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The Looming Tower

Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11
Written by: Lawrence Wright
Narrated by: Lawrence Wright
Length: 16 hrs and 31 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (25 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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
  • 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 US intelligence agencies.

Brilliantly conceived and written, The Looming Tower draws all elements of the story into a galvanizing narrative that adds immeasurably to our understanding of how we arrived at September 11, 2001. The richness of its new information, and the depth of its perceptions, can help us deal more wisely and effectively with the continuing terrorist threat.

©2006 Lawrence Wright (P)2017 Random House Audio

What the critics say

"A searing view of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, a view that is at once wrenchingly intimate and boldly sweeping in its historical perspective...a narrative history that possesses all the immediacy and emotional power of a novel, an account that indelibly illustrates how the political and the personal, the public and the private were often inextricably intertwined." (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)
"Important, gripping...One of the best books yet on the history of terrorism." ( Publishers Weekly)
"Comprehensive and compelling...Wright has written what must be considered a definitive work on the antecedents to 9/11...Essential for an understanding of that dreadful day." ( Kirkus)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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didn't like it, just could not get into it.

it was very slow going and I could not keep myself interested for any length of time.

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  • S Foster
  • 2017-12-10

The Looming Tower

A very detailed writing of the murders and people in our government who allowed 9/11 to happen.
CIA and FBI could not cooperate and help each other eve though they both had valid, pertinent information.
Mr Wright writes and speaks so well of the time before 9/11.
Excellent book.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • stuartjash
  • 2018-08-19

Great story, but should've found a narrator

Exactly as the headline reads: this is a fantastic story with so much incredible backstory. It was very impressive how in-depth this story was. The only fault was that the author narrated it. Although it wasn't a horrible narration, getting a reader who is a professional might have been a good idea.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Josh
  • 2017-10-05

Supremely thorough and interesting

Do not give up on this Audiobook just because it starts slowly. It is a remarkable work by Lawrence Wright and he does an admirable job narrating it as well given his lack of experience. The failures to communicate by the CIA and FBI are atrocious but Wright does a terrific job explaining this in terms any reader or listener can understand.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Sharla Burkett
  • 2018-03-31

Excellent book a must read.

Factual well written story of the time leading up to the 911 attacks and the breakdown of communication between two branches of our government who put their egos and childish rivalries ahead of the job they were sworn to do therefore missing several opportunities that could and would have changed everything.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • R. Burroughs
  • 2018-03-15

Great book, could have used professional narration

The author read the book and while his performance wasn’t horrible, I think a stronger narrator would have elevated the material. Lot of great info though.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Big Poppa Gibs
  • 2018-03-18

Required Reading

Like Halberstam’s “The Best and the Brightest,” this is a classic example of how much we can learn on a critical topic from an informed author.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Andrew Nicks
  • 2018-02-18

Unparalleled account of Al-Qaeda

This is the first book I have read on the subject of Al-Qaeda and I thought it was a masterful narrative into the history, progression, and actions of Al-Qaeda.

Wright details the foundations of Al-Qaeda, and Islamic fundamentalism and weaves it with their principles, beliefs, as well as the simultaneous American intelligence investigation. This was an unbiased, thorough, and candid piece about every detail that produced the men responsible on September 11th.

I loved this book, and strongly recommended it for anyone who looks for edification on the subject of Al-Qaeda.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • paul ogburn
  • 2017-12-04

Very Detailed

Easy to listen to and fallow, not overly flooded with jargon and complected facts that would require additional research just to keep up.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Robert N. Driscoll
  • 2017-07-16

Fantastic

Thorough but still engaging, I learned much about the history of Al Qaeda and US attempts to track it pre 9/11.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • K. H. Jones
  • 2018-04-01

Excellent

Learned a lot. Could not help but be angered by the bureaucratic nightmare that prevented the prospect of avoiding what happened on 9/11.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful