- The Terror Years: From Al-Qaeda to the Islamic State (2016)
- Thirteen Days in September: The Dramatic Story of the Struggle for Peace (2014)
- Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief (2013)
- The Looming Tower : Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (2006)
- Noriega: God’s Favorite [Novel] (2000)
- Twins: And What They Tell Us About Who We Are (1999)
- Remembering Satan (1994)
- Saints & Sinners (1993)
- In the New World: Growing Up in America, 1964-1984 (1987)
- City Children, Country Summer: A Story of Ghetto Children Among the Amish (1979)
Wright is the author of ten books, including The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, which spent eight weeks on The New York Times best-seller list and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. Time Magazine pronounced it one of the 100 best nonfiction books ever written.
The Terror Years: From Al-Qaeda to the Islamic State
Knopf, August 23, 2016
With the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Looming Tower, Lawrence Wright became generally acknowledged as one of our major journalists writing on terrorism in the Middle East. Here, in ten powerful pieces first published in The New Yorker, he recalls the path that terror in the Middle East has taken, from the rise of al-Qaeda in the 1990s to the recent beheadings of reporters and aid workers by ISIS.
The Terror Years draws on several articles he wrote while researching The Looming Tower, as well as many that he’s written since, following where and how al-Qaeda and its core cultlike beliefs have morphed and spread. They include a portrait of the “man behind bin Laden,” Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the tumultuous Egypt he helped spawn; an indelible impression of Saudi Arabia, a kingdom of silence under the control of the religious police; the Syrian film industry, at the time compliant at the edges but already exuding a feeling of the barely masked fury that erupted into civil war; the 2006–11 Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza, a study in the disparate value of human lives. Other chapters examine al-Qaeda as it forms a master plan for its future, experiences a rebellion from within the organization, and spins off a growing web of worldwide terror. The American response is covered in profiles of two FBI agents and the head of the intelligence community. The book ends with a devastating piece about the capture and slaying by ISIS of four American journalists and aid workers, and our government’s failed response.
On the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, The Terror Years is at once a unifying recollection of the roots of contemporary Middle Eastern terrorism, a study of how it has grown and metastasized, and, in the scary and moving epilogue, a cautionary tale of where terrorism might take us yet.
“Vivid firsthand reportage…Wright investigates every facet of the shadowy conflict [in] these dispatches from the frontlines of the ‘war on terror.’ He writes with empathy for every side while clearly registering the moral catastrophes that darken this pitiless struggle.”
Carl Hays, Booklist
“A brilliant volume that is a must-read for anyone looking for greater illumination of the baffling world of religious extremism.”
“Wright displays his top-notch reporting in stories about a disintegrating Syria, the never-ending conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians, the faith-based beliefs that undergird al-Qaida and the Islamic State group, and the massive failures of American intelligence agencies…Yet more great work from a dedicated journalist.”
Wright sits down with On Point to mark the 15th anniversary of 9/11 and talk about the age of terrorism.
Thirteen Days in September: The Dramatic Story of the Struggle for Peace
Paperback: Vintage Books, April 28, 2015
Hardback: Knopf, September 16, 2014
In September 1978, three world leaders—Menachem Begin of Israel, Anwar Sadat of Egypt, and U.S. president Jimmy Carter—met at Camp David to broker a peace agreement between the two Middle East nations. During the thirteen-day conference, Begin and Sadat got into screaming matches and had to be physically separated; both attempted to walk away multiple times. Yet, by the end, a treaty had been forged—one that has quietly stood for more than three decades, proving that peace in the Middle East is possible.
Wright combines politics, scripture, and the participants’ personal histories into a compelling narrative of the fragile peace process. Begin was an Orthodox Jew whose parents had perished in the Holocaust; Sadat was a pious Muslim inspired since boyhood by stories of martyrdom; Carter, who knew the Bible by heart, was driven by his faith to pursue a treaty, even as his advisers warned him of the political cost. Wright reveals an extraordinary moment of lifelong enemies working together—and the profound difficulties inherent in the process. Thirteen Days in September is a timely revisiting of this diplomatic triumph and an inside look at how peace is made.
“A magnificent book… In his minute-by-minute account of the talks Wright intersperses a concise history of Egyptian-Israel relations dating from the story of Exodus. Even more important is Wright's understanding that Sadat, Begin and Carter were not just political leaders, but exemplars of the Holy Land's three internecine religious traditions.”
