Put on your walking shoes, pseudo-intellectuals, because today's recommendation is a long and hard literary road paved with bureaucratic infighting, unnecessary secrecy, international intrigue, uncertainty, tragedy and death.
There's no way to put a bright face on this story. It's a real downer. But the war on terror is one of the principal issues faced by the modern world, and that makes "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11" by Lawrence Wright a must-read for those who want to understand the nature of this struggle.
There have been a slew of 9/11-related books published since that fateful day, and it's impossible to say whether "The Looming Tower" is the best. But this methodically researched and highly informative work is surely worthy of its recent National Book Award nomination.
Wright chronicles the rise of radical Islam from its early stages in Egyptian religious circles in the mid-1900s to the formation of Al-Qaeda by Osama bin Laden and, finally, to the 9/11 terror attacks.
It is a stunning narrative portrait that reveals in stark terms the nihilistic goal of bin Laden and his followers. Essentially, it's to eliminate those who do not subscribe to his perverse brand of Islam, and he will not hesitate to kill innocents, kill fellow Muslims and authorize suicide in pursuit of those ends [–] even though all three measures are proscribed by the Quran.
Particularly striking and disturbing is the jihadists' bizarre view of women, whom they regard with a combination of fascination, revulsion and fear.
"The Looming Tower" punctures a major myth about bin Laden, that being that he and his followers played a meaningful role in helping Afghani resistance fighters drive the Soviet Union from Afghanistan.
bin Laden's militia members, for lack of a better name, were hardly combat ready and far more interested in being killed to obtain martyrdom (and an eternal romp with promised virgins) than in killing Russians. At the same time, Wright makes it clear that bin Laden was the driving force behind the creation and survival of Al-Qaeda and that there can be no possibility of an end to this fight until he's gone.
Here are revious recommendations from Jim's Pseudo-Intellectual Book Club.
[–] "Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II's Most Dramatic Mission" by Hampton Sides.
[–] "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" by Edmund Morris.
[-] "A Night to Remember" by Walter Lord.
[–] "April 1865: The Month That Saved America" by Jay Winik.
[–] "Seabiscuit: An American Legend" by Laura Hillenbrand.
[–) "Lindbergh" by A. Scott Berg.
[–] "The Kennedy Men: 1901-1963" by Laurence Leamer.
[–] "The Brother: The Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case" by Sam Roberts.
[–] "Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy" by Jane Leavy.
[–] "Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions" by Ben Mezrich.
[–] "Harry & Ike: The Partnership That Remade the Post-War World" by Steve Neal.
[–] "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" by Michael Lewis.
[–] "Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley & Livingstone" by Martin Dugard.
[–] "In Harms Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors" by Doug Stanton.
[–] "Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34." by Bryan Burrough.
[–] "Flags of our Fathers," by James Bradley.
[–] "Cary Grant: A Biography" by Marc Elliot.
[–] "Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager" by Buzz Bissinger.
[–] "Boss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York" by Kenneth Ackerman.
[–] "They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967" by David Maraniss.
[–] "Flashman" (a novel) by George MacDonald Fraser.
[–] "Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling and A World on the Brink" by David Margolick.
[–] "Ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics and the Battle for the Soul of a City" by Jonathan Mahler.
[–] "Five Families: the Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires" by Selwyn Raab.
[–] "The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and the Golden Age of Basketball." by John Taylor.
[–] "American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies" by Michael Kauffman.