Terror attacks a rich subject for authors
Seattle Times book editor
Waves of books examining the causes of and lessons from the Sept. 11 attacks have hit bookstores within the past year, and the anniversary of the tragedy sees another swell — as many as 150, according to one industry estimate. Hopefully, a year of contemplation has prompted some thoughtful writing — certainly this selection of books on the event, on terrorism, on public policy and on Islam shows how much Sept. 11 changed the landscape of our concerns forever.
Most are available this month, but some appear in October or November. Consult your local library or bookseller. A checkmark indicates a recommendation by Seattle Times book editor Mary Ann Gwinn or book critic Michael Upchurch.
The event/The anniversary
"110 Stories: New York Writes after September 11" edited by Ulrich Baer (New York University Press). More than 100 writers, from emerging ones to masters such as Paul Auster, A.M. Homes, Edwidge Danticat and Philip Lopate, convey "the shape and texture of a city in crisis."
"Hero of Flight 93: Mark Bingham" by Jon Barrett (Advocate Books). The story of a gay man who was one of the group of passengers who overpowered the United Airlines Flight 93 hijackers.
"Out of the Blue: A Narrative of September 11, 2001" by Richard Bernstein and the staff of The New York Times (Times Books). Bernstein, a daily book critic for the Times, reconstructs the story of 9/11 into a cohesive narrative, based on the reporting of the Times staff. Other oral histories: "September 11: An Oral History" by Dean E. Murphy (Doubleday). A reconstruction of the event through the voices of those who lived through it. Murphy is a New York Times reporter. And: "Never Forget: An Oral History of September 11, 2001" by Mitchell Fink and Lois Mathias (ReganBooks). An oral history of the events, including accounts by Rudolph Giuliani, firefighters, police officers, Cantor Fitzgerald survivors and the mother of a Flight 93 crash victim.
"What We Saw: The Events of September 11, 2001 — In Words, Pictures and Video" by the CBS News staff, introduction by Dan Rather (Simon & Schuster). This book weaves together accounts of the event by news staff and survivors, and includes a full-length DVD of CBS' news coverage.
"The Day the World Came to Town — 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland" by Jim DeFede (ReganBooks). After Sept. 11, 6,595 airline passengers, from a corporate chairman to the parents of a missing New York firefighter, were stranded when 38 flights were diverted to this small town, and residents opened their houses and hearts to them.
"Lamentation: 9/11" by E.L. Doctorow, preface by Kofi Annan (Millwood). The master fiction writer and longtime New Yorker gives his take on the tragedy.
"Strong of Heart: Life and Death in the Fire Department of New York" by Thomas Von Essen (ReganBooks). New York's fire commissioner tells his own story and that of his department on Sept. 11 and thereafter.
"Understanding September 11: Answering Questions About the Attacks on America" by Mitch Frank (Penguin Putnam Young Readers). A book that attempts to answer children's questions about the event and America's response. Ages 11 and up.
"So Others May Live: A History of New York's Bravest — the FDNY from 1700 to the Present" by Terry Golway (Basic Books). Golway, a journalist whose father, uncles and other relatives were firefighters, tells the fire department's story as it interweaves with that of New York City.
"September 11, 2001: American Writers Respond" edited by William Heynen (Etruscan Press). A collection of 127 writers, including W.S. Merwin, John Updike, Terry Tempest Williams, Wendell Berry, Maxine Hong Kingston and Tess Gallagher (as well as lesser-known writers), chronicling their reactions in the months after the attacks.
"American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center" by William Langewiesche (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). An Atlantic Monthly correspondent gets unrestricted access to Ground Zero and chronicles the urgent and often dangerous effort to extract the rubble and the dead buried beneath it.
"Among the Heroes: United Flight 93 and the Passengers and Crew Who Fought Back" by Jere Longman (HarperCollins). This book by a New York Times reporter who covered the story attempts to reconstruct what likely happened when the crew and passengers of this flight attempted to wrest control of the plane from terrorists.
