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Must-reads of a fateful day: some of Sept. 11's most notable books

Over the past decade, hundreds of books have dealt in one way or another with the events and aftereffects of Sept. 11.

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The attacks essentially remade an entire genre — spy fiction — recasting it from Cold War chess-game espionage with Communist bad guys to fast-paced, violent thrillers that revolve around fighting terrorists.

This is by no means a complete list, but these fiction and nonfiction books are among the most memorable to explore the events of Sept. 11.

Colette Bancroft, Times book editor


The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (2004) is the chilling, intensively detailed and still controversial account of the investigation by the bipartisan committee.

American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center by William Langewiesche (2002) is a remarkable, on-the-scene account of the cleanup of ground zero and the many people who made it happen.

Let's Roll! Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage by Lisa Beamer (2003) is an inspiring memoir by the widow of Todd Beamer, one of the heroes credited with preventing Flight 93 from hitting another target — at the cost of their own lives.

The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright (2006) is a comprehensive and compelling history of Islamic terrorism, bin Laden and the leadup to the attacks.

Portraits: 9/11/01: The Collected "Portraits of Grief" from the New York Times (2003) gathers the thousands of profiles of victims the newspaper ran in the months after the disaster, a monument to the lives lost and to dedicated community journalism.


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (2005) is a tour de force about a precocious 9-year-old combing New York for the lock that fits a key left by his father, who died on Sept. 11.

Falling Man by Don DeLillo (2007) is the haunted story of a lawyer who escapes the burning towers but can't free himself from the memory of his hellish, endless downward march that day and all the loss that followed.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (2009) is a brilliant and wide-ranging novel about New York City that echoes with the events of Sept. 11, even though most of it is set in 1974.

Netherland by Joseph O'Neill (2008) tells the story of a Wall Street banker displaced by the disaster — in more ways than one — who discovers a New York City he never knew existed.

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson (2003) is a dark satire of the first years of the 21st century, focusing on a young woman, Cayce Pollard, who works as a "cool hunter" and is searching for her father, who disappeared on Sept. 11.

Must-reads of a fateful day: some of Sept. 11's most notable books 09/03/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 6, 2011 1:35pm]
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