so on boringly and tediously.

Turns out you can be geeky an
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Fahad
البروج المشيدة

حصل هذا الكتاب على جائزة البوليتزر للعام 2007 م، وقد استقى مؤلفه الأمريكي (لورانس رايت) العنوان من الآية القرآنية (أَيْنَمَا تَكُونُوا يُدْرِكْكُمُ الْمَوْتُ وَلَوْ كُنْتُمْ فِي بُرُوجٍ مُشَيَّدَةٍ)، وفي إشارة كذلك للبروج المشيدة التي ضربتها القاعدة في 11 سبتمبر، الكتاب رحلة تفصيلية مكتوبة برشاقة، لتنقلك من بدايات بروز الفكر الذي استند عليه تنظيم القاعدة، من سيد قطب، إلى أيمن الظواهري ومن ثم أسامة بن لادن، ليصل إلى الجهاد الأفغاني، وما تلاه بعد ذلك من القصة المعروفة، يتميز الكتاب
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أشرف فقيه
يتتبع الكتاب (البرج المشيّد) قصة القاعدة منذ بدايات التنظيمات الجهادية في مصر، رابطاً بين نشأتها وفكر سيد قطب مروراً بتنظيمات الجهاد والتكفير والهجرة والجماعة الإسلامية. طبعاً كان هناك تركيز على قصة حياة أسامة بن لادن. وما يميز السرد أنه مقسم لأكثر من بيوغرافي أو قصة منفصلة ومتداخلة معاً. قصة أسرة ابن لادن. قصة الصحوة بالمملكة، قصة الجماعات الإسلامية في مصر، قصة (جون أونيل) محقق الإف بي آي المسؤول عن ملاحقة ابن لادن، قصة أفغانستان، وعلاقة أميركا بذلك كله. ما يميز الكتاب هو ربطه المتقن والسلس بين ...more
Hadrian
"Wherever you are, death will find you, even in the looming tower."
-The Qu'ran, Sura 4:78

Hiraba (حِرابة), the Arabic word for terror, piracy, or unlawful warfare. To be punished with the strictest penalties.

SEE the young men in their white tunics go out, and charge from the trenches against Soviet tanks, and the suited FBI and CIA men squabble on matters of 'jurisdiction' and 'sensitive information', and self-appointed holy men and saviors meditate in caves on how to save the words of prophets
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Odai Alsaeed
لم أقرأ كتابا تحدث عن أحداث ١١ سبتمبر بهذه الحرفية ...الكتاب قبل أن أطري على القيمة المعلوماتية التي احتوته أحببت أن أشيد على الأسلوب السردي الشيق وبراعة الترجمة به... دائما ما كنت أسأل نفسي عن مصدر الأموال التي بدأت بها بذرة القاعدة ومن هو أساس صنيعة بن لادن وأتباعه ومناصروه .....كانت الكثير من الأسئلة التي تجول في خاطري عن الأسرار الكامنة وراء هذا التنظيم التي وجدت أجوبتها المنطقية في هذا الكتاب القيم ...رائع
Mike
This book is really worth reading, even if you think you've had your fill of Al Queda, 9-11 et al. The histories of Bin Laden and Zawahiri are interesting and surprising, and this book really lays out how the CIA and FBI blew their chances to stop 9/11. If you're not already disgusted by them, this will get you there. Despite its depressing subject matter, the book is actually a pleasure to read, because the writing and story-telling are so good. This dude has knowledge!
Lamia Al-Qahtani
يندر أن تجد مؤلفا صحفيا يكتب بهذا اﻷسلوب الجميل والرشيق الذي يشدك إليه، وأيضًا للترجمة دورها فقد كانت رائعة.
الكتاب أشبه بالرواية في أسلوبه ويعتمد على الشخصيات فيبدأ بسيد قطب ويخصص له فصلاً كاملاً يغطي أهم أحداث حياته وكذلك بن لادن والظواهري بل ووالد بن لادن وتأسيسه لشركة بن لادن وكذلك جون أونيل العميل المسؤول عن التحقيق في قضية القاعدة وتتبع أسامة، ويكتب عن حياتهم الشخصية من الطفولة ويتعمق في تفاصيل لا داعي لها مثل شرابه المفضل ومسلسله ولبسه وغيرها.
المؤلف قابل ما يقرب من 600 شخصية لجمع مادة الكت
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Jonfaith
Wherever you are, death will find you, even in the looming tower.

