The bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century

Steve Coll, Author . Penguin Press $35 (688p) ISBN 978-1-59420-164-6

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)

Reviewed on: 03/31/2008
Release date: 04/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 671 pages - 978-0-14-103648-9
Compact Disc - 978-0-14-314323-9
Paperback - 671 pages - 978-0-14-311481-9
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