The Bin Ladens by Steve Coll
An Arabian Family in the American Century

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Synopsis

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.

 

About Steve Coll

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STEVE COLL is most recently the author of the New York Times bestseller The Bin Ladens. He is the president of the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan public policy institute headquartered in Washington, D.C., and a staff writer for The New Yorker. Previously he worked for twenty years at The Washington Post, where he received a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism in 1990. He is the author of six other books, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller Ghost Wars. He lives in Washington and New York.
 
Published April 1, 2008 by Penguin Books. 707 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Business & Economics, History, Political & Social Sciences, Travel, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Bin Ladens

Kirkus Reviews

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Salem Bin Laden loved American pop music and films.

Mar 15 2008 | Read Full Review of The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Fa...

The New York Times

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Mr. Coll writes that when the Saudi royal family agreed in the summer of 1990 to the arrival of American troops in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, Mr. bin Laden “offered no public dissent” at the time, but “moved quickly with the rest of his family to protect his personal fortune against t...

Apr 01 2008 | Read Full Review of The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Fa...

The New York Times

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Occasionally, the picture is too vivid — there is more detail than most readers will need about Khaled bin Laden’s stud farm in Egypt, Khalil bin Laden’s Brazilian wife’s sister’s drug addiction and Yeslam bin Laden’s unsuccessful stock transactions.

May 25 2008 | Read Full Review of The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Fa...

The New York Times

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Mr. Coll writes that when the Saudi royal family agreed in the summer of 1990 to the arrival of American troops in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, Mr. bin Laden “offered no public dissent” at the time, but “moved quickly with the rest of his family to protect his personal fortune against t...

Apr 01 2008 | Read Full Review of The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Fa...

The Guardian

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The Bin Ladens: The Story of a Family and its Fortune by Steve Coll Allen Lane £25, pp671 There is a contradiction here.

May 11 2008 | Read Full Review of The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Fa...

The Guardian

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Rags-to-riches stories don't come much more impressive than this, in which the Bin Ladens, a family of exiled Yemeni peasants, rise to become millionaire businessmen and associates of the Saudi royal family.

Mar 08 2009 | Read Full Review of The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Fa...

Publishers Weekly

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The bin Ladens are famous for spawning the world’s foremost terrorist and building one of the Middle East’s foremost corporate dynasties.

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Examiner

Toward the end, Coll quotes a certain Saudi prince who says, “while I don’t condone Osama’s actions, at the end of the day, the Americans deserved it.” All in all, a fascinating study of the Bin laden dynasty.

Feb 01 2010 | Read Full Review of The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Fa...

London Review of Books

After Osama left Saudi Arabia for the last time in May 1991, he followed the well-worn path of the ‘semi-independent bin Laden brothers’ by starting ventures of his own in and around Khartoum: the bin Laden organisation won the contract to build a new Saudi-funded airport in Sudan.

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Bookmarks Magazine

Tim Rutten Christian Science Monitor 4 of 5 Stars "Coll’s story is a family biography rather than a portrait of Osama, but in the telling much is revealed about the young man who grew up in a family almost as secular as it was pious, ‘one degree separated from Mecca and two degrees from Las ...

May 26 2008 | Read Full Review of The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Fa...

Literary Review

Amongst five sons of Mohamed bin Laden born in 1958 to various different women (making him somewhere between seventeenth and twenty-first in the sequence of bin Laden sons) was the one who would bring the bin Laden family global notoriety: Osama.

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