The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright
This book is the obvious choice if you want to read just one book about terrorism. Wright, a New Yorker reporter, tackled an amazingly difficult subject and wrote an analysis that is both compelling and compassionate. There’s nothing “high-handed” about it. There’s no rant. He makes every effort to understand the lives as well as the ideas of Al-Qaeda members and precursors who are influential in the organization that targets the
Wright, educated at Tulane and the
Starting with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in the 1950s, Wright traces the roots of radical Islamic terrorists from Qutb’s hatred of the US and his extraordinary influence on Egyptian radicals through events such as the assassination of Sadat in Egypt, the 1979 takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the Iranian revolution, the first World Trade Center bombing, the truck bombing in Dharan, the African embassy bombings, and the USS Cole incident.
At the same time as readers begin to understand the terrorists, Wright focuses also on the agencies and individuals in the US who were tracking them down, particularly on flamboyant FBI agent Robert O’Neill who fought bureaucracy and communication barriers constantly and ended up leaving the FBI in 2001 for a position as the head of security at the World Trade Center—and died on 9/11. Despite heroic work by O’Neill, Richard Clarke and many others Wright names in various
I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s terrific. The writing is superb and the story is far more compelling than any thriller. If you want to understand the enemies of the