The Only War We've Got

50 best books on terrorism

[In its August issue, the journal Perspectives on Terrorism published this "50-best" list by Joshua Sinai of The Analysis Corporation. If the book is available at, I link to it there. I have not attempted to update the list -- Daniel Ford]

Textbooks on Terrorism

Leonard Weinberg: Global Terrorism: A Beginner's Guide (Oneworld, 2008) "readers will greatly benefit from the accumulated wisdom that is sprinkled throughout this wonderfully written book"

Gus Martin: Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues (Sage, 2006) "one of the finest stand-alone, comprehensive textbooks for university courses"

Bruce Hoffman: Inside Terrorism (Columbia UP, 2006) "one of the most widely read books on terrorism" (Sinai objects to the notion that "a strategic logic drives suicide terrorism (when, in fact, it is hugely self-destructive to their group's cause)," but I'm not so sure)

James Forest, ed: Countering Terrorism and Insurgency in the 21st Century: International Perspectives (Praeger, 2007) three volumes; bring your mortgage broker or better yet your university credit card

Christopher Harmon: Terrorism Today (Routledge, 2007) "comprehensive in scope"

Using the Social Sciences to Study Terrorism

Magnus Ranstorp, ed: Mapping Terrorism Research: State of the Art, Gaps and Future Direction (Routledge, 2007) fourteen academics "take inventory of the strengths and weaknesses in terrorism research in order to identify a set of priorities for future research"

Tore Bjorgo, ed.: Root Causes of Terrorism: Myths, Reality and Ways Forward (Routledge, 2005) papers from a 2003 experts workshop in Oslo

John Horgan: The Psychology of Terrorism (Routledge, 2005) "one of the best applications of a social science discipline" to explain what motivates terrorists

Ely Karmon: Coalitions Between Terrorist Organizations: Revolutionaries, Nationalists and Islamists (Martinus Nijhoff, 2005) "an important and innovative study of how terrorist organizations form cooperative coalitions and how they function within the changing international system"

Sundri Khalsa: Forecasting Terrorism: Indicators and Proven Analytical Techniques (Scarecrow, 2004) "68 indicators of terrorist activity ... intended to be used in a warning framework to anticipate terrorist activity"

Nadine Gurr & Benjamin Cole: The New Face of Terrorism: Threats from Weapons of Mass Destruction (Tauris, 2002) "One of the best treatments of this subject"

Michael Kenney: From Pablo to Osama: Trafficking and Terrorist Networks, Government Bureaucracies, and Competitive Adaptation (Pennsylvania State UP, 2007) the bad guys adapt to government countermeasures; governments too can learn to adapt

Terrorism and the Internet

Gabriel Weimann: Terror on the Internet: The New Arena, the New Challenges (US States Institute of Peace, 2006) "first comprehensive study of this issue"

Boaz Ganor, Katharina Von Knop, & Carlos Duarte, eds: Hypermedia Seduction for Terrorist Recruiting (IOS, 2007) a collection of academic papers on terrorist use of the internet and practical ways to counter it

A Vision So Noble

Militant Islam

"To understand the narrative that is central to Muslim belief ... first read the Quran" before proceeding to these lay texts:

Olivier Roy: Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah (Columbia UP, 2004) "the driving forces behind the revival of militant Islam in Western Europe"

Malise Ruthven: Fundamentalism: The Search for Meaning (Oxford UP, 2005) "a penetrating analysis of the nature of fundamentalism around the world"

Bassam Tibi: Political Islam, World Politics and Europe: Democratic Peace and Euro-Islam versus Global Jihad (Routledge, 2007) Europe "faces a growing conflict between radical segments within its large Muslim minority and the continent's democratic and pluralist institutions and values"

Neil Kressel: Bad Faith: The Danger of Religious Extremism (Prometheus, 2007) "incisively explains the nature of religious extremism" and recommends that mainstream leaders "immediately identify and 'self-police' outbreaks of extremism"

Michael Mazarr: Unmodern Men in the Modern World: Radical Islam, Terrorism, and the War on Modernity (Cambridge UP) "one of the best diagnoses of the resentment by Islamist forces toward modernity" which often leads to "an upwelling of devotion"

Suicide Terrorism

Farhad Khosrokhavar: Suicide Bombers: Allah's New Martyrs (Pluto, 2005) "discusses the concept of martyrdom in Islam, how it expresses itself in Iran, Palestine ... and Lebanon, and al-Qaeda's use of martyrdom operations in its worldwide operations"

Stewart Bell: The Martyr's Oath: The Apprenticeship of a Homegrown Terrorist (Wiley, 2005) what motivated a middle-class lad, reared in Canada, to become a terrorist operative in Singapore

9/11 and its Aftermath

Evan Kohlmann: Al-Qaida's Jihad in Europe: The Afghan-Bosnian Network (Berg, 2004) the Hamburg cell that carried out the 9/11 attack was part of a larger network

Peter Bergen: Holy War: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden (Free Press, 2002) "One of the best of the first crop of books on this topic". Also: The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader (Free Press, 2006) updates the earlier account

