Jonathan Chandler Webb


Looming Tower Book Review

I want to be challenged when I read a book. I want to experience a new perspective and be pushed to learn more about the subject at hand. Having studied political science and public policy in my college days, I am drawn to books like The Looming Tower. This is an intense book from cover to cover. In addition to this book, there is a television series with the same name. I’m a reader, so I’ll always recommend the book, but the series is worth checking out as well if you get the chance.


As you can see from the cover, this book deals with Al-Qaeda and the lead up to the September 11 terror attacks in the United States. It is not, however, your stereotypical book on that subject. The Looming Tower goes deep, with research and inside information from a  variety of sources.

The book starts in the 1950s with an Egyptian named Sayyid Qutb. Sayyid is created by a lot of scholars as an inspiration some of the more modern terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda. His brother was a teacher and mentor to Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is discussed in great detail throughout this book. While in no way glorifying these men or their actions, the author does a great job of informing us about their lives and follows them as they form their belief system.

Of course, Mr. Wright goes into detail about Osama Bin Laden and his rise to prominence from a wealthy Saudi family. The rise of Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri are documented in a way that I had not read before. Like I mentioned above, I want to be challenged when I read a book and this book certainly did that for me.

While the author details the rise of these men and their groups, he is also letting us into the world of the United States government and their efforts to stop attacks around the world. John O’Neill, an FBI counter-terrorism agent who really began investigating terrorism in the wake of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, is featured prominently in The Looming Tower.

The book can be frustrating in the sense that it highlights the lack of cooperation between agencies in the United States government. There is a lot of ego and territorial battles keeping these men and women from accurately pursuing those intent on doing harm.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in history, especially history related to the United States and September 11.

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