Remembering September 11: Essential Novels and Non-Fiction Works

Editor’s note: This is a re-post of a previously published article. Some information may be out of date, but the sentiment remains true.


It’s been 14 years since the events of September 11. That’s a long time, even if it doesn’t feel that way for some of us. There’s a whole generation out there now that wasn’t there and never saw the terrible images on live television. That’s problematic and beautiful at the same time: those kids represent a bright future in a tougher world, as well as a challenge to a nation that promised it would never forget.


We spend a lot of time here at the Reading Room talking about the fun role books can play in one’s life, but we also believe that books have a very serious part to play. Books – both fiction and nonfiction – are a way we can preserve the best things and examine the worst things about our society and our time. Books are capable of remembering tremendous and terrible things, and it’s through them that we can fulfill a promise as monumental as “we will never forget.”


Which brings us to this list. We’ve selected these books about 9/11 because they preserve what happened on that terrible day. We’ve included both fiction and non-fiction, but if we’ve forgotten a book that’s important to you, we urge you to share it in the comments.


1. Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon



Pynchon’s most recent novel continues in the mystery and detective fiction style of 2009’s Inherent Vice. The book’s plot is interrupted by the events of 9/11, but the moment is never melodramatic. Pynchon’s characters have rarely felt as real as Bleeding Edge’s do in the scenes set on 9/11.


2. Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can’t Stand Up to the Facts by the Editors of Popular Mechanics


9/11 has become a popular target for armchair conspiracy theorists and those seeking escape from the tough truths of the event. But looking for truth instead of intrigue should be the goal of anyone hoping to truly honor the victims. This book is a great starting point for those looking for answers – and willing to hear the real ones.


3. The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud



Messud’s novel, like Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge, starts before the events of 9/11. The Emperor’s Children follows three 30-something Manhattanites in the months leading up to the attack. This critically acclaimed novel was Messud’s breakout work.


4. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer



Foer tackles the tragedy of 9/11 through its aftermath and affect on a young boy who has lost his father. Foer’s book is full of surreal coincidence and touchingly real characters. It’s one of the most famous and essential books about 9/11.


5. Falling Man by Don DeLillo



DeLillo’s novel focuses on a lawyer who survived the attacks of 9/11. DeLillo, a native New Yorker himself, discusses on the aftermath of the attacks and what it means to his main character. In typical DeLillo style, there is also a focus on the media’s response to the events.


6. The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright



9/11 was about more than just one day. It’s important for us to understand the events that set the stage for the moments that changed the world. Wright’s non-fiction account won the Pulitzer Prize, and with good reason.


7. The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States


The 9/11 Commission Report is a hefty volume, and it was an improbable bestseller when it was first published for the public. But it’s also the essential book for any true student of 9/11. It’s the most in-depth, factual account of the day and its causes available anywhere.


8. Saturday by Ian McEwan



Saturday is about truama at a distance. Set two years after and an ocean away from the events of 9/11, it is nevertheless a 9/11 novel. McEwan’s work is a quiet and powerful novel.


Main image courtesy of

Stephen L., Staff Writer