Books

The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden


NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, Editor’s Choice
AMAZON, Editors’ Picks: Best History
KIRKUS, Best Non Fiction Books, 2021

“Meticulously documented…fluidly written…replete with riveting detail… It is a page-turner that weaves back and forth between the man and the terrorist, providing poignant glimpses of key figures and carefully chronicling all the missed opportunities, ignored warnings and strategic blunders of the United States.”
New York Times, Louise Richardson, vice chancellor of Oxford University.

“The 20th anniversary of 9/11 is a good occasion for a detailed political biography of the architect of these attacks…The portrait he draws is intimate and detailed….”
Washington Post, Bernard Haykel, professor of Near Eastern studies, Princeton University

“Fine, rigorous and riveting account of the life of the founder of al-Qaida”
The Guardian, Jason Burke

“A compelling, nuanced portrait of America’s erstwhile public enemy No. 1….Throughout, Bergen turns up revealing details and sharp arguments against received wisdom….Essential for anyone concerned with geopolitics, national security, and the containment of further terrorist actions.”
KIRKUS, starred review

“Bergen adds intriguing new details to the story of Osama bin Laden in this solid, well-sourced biography..Surprising insights…and fluid prose enrich this authoritative portrait of the terrorist leader and the movement he inspired. Foreign affairs buffs will be fascinated.”
Publishers Weekly

“…comprehensive, authoritative, and compelling…”
H.R. MCMASTER, author of Dereliction of Duty and Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World

“Bergen’s detailed, incisive, and clarifying biography is an invaluable work marking 9/11’s twentieth anniversary….deepens readers’ understanding of Osama bin Liden, founder of the terrorist group al-Qaueda and the force behind the 9/11 attacks….The narrative gains speed and suspense as Bergen recounts bin Laden’s ruthless rise to power, al-Qaeda’s early successes, and bin Laden’s last bitter years, leading to an excellent summary of bin Laden’s effect on American and international politics.”
Booklist

In The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden, Peter Bergen provides the first reevaluation of the man responsible for precipitating America’s long wars with al-Qaeda and its descendants, capturing bin Laden in all the dimensions of his life: as a family man, as a zealot, as a battlefield commander, as a terrorist leader, and as a fugitive. The book sheds light on his many contradictions: he was the son of a billionaire, yet insisted his family live like paupers. He adored his wives and children, depending on two of his wives, both of whom had PhDs, to make important strategic decisions. Yet he also brought ruin to his family. He was fanatically religious, yet willing to kill thousands of civilians in the name of Islam. He inspired deep loyalty yet, in the end, his bodyguards turned against him. And while he inflicted the most lethal act of mass murder in United States history, he failed to achieve any of his strategic goals.

The lasting image we have of bin Laden in his final years is of an aging man with a graying beard watching old footage of himself, just another dad flipping through the channels with his remote. In the end, bin Laden died in a squalid suburban compound, far from the front lines of his holy war. And yet despite that unheroic denouement, his ideology lives on. Thanks to exclusive interviews with family members and associates, and documents unearthed only recently, Bergen’s portrait of Osama will reveal for the first time who he really was and why he continues to inspire a new generation of jihadists.