The most recommended books about 9/11 (September 11th attacks)

Who picked these books? Meet our 54 experts.

54 authors created a book list connected to September 11th, and here are their favorite September 11th books.
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Book cover of The Red Bandanna: A Life. A Choice. A Legacy.

Vanessa Lee Author Of High Rise

From my list on celebrating the bravery of everyday heroes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an Australian writer living in Europe. Returning to my hometown on the East Coast of Australia post-COVID, I confronted relentless rain and king tides threatening the beach promenade cafes. Witnessing the potential demise of these familiar spots sparked the idea for my novel. Opening with a dystopian scene of future tourists exploring submerged coastal cafes with snorkels, my work delves into the realm of "cli-fi" (climate fiction). Against the backdrop of imminent climate danger, my characters, a lovable yet obstinate Australian ensemble, navigate a world profoundly altered by the impacts of climate change. I hope what I have written is an exaggeration. I fear it may not be.

Vanessa's book list on celebrating the bravery of everyday heroes

Vanessa Lee Why did Vanessa love this book?

I am sure everyone remembers where they were on the day of September 11, 2001. I was in Mexico, having flown past the Twin Towers the day before.

This is the first real-life account I have read about what happened on the ground that day and is a moving depiction of an everyday hero. As a reader, you can only imagine if you could have acted in the same way.

This non-fiction account introduces us to Welles Crowther, an equities trader and former firefighter who always carried a red bandanna in honor of his father. In the South Tower that day, directly after the attack, he used that bandanna to shield his face from smoke as he led people to safety, returning into the South Tower over and over again until it collapsed.

He sadly didn't survive, but his legacy as the "Man in the Red Bandanna" lives on in…

By Tom Rinaldi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Red Bandanna as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times bestseller

What would you do in the last hour of your life?
 
The story of Welles Crowther, whose actions on 9/11 offer a lasting lesson on character, calling and courage
  
One Sunday morning before church, when Welles Crowther was a young boy, his father gave him a red handkerchief for his back pocket. Welles kept it with him that day, and just about every day to come; it became a fixture and his signature.

A standout athlete growing up in Upper Nyack, NY, Welles was also a volunteer at the local fire department, along with his…


Book cover of Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero

Emily Barth Isler Author Of AfterMath

From my list on for parents to read to kids for family discussions.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started writing for kids and teens before I became a parent myself, but now, seeing these kinds of stories from both perspectives, I’m even more passionate about helping foster conversations among families, about the things that are hard to talk about. In the time of pandemics and global warming and school shootings, not to mention the access the internet provides, kids have more questions and concerns than ever. I’ve found, both in my research and in practice, that being honest with kids in a way that they can understand and process is a true gift to them.

Emily's book list on for parents to read to kids for family discussions

Emily Barth Isler Why did Emily love this book?

Like many parents of kids and tweens, I sometimes forget that my kids weren’t alive yet on 9/11, nor do they understand the ripple effects of the terrorist attacks and surrounding time on our current political and social world. My husband and I had just moved to New York City on September 11, 2021, and witnessed the city’s grief and resilience firsthand, but it’s hard to explain to our kids the effects that that event had on how some people treat and regard American Muslims and people of color, and how history still very much affects us all today. This book is a wonderful way to start that conversation with kids.

By Saadia Faruqi,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

At a time when we are all asking questions about identity, grief, and how to stand up for what is right, this book by the author of A Thousand Questions will hit home with young readers who love Hena Khan and Varian Johnson-or anyone struggling to understand recent U.S. history and how it still affects us today.

Yusuf Azeem has spent all his life in the small town of Frey, Texas-and nearly that long waiting for the chance to participate in the regional robotics competition, which he just knows he can win.

Only, this year is going to be more…


Book cover of Public Opinion and American Foreign Policy

Matthew A. Baum Author Of Soft News Goes to War: Public Opinion and American Foreign Policy in the New Media Age

From my list on public opinion and foreign policy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started my career in Washington D.C., where my first job involved conducting strategy meetings with senior civilian and military policy officials regarding potential military conflicts around the world. At the time I was struck by the extent to which senior policymakers worried about whether they would be able to garner and sustain public support for U.S. overseas military operations. This concern often dominated our meetings. It ultimately set me on my course as a scholar, where much of my work has focused on trying to understand what average people think about the world, why they believe what they do, and whether and how their attitudes affect leaders’ decision-making in crisis situations.

