Nonfiction Book Reviews

The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright

This Pulitzer-Prize winning account of the rise of one of the most notorious terrorist organizations in modern history eloquently pieces together a truly compelling narrative. The story provides valuable insight into how a lone surgeon and the son of a Saudi billionaire could combine forces to wage terror on the United States. The book opens with the origins of Islamic fundamentalist thinking, beginning with the writing of Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian scholar whose martyrdom would provide the basis for waging jihad against the perceived threat of plummeting moral and social values in a rapidly modernizing world. The book then takes a biographical turn, displaying the lives of the future leaders of Al-Qaeda and their road to terror. The Looming Tower connects back to the United States by showing the disastrous chain of events between American intelligence and justice services that failed to prevent the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil in American history. The Looming Tower has 4.38 out of five stars on Goodreads.


Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Urban poverty frequently has the tendency to elude us in Fairfax County, but Evicted paints a portrait of the phenomenon so vivid that the problem becomes impossible to ignore. The book follows impoverished families in the Milwaukee area who are constantly on the fringe of eviction, a common process that can have terrible consequences for its victims. Desmond fuses together multiple perspectives on the issue: those of the evicted, those of the tenant and those of policy advocates whose goal is to mitigate its effects. From a day in eviction court to the ramblings of a heroin addict in a Milwaukee trailer park, Desmond provides a clear window onto the issue of urban poverty in America. Evicted has 4.46 stars out of five on Goodreads.


Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche by Haruki Murakami

Don’t be fooled, the renowned Japanese novelist’s advanced oratory skills are definitely pronounced in his sole nonfiction work. When adherents to the doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo released sarin gas into the Tokyo subway on March 20, 1995, Japan was changed forever. Such acts of violence and terrorism were almost unheard of in this island nation, and Murakami’s extensive interviews with commuters from that morning and with some Aum Shinrikyo members themselves allow one to see these shifts in the Japanese psyche firsthand. Underground has 3.88 stars out of five on Goodreads.