Nov 01, 2001

Booklist review

From Booklist

Books rushed out in the wake of historical calamities tend to be a patchwork of sloppy research and poor writing. But Bergen, who spent 10 years reporting on the Islamic world as a producer for CNN, has written a penetrating examination of al-Qaeda, which he compares to a multinational corporation with Osama bin Laden as its CEO. One of the few Westerners to have met bin Laden, Bergen understands radical Islamist movements and their tangled histories. There is extensive reporting here of previous al-Qaeda plots, from the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole last year to bin Laden's possible role in the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Bergen discusses the September 11 attacks at length, but what makes this an important book is his history of al-Qaeda, a story most people haven't read in newspapers or magazines. Equal parts harrowing travelogue and social history, this is likely to be the best book on Islamist terror for some time to come. Although it may be impossible to fully understand bin Laden, Bergen does an admirable job of portraying him as a person, not just the face of terrorism. Readers will come away from this book understanding why bin Laden has been successful and how difficult it will be to dismantle his organization of terror. -John Green