Matthew's book list on public opinion and foreign policy

Matthew A. Baum Why did Matthew love this book?

This is my go-to reference book about American public opinion on all things foreign policy. Holsti is one of the most important public opinion scholars of the 20th Century and arguably this is his most important book. I assign it in all of my undergraduate classes on the subject. He explains not only what the public believes about foreign policy—through case studies ranging from international trade to all major U.S. military conflicts in the post-World War II era—but also does a brilliant job of synthesizing decades of research on human information processing, learning, and ideological reasoning to explain in straightforward terms why people react to events the way they do. He also explains the (substantial) differences between the foreign policy views of elites and average citizens

By Ole Rudolf Holsti,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Public Opinion and American Foreign Policy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the central issues in democratic theory is the proper role of public opinion in the conduct of international affairs. The capacity of the public to make informed judgments about these complex issues which are often far removed from their experience has been questioned. In addition, the impact of public opinion on foreign policy-making has been debated. In Public Opinion and American Foreign Policy Ole Holsti addresses these crucial issues using extensive data on public attitudes and preferences on international affairs. Holsti concludes that although the American public is not well informed about many aspects of foreign affairs, its…


Book cover of Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11

Paul Willetts Author Of King Con: The Bizarre Adventures of the Jazz Age's Greatest Impostor

From my list on twenty-first century true-crime.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an English nonfiction writer who is, I suppose, best-known for Members Only, my biography of the London strip club owner, theatre impresario, property magnate, and porn baron Paul Raymond, which was adapted into a big-budget movie called The Look of Love. Like many of my books, Members Only strayed into true crime, a genre that has, for all sorts of reasons, been attractive to me as a writer. Probably the most important of those is that it provides the opportunity to tell inherently dramatic stories and to convey a vivid picture of the past, thanks to the wealth of documentation associated with major crimes. 

Paul's book list on twenty-first century true-crime

Paul Willetts Why did Paul love this book?

The extreme length of Fall and Rise put me off until my agent Matthew Hamilton persuaded me to take the plunge.

Just as he’d promised, I found myself deeply engaged in the lives and ultimate fates of Mitchell Zuckoff’s large cast of real-life characters, whose personalities, back-stories, and ambitions are rendered with impressive immediacy.

Of course we already know the outcome of this tragic story, yet the book possesses remarkable narrative dynamism. Hovering over most of its pages is the unnerving question, “Which of these people will survive?”

By Mitchell Zuckoff,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Fall and Rise as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

'The farewell calls from the planes... the mounting terror of air traffic control... the mothers who knew they were witnessing their loved ones perish... From an author who's spent 5 years reconstructing its horror, never has the story been told with such devastating, human force' Daily Mail

This is a 9/11 book like no other. Masterfully weaving together multiple strands of the events in New York, at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, Fall and Rise is a mesmerising, minute-by-minute account of that terrible day.

In the days and months after 9/11, Mitchell Zuckoff, then…


Book cover of A History of the Crusades

Charles Hertan Author Of Forcing Chess Moves: The Key to Better Calculation

From my list on understanding and playing better chess enjoyably.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a nerdy kid growing up in New York in the 1970s, I got swept up in the “Fischer Boom” of 1972 when Bobby Fischer became the first official American World Champion, and chess clubs and tournaments sprouted up around the country. I persevered to become one of the top 30-ranked players. I’ve coached chess since my teens, with students ranging from ages 3 to 95. Not until my 40’s did I discover that I had perhaps an even greater talent and passion for writing. My first book Forcing Chess Moves presented a novel and challenging approach to how to think ahead in chess, and understand human biases which can blind us to winning ideas.

Charles' book list on understanding and playing better chess enjoyably

Charles Hertan Why did Charles love this book?

When I’m not writing or researching chess books, history books and biographies are about all I read these days. Not until college did I realize how amazing a well-written history book could be, telling a great story about how people actually lived in different times and cultures. After 9/11 I wanted to avoid the soundbites and actually understand the history of religious conflict. In my view a great history book must have amazing research and wonderful writing, as well as being fair and balanced, and this trilogy was one of the best I’ve ever read on all counts. It still blows my mind that an author can put together a compelling, accurate, day-to-day account of events that happened 1000 years ago. You have to read it to believe it.