“A unique moment in history superbly captured. Yet another triumph for Wright.”
“Exceedingly balanced, highly readable, and appropriately sober.”
“It is brilliant penetrating scholarship…. Wright expertly captures every move of the three-way realpolitik chess match. By using each man's biography to illuminate the history of his respective nation, he not only chronicles Camp David but elucidates the issues that continue to plague the Middle East.”
“Meticulously researched… almost nail-bitingly tense… an authoritative, fascinating, and relatively unbiased exploration of a pivotal period and a complicated subject.”
Wright is a deft storyteller.…The characters come to life.
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief
Paperback: VINTAGE BOOKS, NOVEMBER 5, 2013
Hardback: Random House, January 17, 2013
Paul Haggis was twenty-one years old in 1975. He was walking toward a record store in downtown London when he encountered a fast-talking, long-haired young man with piercing eyes standing on the corner of Dundas and Waterloo Streets. There was something keen and strangely adamant in his manner. His name was Jim Logan. He pressed a book into Haggis’s hands. “You have a mind,” Logan said. “This is the owner’s manual.” Then he demanded, “Give me two dollars.”
The book was Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, by L. Ron Hubbard, which was published in 1950. By the time Logan pushed it on Haggis, the book had sold more than two million copies throughout the world. Haggis opened the book and saw a page stamped with the words “Church of Scientology.”
“Take me there,” he said to Logan.
“Powerful... essential reading.”
—The New York Times Book Review
A clear-sighted revelation, a deep penetration into the world of Scientology by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower, the now-classic study of al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attack. Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with current and former Scientologists — both famous and less well known — and years of archival research, Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative ability to uncover for us the inner workings of the Church of Scientology.
At the book’s center, two men whom Wright brings vividly to life, showing how they have made Scientology what it is today: The darkly brilliant science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, whose restless, expansive mind invented a new religion. And his successor, David Miscavige — tough and driven, with the unenviable task of preserving the church after the death of Hubbard.
Lisa Miller, Washington Post
“Wright brings a clear-eyed, investigative fearlessness to Scientology — its history, its theology, its hierarchy — and the result is a rollicking, if deeply creepy, narrative ride, evidence that truth can be stranger even than science fiction.”
Evan Wright, Los Angeles Times
“Who‘d have thought a history of religion would offer so many guilty pleasures? Lawrence Wright’s enthralling account of Scientology’s rise brims with celebrity scandal. To anyone who gets a sugar rush from Hollywood gossip, the chapters on Tom Cruise and John Travolta will feel like eating a case of Ding Dongs.”
Paul Elie, The Wall Street Journal
“An utterly necessary story.... A feat of reporting. The story of Scientology is the great white whale of investigative journalism about religion.”
Nahal Toosi, Associated Press
“Wright's new book... is a powerful piece of reportage. It is detailed, intense and at times shocking.”
Troy Jollimore, Chicago Tribune
“Wright’s account of the church’s history and struggles is …absorbing... The book’s most intriguing aspect is … [in] raising general questions about the nature of faith and reason and the role of religion in American life.”
Laura Miller, Salon.com
“A wild ride of a page-turner, as enthralling as a paperback thriller.”
Buzzy Jackson, The Boston Globe
“Insightful, gripping, and ultimately tragic.... The initial biographical section [about L. Ron Hubbard] could stand as an engrossing book in itself.... The second section, “Hollywood,” provides the answer to one of the great mysteries of the modern world: What’s the deal with Tom Cruise and Scientology?”
Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“A hotly compelling read … full of wild stories.”
The Looming Tower : Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11
Knopf (Release date: August 8, 2006)
Penguin, UK (Release date: August 31, 2006)
Chapter 1: The Martyr
In a first-class stateroom on a cruise ship bound for New York from Alexandria, Egypt, a frail, middle-aged writer and educator named Sayyid Qutb experienced a crisis of faith. “Should I go to America as any normal student on a scholarship, who only eats and sleeps, or should I be special?” he wondered. “Should I hold on to my Islamic beliefs, facing the many sinful temptations, or should I indulge those temptations all around me?” It was November 1948. The new world loomed over the horizon, victorious, rich, and free. Behind him was Egypt, in rags and tears. The traveler had never been out of his native country. Nor had he willingly left now. Read more of this excerpt...
