THE LOOMING TOWER: AL-QAEDA AND THE ROAD TO 9/11 might be the bracing splash of ice water that alerts the Great Satan America to how little it knows about the radical Islamic culture that spawned its bête noire, Osama bin Laden (the seventeenth of 25 sons and one of 54 “official” children of Mohammed bin Laden) and his global terrorist network, Qaeda al-Jihad. Austinite LAWRENCE WRIGHT culls from declassified materials, videotapes, writings, and interviews to provide context for bin Laden’s avowed goal—to destroy the United States and est­ablish worldwide rule by Islamic law—and his success in baiting the U.S. into possibly unwinnable wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Wright, a staff writer for the New Yorker, has covered the Middle East for years, and his authoritative analysis is as unsettling as it is fascinating—doubly so when accompanied by the loud sucking sound of American resources being drained to shadowbox bin Laden and his acolytes across the map.