"On Top of the World: Cantor Fitzgerald and 9/11" by Howard Lutnick and Tom Barbash (HarperCollins). Lutnick, head of the brokerage firm that lost nearly 700 of its employees in the World Trade Center disaster, tells his story with the help of Barbash, a writing teacher at Stanford and San Francisco State. Proceeds benefit the Cantor Fitzgerald relief fund.
"Afterwords: Stories and Reports from 9/11 and Beyond" compiled by the editors of Salon.com (Washington Square Press). Writings collected by the popular Internet site, from established authors to witnesses to the events.
"Running Toward Danger: The Stories Behind the Biggest Story of Our Time, September 11, 2001" by Cathy Trost and Alicia Cobb Shepard, foreword by Tom Brokaw (Rowman & Littlefield). Journalists covering Sept. 11 tell their stories. Presented by the Newseum, America's only museum of news. And "At Ground Zero: The Young Reporters Who Were There Tell Their Stories" edited by Chris Bull and Sam Erman (Thunder's Mouth Press).
"Heart of a Soldier" by James B. Stewart (Simon & Schuster). The story of Rick Rescorla, a Vietnam veteran who successfully got all 2,700 men and women of the Morgan Stanley stock firm out of the World Trade Center. Stewart is the author of "Blood Sport," "Blind Eye" and "Den of Thieves."
Studies of Islam and world religions
"Holy Land Whose Land? Modern Dilemma, Ancient Roots" by Dorothy Drummond (Educare Press). Drummond examines the "perplexing paradoxes" of a region that, in the name of faith, has become a crucible of conflict and atrocity.
"What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam" by John L. Esposito (Oxford University Press). Islam explained in a question-and-answer format, by a leading American authority on Islam. In November, Oxford will issue "The Oxford Dictionary of Islam" with Esposito as editor in chief.
"American Muslims: The New Generation, Second Edition" by Asma Gull Hasan (Continuum). "The only book written about American Muslims by an American Muslim."
"When Religion Becomes Evil" by Charles Kimball (Harper San Francisco). A religious scholar outlines the five basic corruptions of religion and how they manifest themselves in the major religious traditions, as well as how to identify and correct such tendencies.
"The Heart of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity" by Seyyed Hossein Nasr (Harper San Francisco). A leading Islamicist explains the central values of Islam and calls for a new future of mutual respect among followers of the Abrahamic (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) religions.
"The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations" by Jonathan Sacks (Continuum). Britain's chief rabbi argues for the need for "a compelling theological argument for the need to make space for difference. God has created many faiths but only one world in which to live together."
"The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa'ud from Tradition to Terror" by Stephen Schwartz (Doubleday). A Jewish historian examines how Osama bin Laden's brand of Islam differs from the mainstream, and contends that his followers are engaged in a revolution against Islam itself.
"The Shared Well: A Concise Guide to Relations between Islam and the West" by Robert de Weyer (Brassey's). A British scholar and founder of an independent church that "celebrates the validity of all the world's great religions" examines the troubled history of the West and its relations with the Islamic world.
"The Shade of Swords: Jihad and the Conflict between Islam & Christianity" by M.J. Akbar (Routledge). A distinguished Indian journalist and author of several book examines why jihad, where politics and religion meet, exercises such a force on its followers.
"Combating Terrorism — Strategies of Ten Countries" edited by Yonah Alexander (University of Michigan Press). How countries worldwide deal with terrorism. Billed as accessible both to professionals dealing with terrorism and the general reader.
"The Age of Sacred Terror: Radical Islam's War Against America" by Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon (Random House). Two analysts with some street cred — they were director and senior director of counterterrorism for the National Security Council under Clinton — present an authoritative history of radical Islam and its ongoing threat to the nation.
