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

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  18,732 ratings  ·  1,999 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, ...more
Hardcover, 469 pages
Published August 8th 2006 by Knopf Publishing Group (first published 2006)
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Will Byrnes
Oct 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Lawrence Wright - from his site

Lawrence Wright looks at the players involved in the history and construction of Al-Qaeda, offering short bios of Sayyid Qtub, Ayyman Zawairi, bin Laden, John O’Neill, et al. It is a thorough and interesting work. As someone who has read quite a bit about the players here, my expectations were modest. But I was impressed with the clarity of the story-telling. It was also impressive in the level of detail he presents. Some of that was amusing, as in his depiction o
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
Oct 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
"Wherever you are, death will find you, even if you are in looming towers" ("أينما تكونوا يدرككم الموت ولو كنتم في بروج مشيدة")
- Qur'an 4:78


A great narrative history of the rise of al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. Wright's journalism takes the reader from Sayyid Qutb's youth to the destruction of the twin towers and includes most of the major characters both in al-Qaeda, and Zawahiri's al-Jihad to Saudi Arabia to the FBI, CIA, and NSA. The focus of the book, however, is obviously Bin Laden and O'Ne
Jan 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
فهد الفهد
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
Paquita Maria Sanchez
People who want to be politicians are out of their goddamned minds. Attempting to clean up this mess alone—even just describing it as a single mess being, of course, a gross oversimplification—is a task of such a Sisyphean order, I have serious doubts that even a titan could manage it, let alone some dipshit human(s). I would write more about this, but "this situation" is way beyond my level of even abstract problem-solving, and probably everyone's levels of abstract problem-solving. Combined.

Paul Bryant
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
Sep 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
"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
Jul 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Two themes run through the book. First is the development of radical Islamist movements particularly in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan culminating in the formation of al-Queda. Included in the story are detailed accounts of the lives of Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and their ideological predecessor Sayyid Qutb. Second is the disjointed response of the CIA, FBI and national security apparatus in Washington to counter al-Queda and similar groups. American efforts are rendered ineffectiv ...more
Jun 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a morbid fascination with terrorism and the reasons people behind it do what they do, but I have always wanted to learn more about their motivations and the ties to religion. It's crucial in today's world that more of us have an understanding of why this is happening, especially with events such as 9/11. Religion, politics and foreign policy are all of interest to me, all three feature in "The Looming Tower" in a large way.

Make no mistake, this is a challenging read! It could be categoris
Aug 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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!
أشرف فقيه
Jul 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Paula Abdul
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Trig Palin
Shelves: own
Thoroughly, painstakingly researched, extremely readable, well-written, riveting account of the genesis of al-Qaeda and some of the reasons why we failed to prevent 9/11 and their earlier attacks, by New Yorker contributor Wright. Long on narrative and short on analysis, although what analysis there is, is good and insightful. Wright used primary and secondary sources as well as personal interviews with hundreds of people. Where accounts differ, he explains in the endnotes that he chose one sour ...more
Odai Al-Saeed
Dec 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Angus McKeogh
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is my second or third Wright book and I’m convinced he might be one of our best historians currently working. Another phenomenal read. Truly sad stuff. Not just the topic. But to get a glimpse of how it all came about. From the horror and absurdity of religion and the extremists it breeds to the failure of bureaucracy to communicate and share data which ultimately led to the deaths of thousands of people. If you’ve ever wondered how something so twisted was allowed to happen or how someone’ ...more
Apr 07, 2014 rated it liked it
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
George Bradford
Aug 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.

Kajwan Abehesht
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
پیشنوشت: دوستان میدانند که عادت دارم راجع به کتابهایی که به انگلیسی خواندهام، نظرم را هم به همان زبان بنویسم. برای کتابهای فارسی نیز به فارسی. اما میخواهم فارسینویسی برای کتابهای انگلیسیخوانده را با همین کتاب شروع کنم.

همان طور که قطعاً از پیشنوشت متوجه شدهاید، این کتاب را به فارسی نخواندم. الآن هم با مراجعه به وبسایت کتابخانهٔ ملی متوجه شدم اصلاً ترجمه نشده است، اما اگر میخواهید راجع به قرائت رسمی از حملات یازده سپتامبر، کتابی بخوانید، در کنار اثر علی صوفان، یعنی این کتاب [که متأسفانه این یکی هم
My favorite part of this book was its opening pages about Sayyid Qutb's growing disillusionment with the West, even as he benefited from its educational system. Qutb is considered to have laid the foundations for the swing towards fundamentalism in Egypt, from which came bin Laden's cohort Ayman al-Zawahiri.

I think I am more interested in the philosophies that drive terrorism/recruitment for terror, than the politicking and strategy. So, despite the wealth of information in this book and the ma
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was very good and very interesting, but I want to do something different and do a double review. I like to read several books at a time and it just so happened that I read this book at the same time as I read the book "Bring the War Home" by Kathleen Belew and I was struck by how similar Al Qaeda was to the white power paramilitary in the US. There are obvious differences, but there are more similarities than you would expect. So here's what I observed of both movements:

1. Both are ru
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
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
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
Feb 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-challenge
Compelling narrative but a painful read, particularly when it comes to the failure of US intelligence agencies to act on the information they had leading up to 9/11. Bureaucratic red tape and intelligence failures are one thing, but Wright draws harsh causal lines between ego-driven refusals to provide information and god I can't even think about it. The CIA comes off with especially unclean hands; there’s a palpable scene on 9/12 where Soufan (the only Arabic-speaking FBI agent in the late 90s, ...more
Roman Clodia
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Al-Qaeda had aimed its attacks at America, but it struck at all humanity

Originally published in 2007 with a 2011 afterword in this edition, it’s clear to see why Wright won a Pulitzer: not just is this a huge undertaking but it manages to build in nuance and complexity rather than over-simplifying. The road to 9/11 is a very long one in this book, starting just after WW2 and inflected by world events including the foundation of the State of Israel, the Civil Rights movement in the US, the Sovi
Feb 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Allison Salva
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Honestly, I probably would have never read this if it weren't for my brilliant cousin's recommendation. To this point I've successfully avoided learning more about the events leading to 9/11 or even anything in detail about Islamist terrorism. This book was actually primarily about the formation of al-Qaeda and bin Laden's life, which interested me much more anyways.

After reading other reviews on this book, one thing I really related to was how much I don't know about Islam or the Arab world. I
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Goodreads Librari...: Update Book Cover for The Looming Tower 3 12 Jun 14, 2018 08:30AM  
Recommendation for an interesting read on the 9-11 attacks? 4 22 Mar 27, 2017 09:40AM  
Al Qaeda & Osama Bin Ladin 7 86 Jul 05, 2012 02:21PM  
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There is more than one author with this name

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
“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.” 13 likes
“The only thing they had in common was the grandeur of their vision.” 3 likes
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