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

Written by:
Lawrence Wright
Narrated by:
Lawrence Wright

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
May 2017
16 hours 32 minutes
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 U.S. 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.
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Herb B.

This wasn't so much a study in how the attack was planned and executed as it was a study in why. It's a very good narrative about the Jihad movement, why it is what it is, how it came to be, and the moralizing behind attacks we could never understand. 'We' being the kind of people that could never considering doing such a thing, for any reason. I found it very interesting to learn about the backgrounds of the people involved. It was also narrated very well, editing was good, pace was consistent, and emotion came through without being over-done.

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Stephanie M.

This book is a great achievement, the wide scoop of history with all its components is page turning interesting. Thank you for your time and deep research.

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This book should open your eyes to the BS that goes on in our government Maybe we could not stop the attack But by sharing information we would have had a chance Powerful book we should never forget

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James O

I immediately bought this as I learned of the Hulu original series based on this book. I’m glad I listened to it. I think the author told the story extremely well. It is a sad story every American should know. The author reads the book in this edition. While enjoying the authenticity of the performance, he is a better writer than narrator.

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Aaron S

Would’ve been better with a professional narrator I stead of the author.

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Ryan M

Th beginning and middle parts of the book are excellent if you are reading for a better understanding of the Middle East and the political Islam movement. The book also offers a good modern historical narrative for both Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which provides necessary context for the Saudi-Bin Laden-9/11 link. However, by the end of the book, I was tired of the dramatic backstory on the American side and the minutiae of almost every character's life. Lastly, I find the soft, meek, almost-charming character portrayal of Osama Bin Laden to be distasteful.

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