By Hillel Italie/ AP
The book world plans a low-key remembrance of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Most of the works about the events will be reissues and updates of older works, from CBS News’ “What We Saw” to Noam Chomsky’s word-of-mouth best-seller “9/11.” The output will not compare to the first anniversary, in 2002, when publishers released dozens of works and soon regretted it.
“A lot of the early books were rush jobs. There was so little perspective at the time,” says Mark Tavani, executive editor of Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House Inc.
“Publishers are being more careful now and that’s a wise decision,” says Patricia Bostelman, vice president of marketing for Barnes & Noble Inc., which plans small table displays for Sept. 11 books. “The books being published now seem to have a real sense of purpose — preserving the memory and celebrating the heroes.”
Tavani and other publishers say they were careful about which books, if any, to take on. They’re skeptical about how many readers will be interested and whether they will be criticized for exploiting a tragedy. At Henry Holt and Co., publisher Stephen Rubin said he saw few proposals for 9/11 books because “people were worried about being in bad taste.”
Holt will reissue “102 Minutes,” by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn,” and plans a new release, “Unmeasured Strength,” a memoir by 9/11 survivor Lauren Manning, whose body was severely burned by the attacks.
“I felt like I had to do this one,” Rubin says of the Manning book. “It’s a real honest to God book. It’s not a picture book, not a memento. It’s a raw, raw story.”
The attacks and what led up to them have been chronicled thoroughly in the past decade, with a handful of books regarded as essential reading, including Steve Coll’s “Ghost Wars” and Lawrence Wright’s “The Looming Tower.” The federal government produced one of the most widely read texts: “The 9/11 Commission Report,” a surprise best-seller in 2004 that sold more than 1 million copies despite being available as a free download.
W.W. Norton, which released the authoritative edition of the 9/11 study, will reissue it this fall, with an update from commission executive director Philip Zelikow on the status of the report’s recommendations. The publisher hopes to make news with “The Black Banners,” by former FBI agent Ali H. Soufan, who interrogated numerous suspected terrorists and has criticized waterboarding and other harsh techniques.
“Ali was a source for ‘The Looming Tower’ and a source for the 9/11 Commission,” says Norton President Drake McFeely. “Now he’s coming forward and telling the public directly what he knows.”
Some upcoming releases will focus on the decade following 2001. In “Disordered World,” published by Bloomsbury, the Lebanese-born novelist and scholar Amin Maalouf reflects on the conflicts between Arabs and the West in recent years. Holt’s “Counterstrike,” by Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, examines the evolution of the government’s efforts to fight terrorism.
Columbia University Press will release “Until the Fires Stopped Burning,” by Charles N. Strozier, a history professor and psychoanalyst who lost several students in the attacks and writes of the long-term effects on survivors he has treated.
Ballantine is publishing “The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11,” by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, advertised as “the first panoramic, accessible and authoritative look back at 9/11.” Tavani said the intention was to compile a single volume that told the full story, right up through Osama bin Laden’s death in May.
“We all knew instantly that bin Laden’s death changed the project fundamentally, and in a couple of ways,” Tavani says. “It, of course, provided resolution for one of the most frustrating story lines, but it also introduced questions about Pakistan’s behavior since 9/11.
“For the book to be complete, it had to address these things. The authors and I had spoken once about, ‘What happens if … ?’ But it had seemed far-fetched to imagine that bin Laden would suddenly be dead. It was kind of amazing to see nearly 10 years of history and six years of research upended so forcefully. But with a few weeks of very intense work, the authors brought it up to date.”
Bostelman of Barnes & Noble notes that the majority of the new Sept. 11 releases are like the Manning memoir, personal accounts rather than comprehensive narratives. Lyons Press plans “9/11: The World Speaks,” which compiles messages left at the Tribute WTC (World Trade Center) Visitor Center and includes an introduction by New York City’s mayor at the time of the attacks, Rudolph Giuliani. Lyons is calling “9/11” the “ideal 10th anniversary memorial book.”
National Geographic is releasing, “A Place of Remembrance,” the “Official Book of the National September 11 Memorial.” Perigee Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), is issuing “The Legacy Letters: Messages of Life and Hope from 9/11 Family Members.” The book was compiled by a nonprofit Sept. 11 “family service” organization, Tuesday’s Children, and proceeds will be donated to charity.
“What stood out for us with this book is that it’s very positive and very intimate. And the letters are really moving. They reconnect the reader to the loss, to what really happened on a personal level that day,” says Marian Lizzi, Perigee’s editor in chief.
“The fact that Tuesday’s Children was putting together this project really said a lot. It made us feel more comfortable than if it had been a for-profit endeavor.”