While many of the events leading up to the September 11th attacks are familiar from the 9/11 Commission Report and other accounts, in this book Lawrence Wright, a staff writer for the New Yorker, focuses on the history of Al-Qaeda. Through an impressive number of interviews and sources, he outlines the philosophical, religious, and political roots of al Qaeda and the relationship between Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri. On the other side are their pursuers in the CIA and FBI–most notably John O’Neill (who died in the twin towers)–who sensed what could be coming but did not stop it in time. As a whole, Wright’s book reads so much like a thriller, I found myself forgetting at times that none of it is fiction and like everybody else, I already knew the ending. And then it gave me nightmares. So it’s not light beach reading, but I do recommend it, because like it or not, this is the world we live in, we need to understand it, and this book tells the story well. It comes with extensive notes, bibliography, list of interviews, and a “principal characters” section to help you out.
UPDATE, 4/16/07: The Looming Tower was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.
Rating: **** Very, very good
Reviewed by stc
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