Such is from the Koran. Apparently, Mr. bin Laden quoted it a number of times. We know this from an interview -- or interrogation. Most of this book has a similar source. It obviously isn't scholarly,largely journalistic. Its thematic is a group of people who to survive had to avoid a paper trail. Last week I was reading an article in the LRB about the rise of Jihadism in Syria. The author of the piece cited Mr. Wright's book as th
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George Bradford
On the morning of September 11, 2001, most Americans had never heard of Al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden. But they were very well known to the FBI, CIA, NSA and the White House. This book (which won the Pulitzer Prize) explains why.

"The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11" by Lawrence Wright precisely details the individuals and events that lead (over the course of five decades) to September 11, 2001. The writing is crisp. The narrative is compelling. The historical context is vivid.

Shortl
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John and Kris
Lawrence Wright has written an accessible masterpiece detailing the rise of fundamentalist Islamic terror. Rarely do books hold up to lofty expectations; I highly recommend The Looming Tower.

If, as Churchill famously said, “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” then what is the infinitely more complex Middle East to the West as we attempt to understand the motivations of a language, religion, and culture most know almost nothing about? Wright builds an engaging cornerstone fo
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Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jun 15, 2012 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Hugh Hewitt
This was a fascinating, riveting account that crosses five decades and several countries to tell the story of "the growth of Islamic Fundamentalism, the rise of Al-Qaeda, and the intelligence failures that culminated" in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I first ran across this title when reading a column by a conservative, Hugh Hewitt, praising it as a "good and important book." What particularly intrigued me is that the writer, Lawrence Wright, was described as a lib ...more
Mikey B.
This is a very readable account of the growth of Islamic militancy. This is given from the perspective of life in the Arab states and the different personalities involved. It starts with Sayyid Qutb’s visit to the United States in the late 1940’s and the subsequent publication of his books espousing fundamentalist Islam. This version of Islam hardly recognizes any of the social transformations that have taken place in the world in the last 1200 years (since the death of Mohammed). The author the ...more
David
Feb 11, 2008 David rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anybody.
The author spent five years interviewing people throughout the Middle East and United States, examining the events leading up to September 11th, 2001, and portions of this book have appeared in The New Yorker over the past couple of years. The overall book is a rare combination of gripping story-telling and thoughtful perspective.

Where the book really shines is the personal, political and religious insight that it gives into motivations of the terrorists, as well as the American bureaucracy and
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Kathrynn
Oct 31, 2009 Kathrynn rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone! Not just United States citizens.
Fantastic! The author laid the groundwork for the "how" and "why" some Muslims grew to become terrorists. He unraveled the past by starting with Sayyid Qutb who fled Alexandria, Egypt and came to New York City in 1948. Qutb's writings, speeches and martyrdom are mentioned throughout the rest of the book.

The author goes into the lives of several other people that will all come together, showing how they came to be what they became. (whew!) The fighting in Egypt and why is explained and who links
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Michael
Another great narrative non-fiction book. Wright really gets to the heart of Al-Qaeda, specifically its leaders and predecessors. The most suprising thing, to me, about these radical Muslim leaders, is that their hatred for the West, according to Wright, stems more from a moral indignation than politics. I always shuddered when I heard the neocons say that "They hurt us because they hate the way we live." It turns out that may have more truth to it than I thought.

"The Looming Tower" begins with
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Greg
Anyone who wants to really understand why 9/11 happened needs to read this book. From Sayyid Qutb, the exiled Egyptian intellectual who in the 50's instituted the idea that modernity and Islam were completely incompatible, to the horrible, petty rivalry between the CIA and FBI that prevented vital information from coming to light about the 9/11 plot until it was too late, The Looming Tower delivers a huge cast of characters, spans sixty years and virtually the entire world.

I’ve always wondered w
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Joe
This was an interesting look into the founding of radical islam and how this ultimately led to 9/11. I thoroughly enjoyed the first 2/3's. These chapters showed how several well meaning islamic men slowly walked down the road to extremism. I especially liked the origins of Osama Bin Laden. I didn't know much of his back story and this really helped flesh him out and explain why he ended up where he did.

Unfortunately, the last 1/3 of the book focused almost exclusively on the American intelligenc
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Mark
I learned in this book about the genesis of Al Queda and the people and agencies within our own government that were on to them pretty early and might have caught up in time were it not for some truly dysfunctional relationships between the FBI, CIA, and other intelligence and law enforcement activites. Looking back, I'm going to assume that our relavent government activities have learned some painful lessons and adapted and overcome those early dysfunctions at least to the level required to mor ...more
Andrew
While the book is accused of being politically motivated in that its critics suggest the author blames Pres. Clinton for being too busy with Monica Lewinsky to protect the country, that isn't what this book intends to say at all.

What the politically-detached reader will find is that there was a shift in American mentality: not only affecting leadership, but perhaps the majority of the people. Nobody believed anything like it was even possible, and so the warnings were ignored or perhaps never e
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Tamara
The Looming Tower was recommended and lended to me by a friend. This is definitely a book that every American should read. This book will open up your eyes to how the events of 9/11 came to be.

The book begins in the 1940's and we learn about Qutb. He is said to be the father of contemporary Islamic fundamentalism. As the book continues, a lot of the names that were brought up on the news are mentioned. The story progresses and gives the reader a sense of understanding for a topic that is very co
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Susan
"The Looming Tower" won a Pulitzer Prize, and I can see why. I can't imagine the amount of research Wright put into it, because he searches out al Qaeda's roots all the way back from the 1940s until 9/11.

It was a heavy book. It was really hard to keep all the characters straight, most of them being of Egyptian, Saudi Arabian, or Afghani descent. My western mind boggled at keeping straight the likes of Qutb, Zawahiri, al Hazmi, Massoud, Khalifa, Khadr, Sayyaf - you get the idea.

The book takes you
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Brian
I don't know what the competition was, but The Looming Tower was a worthy winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Wright traces the rise of fundamental Islam from its beginning, surprisingly, in the United States, to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Sudan. He reveals a surprising history packed with both incompetence and frightening competence, complete belief and a lack of thinking for the future, explains how economic, political, and social conditions in the Middle East result in a soc ...more
Sierra
لا أعلم ماذا حدث لي بعد قراءة هذا الكتاب غضب, حذر ,دهشة ,كآبه ,حيرة ...كثيرة هي المشاعر و مختلطة بشكل مخيف

كم أدهشني أسلوب الكاتب ذو الجنسية الأمريكيه الحيادي و هو يكتب عن موضوع سبب الكثير من الآلم لبلاده. وكم أيضا أدهشني هؤلاء الذين ينتمون سواء لتنظيم القاعدة أو طالبان أو حركات الجهاد التكفيرية بأسلوبهم سواء في التفكير أو حتي البيئة المنتمون اليها

فمثلا أنا لا أعلم كيف رسخ بذهني أن الشخص الإرهابي أوالمتشدد دائما ما يكون أكثر فقرا ,أقل تعليما و ما الي ذلك ولكن بن لادن علي سبيل المثال كان من أسرة ف
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Louise
This is a highly readable account of the events leading up to the 9/11 tragedy. It details the activities of it's masterminds and the status of the determined men and women in the US who were putting the pieces together. There is an impressive number of interviews with key players and informed bystanders. While this has been a well covered event, still, without Wright's diligence much of what he presents could have been lost to history.

I've recently read Steve Coll's The Bin Ladens: An Arabian F
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Chris
Wright tells the history of Al-Qaeda with quick, crisp prose that moves along with the intensity of a thriller while never giving into cheap sensationalism or melodramatic prose. His sparse, clinical description of horrific attacks and the men who plan them make both even more disturbing.

This book manages to remind you that the danger of Islamic extremists is real and terrifying while clearly pointing out what a slim, ostracized margin of Islamic thought they represent. But what much more fright
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Bonnie
I borrowed this book from my brother. He and Loni read it during a family reunion in Wellfleet in the summer of 2006. They both raved about it.

The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 is a rare book. Wright spent five years doing research and interviews. How did 9/11 happen? How close were we to preventing it? How have the tenets of Islam been so hideously and deliberately misinterpreted by people? How is it that the west has become a target of these terrorists?

Lawrence Wright documents
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Al Qaeda & Osama Bin Ladin 7 72 Jul 05, 2012 02:21PM  
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Lawrence Wright is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American author, screenwriter, staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, and fellow at the Center for Law and Security at the New York University School of Law. He is a graduate of Tulane University, and for two years taught at the American University in Cairo in Egypt.

Wright graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School (Dallas, Texas) in 1965 and, in 2009
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“Radicalism usually prospers in the gap between rising expectations and declining opportunities. This is especially true where the population is young, idle, and bored; where the art is impoverished; where entertainment—movies, theater, music—is policed or absent altogether; and where young men are set apart from the consoling and socializing presence of women.” 1 likes
“He was so far from being able to carry out such threats that one might conclude that the author of this document was utterly mad. Indeed, the man in the cave had entered a separate reality, one that was deeply connected to the mythic chords of Muslim identity and in fact gestured to anyone whose culture was threatened by modernity and impurity and the loss of tradition. By declaring war on the United States from a cave in Afghanistan, bin Laden assumed the role of an uncorrupted, indomitable primitive standing against the awesome power of the secular, scientific, technological Goliath; he was fighting modernity itself.” 0 likes
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