By Steven Runciman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A History of the Crusades as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

History


Book cover of Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story

Jacqueline Jules Author Of Smoke at the Pentagon: Poems to Remember

From my list on for ages 8 to 12 about September 11th.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am the author of over fifty books for young readers including the Zapato Power series, the Sofia Martinez series, My Name is Hamburger, Never Say a Mean Word Again, and Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence. On September 11, 2001, I was living in Arlington, Virginia and working as a librarian. Like anyone else who lived through that tragic day, September 11th evokes strong memories for me. Yet I know that subsequent generations have little knowledge of that day, even those who live in Arlington, where the Pentagon is located.  By recognizing the wounds of the past, we can help young readers understand the present. 

Jacqueline's book list on for ages 8 to 12 about September 11th

Jacqueline Jules Why did Jacqueline love this book?

This novel follows four adolescents in the 48 hours preceding September 11, 2001.

The characters are two girls and two boys living in different parts of the United States in very different families. By fully depicting the lives of each character before the world abruptly changed, Baskin shows us how a watershed event changes one’s perspective forever.

My favorite moment comes at the end when a character remembers “that day, a year ago, when nothing else was important to her except fitting in.” Without violence or direct loss to the main characters, Baskin brings home the point that September 11th affected Americans from all across the country.

In the face of tragedy, Baskin shows us how we are all interconnected.

By Nora Raleigh Baskin,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Nine, Ten as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

From the critically acclaimed author of Anything But Typical comes a "tense...and thought-provoking" (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) look at the days leading up to the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and how that day impacted the lives of four middle schoolers.

Ask anyone: September 11, 2001, was serene and lovely, a perfect day-until a plane struck the World Trade Center.

But right now it is a few days earlier, and four kids in different parts of the country are going about their lives. Sergio, who lives in Brooklyn, is struggling to come to terms with the absentee father he…


Book cover of An Imperialist Love Story: Desert Romances and the War on Terror

Evelyn Alsultany Author Of Broken: The Failed Promise of Muslim Inclusion

From my list on Islamophobia and the War on Terror.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in New York City in the 1980s as an Arab Latina American Muslim, which shaped my interest in who is considered American. Back then, there was no language to talk about my experience of marginalization as Arab or Muslim. That changed after 9/11 and the War on Terror. A decade after that, the term “Islamophobia” entered the US lexicon, leading to social recognition of this form of discrimination, and many important debates about what constitutes Islamophobia. I made my career exploring how Arabs and Muslims figure into US racial politics, and am currently a professor of US Ethnic Studies at the University of Southern California.

Evelyn's book list on Islamophobia and the War on Terror

Evelyn Alsultany Why did Evelyn love this book?

What do romance novels have to do with U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East? This fascinating book looks at novels featuring rich Arab sheikhs falling in love with white women in “Arabiastan.”

These desert romances date from the 1920s but saw a surge in popularity after 9/11. The sheikh figures falls in love with a white woman and seeks a military alliance with Anglo-US powers to protect his country from “barbaric forces.” Jarmakani dissects how this fantasy genre plays a role in normalizing the War on Terror.

In a surprising twist, she argues that Islamophobia can be perpetuated through desiring the Arab sheikh figure.

By Amira Jarmakani,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An Imperialist Love Story as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A curious figure stalks the pages of a distinct subset of mass-market romance novels, aptly called "desert romances." Animalistic yet sensitive, dark and attractive, the desert prince or sheikh emanates manliness and raw, sexual power. In the years since September 11, 2001, the sheikh character has steadily risen in popularity in romance novels, even while depictions of Arab masculinity as backward and violent in nature have dominated the cultural landscape.


An Imperialist Love Story contributes to the broader conversation about the legacy of orientalist representations of Arabs in Western popular culture. Combining close readings of novels, discursive analysis of blogs…


Book cover of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Rohit Prasad Author Of The Pilgrim: Inferno Redux

From my list on the aftermath of 9/11 on people’s everyday lives.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have lived in the US, and particularly lived and worked in New York, for many years. How the events of 9/11 changed the city, its people, and the perceptions of the people all around the country and the world has always intrigued me. 9/11 has put up a prism through which experiences have emanated out in a kaleidoscopic range of stories. A banker by day and a cynical blogger by night, I have traveled the world and have met many interesting people with compelling backgrounds and have experienced many peculiar and beautiful things. I love to explore the confluence of fascinating narrative arcs and life-altering events. 

Rohit's book list on the aftermath of 9/11 on people’s everyday lives

Rohit Prasad Why did Rohit love this book?

A precocious and inquisitive child Oskar goes on a treasure hunt around New York to solve a mystery left behind by his father who had died on 9/11.

