Today is the 12th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in America. This devastating attack of terrorism on the US shook the world and it is therefore no surprise that the literary world reacted with an assortment of literature, from imagined narratives of survivors, true stories and even those exploring the destructive war of terror that followed. There are many pieces of writing out there that also defend the Islamic community from the barrage of abuse they received as a whole despite the extremists being only a minority.
I feel it is important on this day to remember those who were lost and to take a moment just to pause and consider how this one day has shaped the world we live in today.
I have decided today, as an act of remembrance, to compile a list of relevant fiction that I think are worth reading. I have put a lot of time and research into finding the novels that are the most highly recommended, and to find a range of the different types of stories. I used reviews, articles and recommendations to compile this list and have put them in the order that I would like to read them, hopefully book reviews will follow and I will be able to review this post next year.
If one of these catches your eye or you have already read one, I would love to hear your opinion or read any reviews you may have done yourself.
All descriptions are based on the synopsis listed on amazon.co.uk
1. Saturday, Ian McEwan
‘Saturday, February 15, 2003. Henry Perowne is a contented man is a successful neurosurgeon, the devoted husband of Rosalind and proud father of two grown-up children. Unusually, he wakes before dawn, drawn to the window of his bedroom and filled with a growing unease. What troubles him as he looks out at the night sky is the state of the world – the impending war against Iraq, a gathering pessimism since 9/11, and a fear that his city and his happy family life are under threat.’
2. Falling Man, Don DeLilo
A lawyer who survives the attack on the World Trade Centre struggles to understand what has happened. Falling Man begins on September 11, in the smoke and ash of the burning towers. In the days and the years following, we trace the aftermath of this global tremor in the private lives of a few reticulated individuals. Theirs are lives choreographed by loss, by grief and by the enormous force of history. From these intimate portraits, DeLillo shifts to an extrapolated vision: he charts the way the events have reconfigured our emotional landscape, our memory and our perception of the world.
3. Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann
It’s New York, August 1974: a man is walking in the sky. Between the newly built Twin Towers, the man twirls through the air. Far below, the lives of complete strangers spin towards each other: Corrigan, a radical Irish monk working in the Bronx; Claire, a delicate Upper East Side housewife reeling from the death of her son; Lara, a drug-addled young artist; Gloria, solid and proud despite decades of hardship; Tillie, a hooker who used to dream of a better life; and Jazzlyn, her beautiful daughter raised on promises that reach beyond the skyline of New York. In the shadow of one reckless and beautiful act, these disparate lives will collide, and be transformed for ever.
4. The Submission, Amy Waldman
A jury gathers in Manhattan to select a memorial for the victims of a devastating terrorist attack. Their fraught deliberations complete, the jurors open the envelope containing the anonymous winner’s name – and discover he is an American Muslim. Instantly they are cast into roiling debate about the claims of grief, the ambiguities of art, and the meaning of Islam.
The memorial’s designer is Mohammad Khan, an enigmatic, ambitious architect. His fiercest defender on the jury is its sole widow, the mediagenic Claire Burwell. But when the news of his selection leaks to the press, Claire finds herself under pressure from outraged family members and in collision with hungry journalists, wary activists, opportunistic politicians, fellow jurors, and Khan himself. All will bring the emotional weight of their own histories to bear on the urgent question of how to remember, and understand, a national tragedy.
5. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer
In a vase in a closet, a couple of years after his father died in 9/11, nine-year-old Oskar discovers a key . . .
The key belonged to his father, he’s sure of that. But which of New York’s 162 million locks does it open?
So begins a quest that takes Oskar – inventor, letter-writer and amateur detective – across New York’s five boroughs and into the jumbled lives of friends, relatives and complete strangers. He gets heavy boots, he gives himself little bruises and he inches ever nearer to the heart of a family mystery that stretches back fifty years. But will it take him any closer to, or even further from, his lost father?
Moving, literary and innovative, perfect for fans of Lorrie Moore and Nicole Krauss, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was made into a major film starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, released in 2012.
6. Blow the House Down, Robert Baer
Former CIA operative Robert Baer pushes fiction to the absolute limit in this riveting and unnervingly plausible alternative history of 9/11.
Veteran CIA officer Max Waller has long been obsessed with the abduction and murder of his Agency mentor. Though years of digging yield the name of a suspect—an Iranian math genius turned terrorist—the trail seems too cold to justify further effort. Then Max turns up a photograph of the man standing alongside Osama bin Laden and a mysterious westerner whose face has been cut out, feeding Max’s suspicion. When the first official to whom Max shows the photo winds up dead, the out-of-favor agent suddenly finds himself the target of dark forces within the intelligence community who are desperate to muzzle him.