Terry McDermott: Perfect Soldiers: The Hijackers: Who They Were, Why They Did It (HarperCollins, 2008) "excellent account of the personal histories of al Qaida's 9/11 hijackers and the beliefs and motivations that drove them to commit such horrendous acts"

Marc Sageman: Understanding Terror Networks (Pennsylvania, 2004) "one of the most original and innovative social science studies conducted on how individuals are driven to join terrorist organizations". Also: Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty First Century (Pennsylvania, 2008) how al-Qaeda morphed into a global social movement and how to "take the glory and thrill out of terrorism"-"the gold standard in al-Qaeda studies"

Elena Mastors & Alyssa Deffenbaugh: The Lesser Jihad: Recruits and the Al-Qaida Network (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007) how individuals become involved (fund-raising, logistics, training, leadership)

Brynjar Lia: Architect of Global Jihad: The Life of Al Qaeda Strategist Abu Mus'ab al-Suri (Columbia, 2008) biography of the theoretician who "trained a generation of young jihadists in the Afghan training camps and helped establish the organization's European networks"

Matthew Levitt: Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad (Yale, 2007) how Hamas blended "terrorism, political activism, and social welfare services to become the dominant force in the Palestinian territories"

Anne Marie Oliver and Paul Steinberg: The Road to Martyr's Square: A Journey Into the World of the Suicide Bomber (Oxford, 2006) "beautifully written yet disturbing book offers a unique perspective on the intifada and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict"

Anat Berko: The Path to Paradise: The Inner World of Suicide Bombers and Their Dispatchers (Praeger, 2007) another exploration of how the cult of death became ingrained among Palestinians and what can be done about it

Bernard Rougier: Everyday Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam among Palestinians in Lebanon (Harvard, 2007) based on field work in one refugee camp

Flying Tigers

Terrorism in the United States

Harvey Kushner & Bart Davis: Holy War on the Home Front: The Secret Islamic Terror Network in the United States (Sentinel, 2006) "a secret network of Islamic extremists belonging to al-Qaeda and Hamas has been entrenching itself in American society"

Daniel Levitas: The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia Movement and the Radical Right (Thomas Dunne, 2002) "most definitive account ever written on America's far-right militia movements"

U.S. Counterterrorism

Bill Gertz: Breakdown: How America's Intelligence Failures Led to September 11 (Regnery, 2002) "places the blame on the lack of political will by successive administrations and Congress to vigorously counter al-Qaeda's growing threat"

Paul Pillar: Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy (Brookings, 2003) "provides a framework for understanding the history and current posture of U.S. counterterrorism policy"

The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (Norton, 2004) "most comprehensive critique of the events and policies that led to 9/11"

Daniel Benjamin & Steven Simon: The Next Attack: The Failure of the War on Terror and a Strategy for Getting it Right (Times Books, 2005) argues "that America is losing the war on terrorism"

Lawrence Wright: The Looming Tower
Lawrence Wright:
The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (Knopf, 2006) My notes on this excellent book are here

Ron Suskind: The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11 (Simon & Schuster, 2006) (the title refers to the likelihood of a nuclear detonation)

Ron Kessler: The Terrorist Watch: Inside the Desperate Race to Stop the Next Attack (Crown Forum, 2007) "insightful and revealing look at how U.S. counterterrorism agencies ... conducted America's attacks on al-Qaeda and its affiliates ... a riveting account"

Yonah Alexander & Michael B. Kraft, eds: Evolution of U.S. Counterterrorism Policy (Praeger, 2007) three-volume "collection of key documents, statements, and testimony on U.S. government counterterrorism policies, laws and programs"

Michael Sheehan: Crush the Cell: How to Defeat Terrorism Without Defeating Ourselves (Random House, 2008) using "offensive operational intelligence" to identify and defeat terrorist cells

Counterterrorism - General

Boaz Ganor: The Counter-Terrorism Puzzle: A Guide for Decision Makers (Transaction, 2005) "identifies terrorist threats and delineates ways in which governments can most successfully counteract them"

Emanuel Gross: The Struggle of Democracy Against Terrorism: Lessons from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel (Virginia, 2006) "one of the best studies on the legal challenges and moral dilemmas faced by democracies in balancing security against civil liberties, human rights and the rule of law in countering the threats posed by terrorists"

Committee on Science and Technology etc: Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism (National Academies, 2002) "Comprehensive in scope and authoritative in its technical expertise"

Mark Sauter & James Carafano: Homeland Security: A Complete Guide to Understanding, Preventing, and Surviving Terrorism (McGraw-Hill, 2005) "theoretical and practical treatment of terrorism, counter-terrorism and homeland security ... an indispensable reference"

Peter Katona, Michael Intriligator, John Sullivan, eds: Countering Terrorism and WMD: Creating a Global Counter-Terrorism Network (Routledge, 2006) "experts from a range of disciplines ... discuss the components necessary for comprehensive counter-terrorism"

Daniel Byman: The Five Front War: The Better Way to Fight Global Jihad (Wiley, 2007) "proposes a comprehensive approach to countering terrorism"

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Cowboy: interpreter, warlord, one more casualty

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