In his quest, you see a child seeking to stay close to his father a little while longer. In his streams of consciousness and hyperactive imagination, you feel him trying to fill the void left behind by a supportive father figure.

With the sheer weight of his innocence, he gets strangers to open up to him, let him into their lives, and add to their life stories. In a moving manner, the narrative follows the path that Oskar, his mother and his grandfather take in dealing with trauma and finding closure in their own personal ways.

By Jonathan Safran Foer,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER

ADAPTED INTO A FEATURE FILM WITH TOM HANKS

From the critically acclaimed author of Here I Am, Everything is Illuminated and We are the Weather - a heartrending and unforgettable novel set in the aftermath of the 9/11

'Utterly engaging, hugely involving, tragic, funny and intensely moving... A heartbreaker' Spectator

'The most incredible fictional nine-year-old ever created... a funny, heart-rending portrayal of a child coping with disaster. It will have you biting back the tears' Glamour

'Pulsates with dazzling ideas' Times Literary Supplement

'It's a miracle... So impeccably imagined, so courageously executed, so everlastingly moving' Baltimore Sun…


Book cover of The Submission

Rohit Prasad Author Of The Pilgrim: Inferno Redux

From Rohit's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Imaginative Inquisitive Passionate Creative

Rohit's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Rohit Prasad Why did Rohit love this book?

An American Muslim is chosen blindly by a jury to design a memorial to the 9/11 victims, opening it up to vociferous debates and dissensions, much like the Ground Zero Mosque controversy.

The author uses her vast experience as a New York Times journalist to eloquently describe the warps and wefts of the fabric of New York society, and starts tugging at several threads as it all unravels. The players’ tug-of-war is well portrayed in rich texture, while the politicians’ intent on not letting a good crisis go to waste adds satirical color to the expansive tapestry.

As a creator, one feels that art has no religion and has no boundaries. The axiom is severely tested in the face of rabid nationalism, parochial intolerance, and a media free-for-all.

By Amy Waldman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Submission as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A jury gathers in Manhattan to select a memorial for the victims of a devastating terrorist attack. Their fraught deliberations complete, the jurors open the envelope containing the anonymous winner's name - and discover he is an American Muslim. Instantly they are cast into roiling debate about the claims of grief, the ambiguities of art, and the meaning of Islam.

The memorial's designer is Mohammad Khan, an enigmatic, ambitious architect. His fiercest defender on the jury is its sole widow, the mediagenic Claire Burwell. But when the news of his selection leaks to the press, Claire finds herself under pressure…


Book cover of Whisper

Sarah Luddington Author Of Fortune's Soldier: Shadow Ops Alpha

From my list on gay romance thrillers with strong plots and men.

Why am I passionate about this?

This is a list for those who love a tough guy with a soft heart. If you crave a story with passion, heat, and that zing of a good thriller, then this is the list for you. I love a romance wrapped around a strong plot. I need a book to stimulate my mind and give my old heart its “Aw, shucks,” moment. I’ve been fascinated by those who serve and the long-term effects it has on mental health. These books tackle the effects of PTSD, trauma, and its consequences. I believe the romance genre, when done well, is one of the best for examining this darkness.

Sarah's book list on gay romance thrillers with strong plots and men

Sarah Luddington Why did Sarah love this book?

This book changed my perception about what a romance book could be. I have never been so swept away by a single narrative and never been so haunted. It inspired me and broke me. The story is long and complex. It’s about a young CIA operative who joins the Agency just before 9/11 and how that one event shaped his life for years to come. It’s a fascinating fictionalised insight into LGBTQ rights in the military during this period, the horrors of the war, the consequences, the personal narratives, and the terrible implications of the wilder political landscape on those who have to fight. It’s full of love, romance, heartbreak, action, violence, torment, and ultimately, salvation. It’s the kind of book which teaches you to see the world through different lenses. One of the most extraordinary gay romance political thrillers I’ve read.

By Tal Bauer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Whisper as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The truth is complicated.

On September 11th, 2001, Kris Caldera was a junior member of the CIA’s Alec Station, the unit dedicated to finding and stopping Osama Bin Laden.

They failed.

Ten days later, he was on the ground in Afghanistan with a Special Forces team, driven to avenge the ghosts that haunted him and the nation he’d let down. On the battlefield, he meets Special Forces Sergeant David Haddad. David – Arab American, Muslim, and gay – becomes the man Kris loves, the man he lives for, and the man he kills for, through the long years of the…