Josh Marshall of TPM Says His Readers Recommend Looming Tower and 9/11 Commission Report!!!
August 20, Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo posted a blog asking readers to recommend "a good factually-grounded narrative history of the [9/11] attacks, their background, execution and probably something on the aftermath as well." As TPM has done some decent muckraking and investigative reporting, has a progressive slant and has attracted a following of basically intelligent people concerned about political corruption and abuse of power, I was surprised to see that, according to Marshall, the majority of his readers recommended the limited hangouts/mis-disinfo The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright and the 9/11 Commission Report- but that's what he said. - loose nuke
What's the Best 9/11 History?
Josh Marshall | August 20, 2010, 8:32PM
I have a favor to ask. I'm looking for a good history of the 9/11 attacks. What's the best one around?
I ask because I was just online and had to look up a detail about the attacks. So I went to the Wikipedia page on the attacks. And as they often are, you have this big, systematic, fairly dispassionate account with just a mass of details. And even though I remember the attacks, did a fair amount of reporting on them in the days, months and years after and have been, in various ways, writing and thinking about them for years, I realized that enough time has now gone by (about 9 years) that it's becoming recognizable to me as history. And I wanted to read it all together again, as history.
Now, there are a slew of books on the attacks. Plenty of the 'radical Islam is going to kill us all' variety; and others of the 'it's all George Bush's fault' variety. Then there are first person accounts, tell-alls. But none of those are what I'm interested in. I'm looking for a good factually-grounded narrative history of the attacks, their background, execution and probably something on the aftermath as well. As much as is possible in these matters I'm not looking for one with an overly strong thesis, especially not a political one. I'm looking for a good narrative description of what happened.
I've probably seen a dozen of these books come across my desk as review copies or at book stores or in reviews over the years. But I can't recall a lot of specific ones now and I never new which were the best. So, again, a favor. Which should I pick up?
More on 9/11 Books
Josh Marshall | August 21, 2010, 9:09AM
Yesterday I asked you to recommend the best book on the 9/11 attacks, looking for works of serious narrative non-fiction, as free of polemical approach as is possible in such things. And I must say the results were fascinating on several levels. First, thanks to everyone who has written in. We got a lot of responses. And I was only able to respond to a few. But I read every one. And your time and effort are really appreciated.
What struck me most is how few books were recommended. The vast majority, really the overwhelming majority of you, recommended one of two books, and one of these might not even meet some people's definition of a book. The two were Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower and the 9/11 Commission Report.
The only other books to get any mention were two more tightly focused books related to particular aspects of the catastrophe: 9/11: American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center by William Langeweische, which is about the aftermath of the destruction of the towers themselves, and Perfect Soldiers: The Hijackers: Who They Were, Why They Did It, by Terry McDermott, which looks more specifically at the 19 hijackers.
Still though, the real take away is that virtually everyone who wrote in recommended either The Looming Tower or the 9/11 Commission Report. And that's pretty amazing when you consider that the topic is one that's dominated public life for almost a decade.
One thing I take from this is that Looming Tower must be one pretty damn good book, which doesn't surprise me, given the author. And that the 9/11 Report, which I've read as a reference, but I don't think I ever read cover-to-cover, completely broke the mold of the standard poor-prose, hedged and short-on-imagination or courage government report.
Beyond all this, though, it does strike me that there's something of a lacunae here that maybe requires some explanation. 9/11, for better or worse, is the overwhelming, dominating fact of the early 21st century in the United States. It's just totally suffused our politics and our culture and it's been the proximate cause of the other main contenders for importance, like the Iraq War. And while whole book publishing houses have been kept afloat by books about torture, the Iraq War, scary Arabs and Muslims, threats to civil liberties, terrorism and counter-terrorism, at least in relative terms there seems to be a certain eye at the center of the storm as it were. I stress 'relative', but there seems to be a relative paucity of books about the key event itself and what led to it, even as there are vast rivers of writing on various topics related to it and spawned by it.
Admittedly, this is based on pretty limited research on my part -- just hearing your recommendations and my own sense of there not being a lot of obviously good books on the topic, which led to me asking the question in the first place. And to a degree the Report and the Wright book are probably just so good that they've driven others from the field. (I know a bit about book publishing. And while there's probably good civic purpose to there being a dozen or more big fat books on the 9/11 conspiracy, it's much less easy for a publisher or author to get up the enthusiasm, time and resources to write what will just be yet another book about the same basic subject.) So in addition to your giving me a couple really good recommendations, it's got me thinking of this other question: why this epochal event seems to have garnered so relatively little direct treatment.
I just saw Marshall's posts today, and sent him the following email c/o firstname.lastname@example.org - loose nuke:
Josh Marshall - 9/11 book recommendation
Personally, for the broadest overview of 9/11, which draws on the Commission Report and the various Congressional and Federal agency inquiries, as well as reporting by mainstream media and journalists on information relevant to 9/11, I would recommend The Terror Timeline (2004) by Paul Thompson. This book garnered endorsements from the Jersey Girls (without their lobbying there would not have been a 9/11 Commission), James Ridgeway, Peter Dale Scott, Craig Unger and Peter Lance.
This is also available online in a searchable and greatly expanded form as The Complete 9/11 Timeline at:
PS - note to 911Blogger readers; some here might think The Terror Timeline is a 'limited hangout' because it doesn't address evidence of WTC controlled demolition. However, it does use the official and mainstream sources to destroy the official myth about 9/11, and a person who is honest and open-minded will be able to see that a lot of truth has been covered up and remains to be revealed.
Marshall made it clear he was looking for an overview of 9/11 and the lead up to it, which The Terror Timeline provides, in addition to documenting information omitted by Wright and the Commission, and without their spin. If Marshall actually is honest and open-minded, once he reads this book he'll be more open-minded to other information- and evidence related to WTC controlled demolition is documented at The Complete 9/11 Timeline at historycommons.org.