The Bin Ladens

The Bin Ladens

An Arabian Family in the American Century

Book - 2008
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The rise and rise of the Bin Laden family is one of the great stories of the twentieth century; its repercussions have already deeply marked the twenty-first. Until now, however, it is a story that has never been fully told, as the Bin Ladens have successfully fended off attempts to understand the family circles from which Osama sprang. In this the family has been abetted by the kingdom it calls home, Saudi Arabia, one of the most closed societies on earth.

Steve Coll's The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century is the groundbreaking history of a family and its fortune. It chronicles a young illiterate Yemeni bricklayer, Mohamed Bin Laden, who went to the new, oil-rich country of Saudi Arabia and quickly became a vital figure in its development, building great mosques and highways and making himself and many of his children millionaires. It is also a story of the Saudi royal family, whom the Bin Ladens served loyally and without whose capricious favor they would have been nothing. And it is a story of tensions and contradictions in a country founded on extreme religious purity, which then became awash in oil money and dazzled by the temptations of the West. In only two generations the Bin Ladens moved from a famine-stricken desert canyon to luxury jets, yachts, and private compounds around the world, even going into business with Hollywood celebrities. These religious and cultural gyrations resulted in everything from enthusiasm for America--exemplified by Osama's free-living pilot brother Salem--to an overwhelming determination to destroy it.

The Bin Ladens is a meticulously researched, colorful, shocking, entertaining, and disturbing narrative of global integration and its limitations. It encapsulates the unsettling contradictions of globalization in the story of a single family who has used money, mobility, and technology to dramatically varied ends.

Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2008.
ISBN: 9781594201646
Characteristics: 671 pages, [8] pages of ports :,25 cm.


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Sep 04, 2011

Sometimes, there are some things that put me off about a book. Many of them are obvious within the first few pages of the Bin Ladens. The conspicuous consumption, the high living on the part of those portrayed in the book. And there's the fastidious nature of the book itself --- sort of a litany of events. Maybe the rest of you liked it, but for me it was a distinct turn-off. This was a book I could put down --- fast. There are lots of other books on the library shelf and I'm going to read them instead.

debwalker May 02, 2011

In this family epic, Mr. Coll, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, creates a psychologically detailed portrait of Bin Laden and his relationships with his father, Muhammad, who made a fortune in Saudi Arabia as the king’s principal builder; and his older brother Salem, a British-educated, music-loving playboy, who used to organize family expeditions to Las Vegas. Mr. Coll suggests that Bin Laden’s turn to war against the United States was not inevitable, but the result of many factors. Those included his worsening relationships with the Saudi royal family and his own relatives as well as growing anger at America, which had pressured the government of Sudan to expel him from the country (where he raised horses and sunflowers on a farm while training jihadis) and send him into exile in Afghanistan in 1996.

LocketLibrarian May 02, 2011

I read this in 2009, and it has stayed with me. This is an in depth look at where Bin Laden came from, and the family that shares his name, but not necessarily much else.

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Sep 10, 2012

ernestt thinks this title is suitable for All Ages


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