The Looming Tower

  • by Lawrence Wright
  • Narrated by Alan Sklar
  • 17 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, General Nonfiction, 2007
This is 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; and 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.


What the Critics Say

Pulitzer Prize, General Nonfiction, 2007
Audie Award Finalist, Non-Fiction, Unabridged, 2007
"Comprehensive and compelling." (Kirkus)
"Deeply researched...immaculately crafted." (The Wall Street Journal)
"Important, gripping....One of the best books yet on the history of terrorism." (Publishers Weekly)
"A thoughtful examination of the world that produced the men who brought us 9/11, and of their progeny who bedevil us today....The Looming Tower is a thriller. And it's a tragedy, too." (The New York Times Book Review)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

a hair short of objective

Write's account of the history of the radical fundamentalist Islamic movement is thorough, detailed, insightful and very digestible. A great primer for understanding why Americans' belief in the "irresitible lure of democracy and the American way of life" is a dangerous fantasy when trying to deal with what is truly a religious war that has been declared on America.

The only disappointing aspect of Write's account is that he seems to have "taken sides" with FBI sources for his book. He characterizes the failures to do more to prevent 9/11 as largely a question of intelligence community turf protection. The "wall" he flippantly writes off as imaginary was very real to the people in both intelligence and law enforcement who were constantly under threat not to jeopardize prosecutions by "polluting" cases with intelligence information that could not be revealed in court. It was so real that nothing short of the tragegy of losing almost 3000 souls finally led to the legislation necessary to bring it down.

That one flawed lack of objectivity, however, is overridden by the value of insight this book brings to understanding the motivations behind the new reality our world is facing. An excellent book, and a great narrator.
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- Teresa A. Hayes

Engrossing yet Flawed

The Looming Tower is the wide-ranging story of the attacks of 9/11. Lawrence Wright's research into the events and personalities involved in the attacks is impressive, yet it is what he neglects to mention that sheds light on his purpose.

In The Looming Tower, the CIA is Wright’s scapegoat. Wright cites the failure of the transfer of information from the CIA to the FBI as the central reason for the success of 9/11. Wright mentions the now-famous "wall" between the CIA and the FBI that prevented the transfer of information pre-9/11, yet Wright characterizes the wall an entire bureaucracy of lawyers feared as more imaginative than real. His premise is that the CIA took the law too literally when it could have easily ignored it. Interestingly, within the minutiae of detail that Wright presents, he never mentions the creator of the wall--Jamie Gorelick--a Democrat who was chosen to sit in the 9/11 Commission.

The hero of this work is John O' Brien, an unsympathetic FBI agent who aggravates practically everyone in his orbit. O' Brien is the establishment as antihero, a sociopath who senses that 9/11 is looming, yet cannot get out of his own way while efforting to communicate his fears to the powers that be. Another hero is Richard Clarke, who Wright paints as yet another stereotypical antihero. Tellingly, Michael Scheuer of the CIA is characterized as "burnt-out" and mentally unstable. It is Scheuer who has repeatedly made headlines by insisting that the Clinton administration missed numerous chances to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden.

This book is the Rosetta stone for the Clinton apologists, and the philosophy contained within will undoubtedly be the template for arguments supporting Clinton’s administration in future campaigns.
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- Kirk

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-05-2006
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio