Image Credits: REUTERS / Gary Hershorn

September 11, 2001 marked a tragic day for Americans, and in the 16 years since, we have grappled with understanding what happened that day, why it happened, and why it was not prevented. These six books are some of the most thought-provoking books on the topic of 9/11, from the Pulitzer Prize winning classic, The Looming Tower, which talks prediction and life in the government to The Day the World Came to Town, which details life in a small Canadian town when 9/11 brought thousands of new friends to their shores. These books, I hope, will encourage you to continue reading about and speaking about and thinking about 9/11 even as the years pass by so that the lives lost that day will never be forgotten and so that lessons may truly be learned, both about national security and human compassion.

The Looming Tower

A gripping narrative that spans five decades, The Looming Tower explains in unprecedented detail the growth of Islamic fundamentalism, the rise of al-Qaeda, and the intelligence failures that culminated in the attacks on the World Trade Center. Lawrence Wright re-creates firsthand the transformation of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri from incompetent and idealistic soldiers in Afghanistan to leaders of the most successful terrorist group in history. He follows FBI counterterrorism chief John O’Neill as he uncovers the emerging danger from al-Qaeda in the 1990s and struggles to track this new threat. Packed with new information and a deep historical perspective, The Looming Tower is the definitive history of the long road to September 11.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Meet Oskar Schell, an inventor, Francophile, tambourine player, Shakespearean actor, jeweler, pacifist, correspondent with Stephen Hawking and Ringo Starr. He is nine years old. And he is on an urgent, secret search through the five boroughs of New York. His mission is to find the lock that fits a mysterious key belonging to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. An inspired innocent, Oskar is alternately endearing, exasperating, and hilarious as he careens from Central Park to Coney Island to Harlem on his search. Along the way he is always dreaming up inventions to keep those he loves safe from harm. What about a birdseed shirt to let you fly away? What if you could actually hear everyone’s heartbeat? His goal is hopeful, but the past speaks a loud warning in stories of those who’ve lost loved ones before. As Oskar roams New York, he encounters a motley assortment of humanity who are all survivors in their own way. 

The 9/11 Commission Report

Nearly three thousand people died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In Lower Manhattan, on a field in Pennsylvania, and along the banks of the Potomoc, the United States suffered the single largest loss of life from an enemy attack on its soil. In November 2002 the United States Congress and President George W. Bush established by law the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, also known as the 9/11 Commission. This independent, bipartisan panel was directed to examine the facts and circumstances surrounding the September 11 attacks, identify lessons learned, and provide recommendations to safeguard against future acts of terrorism.

The Cell: Inside the 9/11 Plot and Why the FBI and CIA Failed to Stop It

In The Cell, John Miller, an award-winning journalist and coanchor of ABC’s 20/20, along with veteran reporter Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell, takes readers back more than 10 years to the birth of the terrorist cell that later metastasized into al Qaeda’s New York operation. This remarkable book offers a firsthand account of what it is to be a police officer, an FBI agent or a reporter obsessed with a case few people will take seriously. It contains a first-person account of Miller’s face-to-face meeting with bin Laden and provides the first full-length treatment to piece together what led up to the events of 9/11, ultimately delivering the disturbing answer to the question: Why, with all the information the intelligence community had, was no one able to stop the 9/11 attacks?

The Eleventh Day

New York Times bestselling authors Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan write with access to thousands of recently released official documents, raw transcripts, fresh interviews, and the perspective that can come only from a decade of research and evaluation. Riveting, revelatory, and thoroughly sourced, The Eleventh Day is updated for this edition—with new reporting on a development that the former cochairman of Congress’s 9/11 probe calls the most important in years.

The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland

When 38 jetliners bound for the United States were forced to land at Gander International Airport in Canada by the closing of U.S. airspace on September 11, the population of this small town on Newfoundland Island swelled from 10,300 to nearly 17,000. The citizens of Gander met the stranded passengers with an overwhelming display of friendship and goodwill. Over the course of four days, many of the passengers developed friendships with Gander residents that they expect to last a lifetime. This book recounts the inspiring story of the residents of Gander, Canada, whose acts of kindness have touched the lives of thousands of people and been an example of humanity and goodwill in the face of tragedy.

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Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member
Aryssa is a student at Yale University, where she enjoys worshiping the patriarchy, making sandwiches, and finding a husband. She loves wearing her FFL gear and documenting the horrific expressions that ensue for her scrapbook. When she is not being "oppressed" by the patriarchy, she enjoys Lilly Pulitzer and classic novels.

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