"Al-Qaeda: The Terror Network That Threatens the World" by Jane Corbin (Thunder's Mouth Press). Corbin, a BBC correspondent specializing in the Middle East, has spent a decade covering the growth of al-Qaeda, tracing its roots to the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan and exploring Osama bin Laden's "medieval" conception of good and evil.
"Why Terrorism Works" by Alan M. Dershowitz (Yale University Press). The prolific author and Harvard Law School professor examines religiously inspired, state-sponsored terrorist groups and offers proposals for combating them that "strike a balance between security and liberty."
"Against All Terrors: The People's Next Defense" by Philip Gold (Discovery Institute). A senior fellow of the local Discovery Institute characterizes the struggle against terrorism as "The Wars of the Ways — a protracted global struggle that will pit those who embrace the twenty-first century, its freedoms and potentials, against those who want out or can't get in."
"War Without End: The Rise of Islamist Terrorism and the Global Response" by Dilip Hiro (Routledge). The author of "The Longest War: Desert Shield to Desert Storm" traces the many strands of Islamic militancy and America's response to it.
"The War Against the Terror Masters: Why It Happened. Where We Are Now. How We'll Win" by Michael A. Ledeen (Truman Talley Books). A scholar at the American Enterprise Institute weighs in on the history of international terrorist networks and how to combat them.
"Militant Islam Reaches America" by Daniel Pipes (Norton). Pipes, an early voice warning of the dangers of militant Islam, looks at the worldwide phenomenon of the movement and reveals its scope and permutations.
Oil, diplomacy and world affairs
"The Lion's Grave: Dispatches from Afghanistan" by Jon Lee Anderson (Atlantic Monthly Press). A collection of writings from the front lines by the indefatigable New Yorker correspondent in Afghanistan.
"Forbidden Truth" by Jean-Charles Bisard and Guillaume Dasque (Nation Books). A succinct summary of this book is in the subtitle: "How U.S.-Taliban Secret Oil Diplomacy Thwarted the Search for Bin Laden and Helped Trigger Sept. 11."
"Longitudes and Attitudes: The World in the Age of Terrorism" by Thomas L. Friedman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Columns by the New York Times op-ed columnist (and author of "The Lexus and the Olive Tree"), who won a Pulitzer for his work writing about the post-Sept. 11 world.
"War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning" by Chris Hedges (Public Affairs). A veteran New York Times war correspondent examines a dismal truth — war gives the lives of many humans focus and motivation.
"The Eagle's Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World" by Mark Hertsgaard (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). A 192-page essay on why the world is so fascinated and repelled by America.
"Pakistan: The Eye of the Storm" by Owen Bennett Jones (Yale University Press). Jones, a frequent BBC commentator, covered Pakistan from 1998 to 2001. He examines its turbulent history and makes the case that "while most Pakistanis have a moderate, tolerant vision of Islam," the country's central institutions are ill-equipped to deal with terrorism. And "Pakistan: In the Shadow of Jihad and Afghanistan" by Mary Anne Weaver (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). An on-the-ground of a nation in a precarious spot, by another New Yorker reporter.
"Asian Americans on War & Peace" edited by Russell C. Leong and Don T. Nakanishi (UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press). Asian-American writers examine the parallels between recent world events and "the legacy of war, xenophobia and resistance in Asian American history."
"Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the Fall of the Taliban" by Stephen Tanner (Da Capo Press). The country's 2,500 years of resisting various invasions and the challenge of leaving the country "without becoming involved in a protracted conflict." By a military historian.
"Unfinished Business: Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Beyond — Defusing the Dangers that Threaten America's Security" by Harlan Ullman, foreword by Sen. John McCain (Kensington). A respected military strategist and professor at the National War College outlines how Sept. 11 events arose from unfinished business from both the Cold War and the Gulf War.
"It's a Free Country: Personal Freedom in America After September 11" several editors and writers (RDV Books). Several writers, including Cornel West, Michael Moore and Matt Groening, examine the effect the events of post-Sept. 11 have had on individual freedoms.