From the cover of the New York Times Book Review (August 6, 2006)
“This is the story of how a small group of men, with a frightening mix of delusion and calculation, rose from a tormented civilization to mount a catastrophic assault on the world’s mightiest power, and how another group of men and women, convinced that such an attack was on the way, tried desperately to stop it.
“What a story it is. And what a riveting tale Lawrence Wright fashions in this marvelous book. The Looming Tower is not just a detailed, heart-stopping account of the events leading up to 9/11, written with style and verve and carried along by villains and heros that only a crime novelist could dream up. It’s an education too—though you’d never know it—a thoughtful examination of the world that produced the men who brought us 9/11, and of their progeny who bedevil us today. The portrait of John O’Neill, the driven, demon-ridden F.B.I. agent who worked so frantically to stop Osama bin Laden, only to perish in the attack on the World Trade Center, is worth the price of the book alone. The Looming Tower is a thriller. And it’s a tragedy too…
“Wright, a staff writer for The New Yorker, has put his boots on the ground in the hard places, conducted the interviews and done the sleuthing… He has unearthed an astonishing amount of detail about Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawhiri, Mullah Muhammad Omar and all the rest of them. They come alive… O’Neill and others like him were in a race with Al Qaeda, and although we know how the race ended, it’s astonishing—and heartbreaking—to learn how close it was… The fateful struggle between the C.I.A. and F.B.I. in the months leading up to the attacks has been outlined before, but never in such detail… Great stuff.” - Dexter Filkins, Baghdad correspondent
Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“A searing view of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, a view that is at once wrenchingly intimate and boldly sweeping in its historical perspective... a narrative history that possesses all the immediacy and emotional power of a novel, an account that indelibly illustrates how the political and the personal, the public and the private were often inextricably intertwined.”
“Lawrence Wright provides a graceful and remarkably intimate set of portraits of the people who brought us 9/11. It is a tale of extravagant zealotry and incessant bumbling that would be merely absurd if the consequences were not so grisly.”
Featured on Knopf Website
Noriega: God’s Favorite [Novel]
Simon & Schuster (Release date: March 9, 2000)
For twenty minutes the policeman sat with the villagers watching the golden frog. As long as the frog did not move, the Indians from the village did not move, and therefore the policeman waited, knowing that there was no need to hurry. If he broke the frog's spell it might be seen as a bad omen, and so he rested on his haunches, as he remembered doing in his own village many years before. More of this excerpt →
In this fascinating work of historical fiction, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright captures all the gripping drama and black humor of Panama during the final, nerve-racking days of its legendary dictator, Manuel Antonio Noriega.
It is Christmas 1989, and Tony Noriega's demons are finally beginning to catch up with him. A former friend of President Bush, Fidel Castro, and Oliver North, this universally reviled strongman is on the run from the U.S. Congress, the Justice Department, the Colombian mob, and a host of political rivals. In his desperation, he seeks salvation from any and all quarters — God, Satan, a voodoo priest, even the spirits of his murdered enemies. But with a million-dollar price on his head and 20,000 American soldiers on his trail, Noriega is fast running out of options.
Drawn from a historical record more dramatic than even the most artful spy novel, God's Favorite is a riveting and darkly comic fictional account of the events that occurred in Panama from 1985 to the dictator's capture in 1989. With an award-winning journalist's eye for detail, Lawrence Wright leads the reader toward a dramatic face-off in the Vatican embassy, where Noriega confronts his psychological match in the papal nuncio.
Twins: And What They Tell Us About Who We Are
John Wiley & Sons (Release date: February 10, 1999)
Chapter 1: Two Lives — One Personality
A pair of identical twin girls were surrendered to an adoption agency in New York City in the late 1960s. The twins, who are known in psychological literature as Amy and Beth, might have gone through life in obscurity had they not come to the attention of Dr. Peter Neubauer, a prominent psychiatrist at New York University's Psychoanalytic Institute and a director of the Freud Archives. Neubauer believed at the time that twins posed such a burden to parents, and to themselves in the form of certain developmental hazards, that adopted twins were better off being raised separately, with no knowledge of their twinship. More of this excerpt →
Expanded from an article for The New Yorker magazine, Twins is both a scientific and philosophical exploration of a little-understood and yet fascinating human phenomenon.
