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Learn from the best 9/11 books for adults. These fiction and nonfiction books are breathtaking “must-reads.” Here, you’ll find only the most impactful books that pay tribute to one of the most pivotal dates in American history. Pick your next important read below.

person holding a book in the world trade center.

Review of the Best 9/11 Books for Adults

extremely loud and incredibly close book on a bookshelf.

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

Best for those looking for a Canadian perspective on 9/11

The Day the World Came to Town is the true story about Gander on 9/11 that inspired the Broadway musical Come from Away.

On September 11, 2001, after the terrorist attacks and after the U.S. airspace closed, 38 planes bound for the United States were forced to land at Gander International Airport in Canada. This small town on Newfoundland Island instantly doubled from 10,300 people to nearly 17,000 people. The Canadian citizens welcomed the stranded passengers with friendship and goodwill in this unprecedented scenario.

Over the course of days, the passengers were stranded, many of the passengers developed friendships with the Gander residents and later paid them back with scholarships and donations.

The Day the World Came to Town offers a unique perspective, focusing on how people came together even outside the central locations of the terrorist attacks.

I liked that it was a “real” book about Gander that showed not just the heartwarming account of what happened but also how difficult it sometimes was for the persons involved to “do the right thing” under so much stress.

I recommend it to those who are looking for something uplifting and/or from a different perspective from those in the United States.


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

  • New York Times bestseller

Best for those looking for a fictional account of 9/11

In Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, 9-year-old Oskar is a precocious boy who idolizes Stephen Hawking and excels at tambourine playing. He’s also grieving his father’s death in the World Trade Center attacks.

He searches New York City for the lock that fits a mysterious key his father left behind. In doing so, discovers much more than he could have imagined.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a masterful 9/11 novel deserving of a read. The highly-rated and beautifully captured movie adaptation is also excellent.


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

  • Pulitzer Prize winner
  • National Book Award Finalist
  • National bestseller

Best for those looking to learn the backstory of 9/11

The Looming Tower offers a detailed, historical account of 9/11 and the events leading up to it.

Spanning five decades, The Looming Tower explains the growth of Islamic fundamentalism, the rise of al-Qaeda, and the intelligence failures that culminated in the terrorist attacks.

Of interest is the storyline of FBI counterterrorism chief John O’Neill. He uncovers the emerging danger from al-Qaeda in the 1990s and struggles to work with the government to track this threat.

Read this one to learn more about how and why 9/11 occurred. It’s also the plot of the absolutely gripping Hulu television series of the same name.


The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of September 11, 2001 by Garrett M. Graff

  • New York Times bestseller
  • 2020 Audiobook of the Year Audie Award and Multi-Voiced Performance Audie Award Winner

Best for a documentary approach to 9/11

The Only Plane in the Sky was one of the most breathtaking books I have ever read. It’s the type of book everyone should read and is one of the best books of the 21st century.

It’s a minute-by-minute breakdown of the day of 9/11 told completely through the dialogue of five hundred people, from children in distant parts of the United States to the acting President of the United States, George W. Bush. It’s got to be the most thoroughly researched book I have ever read.

The award-winning audio version is told by a massive cast of narrators, making it one of the best audiobooks of all time. It includes many real audio clips from 9/11, so at times it feels more like a documentary or a podcast than a book.

It’s fascinating. It’s emotional. It’s raw. And it’s real. This is one absolutely unputdownable book.


Ordinary Heroes by Joseph Pfeifer

  • New York Times bestseller

Best for a responder’s account of 9/11

Ordinary Heroes recounts the historical day from the perspective of firefighter Chield Joe Pfeifer. He led a team downtown investigating a gas odor when he unexpectedly watched a plane crash into the World Trade Center.

From there, he became a pivotal first responder. Here, he recounts everything that happened at Ground Zero that day and thereafter. His story showcases the courage of these everyday heroes, including his own brother, whom he sent inside never to return.

The reader walks with him through the grief that followed and gains the perspective of those who should never be forgotten. It’s an intimate portrait of resilience after the darkest of days.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best book about 9/11?

The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of September 11, 2001 by Garrett M. Graff is a minute-by-minute breakdown of the day of 9/11 told completely through the dialogue of five hundred people, from children in distant parts of the United States to the acting President of the United States, George W. Bush.

What is the book about 9/11 survivors?

Ordinary Heroes chronicles the story of 9/11 emergency responders through the eyes of firefighting Chief Joseph Pfiefer. It recounts both the hardships of the day itself and the grief and trauma that followed for survivors.

What literature was written about 9/11?

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer is fiction that follows a young boy, Oskar, who discovers a key left by his father, a 9/11 victim. Oskar embarks on a journey across New York City to find the lock it opens, uncovering stories of loss and healing.

Conclusion

The best 9/11 books are the most informative and important books you have to read. Spanning fiction and nonfiction and the times before, during, and after September 11, 2001, they share detailed narratives and personal accounts worth reading.

TOP PICK

To recap and help you decide which one to read, my top pick is The Only Plane in the Sky, a minute-by-minute account of the day told completely through the dialogue of five hundred people. The award-winning audio version is especially remarkable.

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4 Comments

  1. Great list!
    I added The looming Tower to my watch list.
    I accept the challenge and will listen to The only plane in the sky.
    I have listened to The Day the world came to town, great book