Title: The Secret History of al-Qa'ida
Author: Abdel Bari Atwan
Publication date: February 2006
A well-researched (including a 1996 visit to bin Laden in the mountains of Afghanistan) and well-written (seemingly free from bias) book. Why should you read it? In the words of the author:
"There was a historical inevitability about the rise of bin Laden, who has become for many the figurehead of a resurgent Muslim identity. For many people in the West this is unthinkable, as there he is presented and perceived as an evil terrorist. Yet it is important to understand how he is viewed by his admirers in the Islamic world. How can the very real threat that al-Qa'da's ideology represents to global security be countered if its identity and nature remains shrouded in obscurtiy?"
I read the 2006 version, which seems to cover events right up to (but just before) the death of al-Zarqawi in Iraq. Since then, al-Qa'ida (and the Taliban) seem to have (unpredictably) increased in attacks, strength and resolve. It would be interesting to read how the author comments on this in his 2007 version.