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The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century Hardcover – April 1, 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 120 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The bin Ladens are famous for spawning the world's foremost terrorist and building one of the Middle East's foremost corporate dynasties. Pulitzer Prize–winner Coll (Ghost Wars) delivers a sprawling history of the multifaceted clan, paying special attention to its two most emblematic members. Patriarch Mohamed's eldest son, Salem, was a caricature of the self-indulgent plutocrat: a flamboyant jet-setter dependent on the Saudi monarchy, obsessed with all things motorized (he died crashing his plane after a day's joy-riding atop motorcycle and dune-buggy) and forever tormenting his entourage with off-key karaoke. Coll presents quite a contrast with an unusually nuanced profile of Salem's half-brother Osama, a shy, austere, devout man who nonetheless shares Salem's egomania. Other bin Ladens crowd Coll's narrative with the eye-glazing details of their murky business deals, messy divorces and ill-advised perfume lines and pop CDs. Beneath the clutter one discerns an engrossing portrait of a family torn between tradition and modernity, conformism and self-actualization, and desperately in search of its soul. (April 1)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The sprawling and immensely wealthy Bin Laden family has a past and present far more complex and interesting than that of one middle-aged man holed up in the borderlands of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Coll, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and a staff writer for the New Yorker, has written an impressive family saga that spans three generations and four continents and intersects with some of the key events of the last century. Osama is, of course, part of this story, but he isn’t necessarily the most interesting or even the most important family member. Coll begins with an examination of the life and career of the family patriarch, Mohamed, who was born in poverty in southern Yemen, where he toiled in menial jobs. As a teenager, he immigrated to the port city of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. His cleverness and ambition meshed perfectly with the building boom fueled by the oil revenues of the Saudi royal family. Before his death in 1967, Mohamed had fathered more than 50 children by various wives, and Coll offers portraits of some of them. He effectively shows how the creation of the Bin Laden family fortune was, and continues to be, tightly bound to the fate of the Saudi royal family. This is a well-done, sweeping chronicle of a clan that continues to exert worldwide power and influence. --Jay Freeman
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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Penguin Press; 1st edition (April 1, 2008)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 671 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1594201641
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1594201646
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 2.2 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.5 out of 5 stars 120 ratings

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Steve Coll is a writer for The New Yorker and author of the Pulitzer Prize- winning Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. He is president of the New America Foundation, a public policy institute in Washington, D.C. Previously he served, for more than twenty years, as a reporter, foreign correspondent, and ultimately as managing editor of The Washington Post. He is also the author of On the Grand Trunk Road, The Deal of the Century, and The Taking of Getty Oil. Coll received a 1990 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism and the 2001 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for outstanding international print reporting and the 2000 Overseas Press Club Award for best magazine reporting from abroad. Ghost Wars, published in 2004, received the Pulitzer for general nonfiction and the Arthur Ross award for the best book on international affairs.

Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5
120 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on March 9, 2009
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Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on March 31, 2010
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Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on April 12, 2022
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Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on January 18, 2009
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Top reviews from other countries

Bapi
5.0 out of 5 stars The History of the Laden family and their actii.
Reviewed in India 🇮🇳 on August 27, 2022
Thomas Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book about a family more interesting than I ever thought
Reviewed in Canada 🇨🇦 on March 4, 2022
Jean Louis Vaillancourt
5.0 out of 5 stars Thanks!
Reviewed in Canada 🇨🇦 on October 12, 2015