“Twins and their implications are illuminated... in this compelling, well-researched overview.”
The New York Times Book Review
“A lucid... introduction to behavioral genetics, based chiefly on studies of identical twins raised separately.”
Knopf (Release date: March 29, 1994)
Vintage Paperback (Release date: April 25, 1995)
“The most powerful and disturbing true-crime narrative to appear since Truman Capote's In Cold Blood.” —Time
A horrific but true account of an alleged case of “recovered memories,” which destroy a family and a man’s life.
In 1988 Ericka and Julie Ingram began making a series of accusations of sexual abuse against their father, Paul Ingram, who was a respected deputy sheriff in Olympia, Washington. At first the accusations were confined to molestations in their childhood, but they grew to include torture and rape as recently as the month before. At a time when reported incidents of “recovered memories” had become widespread, these accusations were not unusual. What captured national attention in this case is that, under questioning, Ingram appeared to remember participating in bizarre satanic rites involving his whole family and other members of the sheriff's department.
Remembering Satan is a lucid, measured, yet absolutely riveting inquest into a case that destroyed a family, engulfed a small town, and captivated an America obsessed by rumors of a satanic underground. As it follows the increasingly bizarre accusations and confessions, the claims and counterclaims of police, FBI investigators, and mental health professionals. Remembering Satan gives us what is at once a psychological detective story and a domestic tragedy about what happens when modern science is subsumed by our most archaic fears.
The New York Times
“A fantastic case reverberating with questions about the nature of memory itself.... A thoughtful and gripping book.”
“This is a cautionary tale of immense value, told with rare intelligence, restraint and compassion. Remembering Satan catapults Wright to the front rank of American journalists.”
Saints & Sinners
Knopf (Release date: March 1993)
Vintage Paperback (Release date: May 28, 1995)
In this fascinating book about religion in America, one of this country's most probing yet sympathetic journalists puts forth stories not only of real grace but of despair, sexual scandal, and attempted murder.
Lawrence Wright's Saints and Sinners are Jimmy Swaggart, who preached a hellfire gospel with rock 'n' roll abandon before he was caught with a, prostitute in a seedy motel; Anton LaVey, the kitsch-loving, gleefully fraudulent founder of the First Church of Satan; Madalyn Murray O'Hair, whose litigious atheism sometimes resembled a brand of faith; Matthew Fox, the Dominican priest who has aroused the fury of the Vatican for dismissing the doctrine of original sin and denouncing the church as a dysfunctional family; Walker Railey, the rising star of Dallas's Methodist church, who, at the pinnacle of his success, was suspected of attempting to murder his wife; and Will Campbell, the eccentric liberal Southern Baptist preacher whose challenges to established ways of thinking have made him a legend in his own time.
By letting us listen to their voices and see the individuals in all their complexities, Lawrence Wright has written a richly fascinating book about the passions, triumphs, and failures of the life of faith.
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Trenchant, fair-minded, gracefully written.... Wright brings his subjects into sharp focus with plenty of perceptive details.”
“A very American struggle.... [Wright] memorably articulates his battle... between doubt and belief.”
“An entertaining, and insightful account... vivid... beautifully rendered stories.”
In the New World: Growing Up in America, 1964-1984
Knopf (Release date: December 1987)
Vintage Paperback (Release date: February 12, 2013)
We first meet Larry Wright in 1960. He is thirteen and moving with his family to Dallas, the essential city of the New World just beginning to rise across the southern rim of the United States. As we follow him through the next two decades — the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the devastating assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr., the sexual revolution, the crisis of Watergate, and the emergence of Ronald Reagan — we relive the pivotal and shocking events of those crowded years.
Lawrence Wright has written the autobiography of a generation, giving back to us with stunning force the feelings of those turbulent times when the euphoria of Kennedy’s America would come to its shocking end. Filled with compassion and insight, In the New World is both the intimate tale of one man’s coming-of-age, and a universal story of the American experience of two crucial decades.
City Children, Country Summer: A Story of Ghetto Children Among the Amish
Scribner (Release date: August 1979)
A first-hand of the account of the Fresh Air Fund — kids from New York City's ghettos and projects spend a summer in an Amish farm community in Pennsylvania.