Eluding a global surveillance net, Max—in the summer of 2001—begins tracking the spore of a complex conspiracy, meeting clandestinely with suicide bombers and Arab royalty and ultimately realizing the Iranian he’d sought for a decades-old crime is actually at the nexus of a terrifying plot.
Showing off dazzling tradecraft and an array of richly textured backdrops, and filled with real names and events, Blow the House Down deftly balances fact and possibility to become the first great thriller to spring from the war on terrorism.
7. The Warlord’s Son, Dan Fesperman
Skelly – a burned-out American foreign correspondent – is back on the beat.
Post 9/11, trailing another messy divorce and too many children, he’s been dropped into the smoky chaos of Peshawar after scarcely as much preparation as one might make for a weekend at the beach. And, as Skelly soon discovers, this posting is going to be no picnic.
To survive the inflamed passions of Peshawar’s swirling humanity he will need a ‘fixer’: a local man who knows the area and speaks English, a nimble, well-connected jack of all trades who can save his skin yet take him where the action is. And for every journalist in Peshawar, the real action is across the border in Afghanistan, where AlQaeda lurk and armed Taliban fighters still cling to power in their mountain strongholds.
Skelly chooses Najeeb, the banished son of a tribal warlord. Soon they are driving dusty roads west in the shadowy wake of ex-Mujahedeen Mahmood Razaq, who, armed with dubious assurances of American backing, hopes to stake his claim as leader of the next regime. Skelly’s quest for the scoop of a lifetime is no less grandiose. He is determined to track down the charismatic man the whole world is seeking.
But it is Najeeb, torn by his own divided loyalties, who must find the way for both of them, in a land where a single misstep – and a single lapse of trust – can prove fatal.
8. The Good Life, Jay McInerney
Ten years on from Brightness Falls, Russell Calloway is still a literary editor although in a diminished capacity; his wife, Corrine, has sacrificed her career to watch anxiously over their children. Across town Luke McGavock, a wealthy ex-investment banker, is taking a sabbatical from making money, struggling to reconnect with his socially resplendent wife, Sasha, and their angst-ridden teenage daughter, Ashley. These two Manhattan families are teetering on the brink of change when 9/11 happens. The “Good Life” explores through the lens of catastrophe that territory between hope and despair, love and loss, regret and fulfilment. But, ultimately, this is Jay McInerney doing what he does best, presenting us with the life of New York City in all its moral complexity.
9. Open City,Teju Cole
Along the streets of Manhattan, a young Nigerian doctor doing his residency wanders aimlessly. The walks meet a need for Julius: they are a release from the tightly regulated mental environment of work, and they give him the opportunity to process his relationships, his recent breakup with his girlfriend, his present, his past. Though he is navigating the busy parts of town, the impression of countless faces does nothing to assuage his feelings of isolation. But it is not only a physical landscape he covers; Julius crisscrosses social territory as well, encountering people from different cultures and classes who will provide insight on his journey-which takes him to Brussels, to the Nigeria of his youth, and into the most unrecognizable facets of his own soul.
A haunting novel about national identity, race, liberty, loss, dislocation, and surrender, Teju Cole’s Open City seethes with intelligence. Written in a clear, rhythmic voice that lingers, this book is a mature, profound work by an important new author who has much to say about our world.
10. Netherland, Joseph O’Neill
In early 2006, Chuck Ramkissoon is found dead at the bottom of a New York canal.
In London, a Dutch banker named Hans van den Broek hears the news, and remembers his unlikely friendship with Chuck and the off-kilter New York in which it flourished: the New York of 9/11, the powercut and the Iraq war. Those years were difficult for Hans – his English wife Rachel left with their son after the attack, as if that event revealed the cracks and silences in their marriage, and he spent two strange years in New York’s Chelsea Hotel, passing stranger evenings with the eccentric residents.
Lost in a country he’d regarded as his new home, Hans sought comfort in a most alien place – the thriving but almost invisible world of New York cricket, in which immigrants from Asia and the West Indies play a beautiful, mystifying game on the city’s most marginal parks. It was during these games that Hans befriends Chuck Ramkissoon, who dreamed of establishing the city’s first proper cricket field. Over the course of a summer, Hans grew to share Chuck’s dream and Chuck’s sense of American possibility – until he began to glimpse the darker meaning of his new friend’s activities and ambitions.
‘Netherland’ is a novel of belonging and not belonging, and the uneasy state in between. It is a novel of a marriage foundering and recuperating, and of the shallows and depths of male friendship. With it, Joseph O’Neill has taken the anxieties and uncertainties of our new century and fashioned a work of extraordinary beauty and brilliance.
11. The Attack, Yasmina Khadra
Tel Aviv. A suicide bomber has killed 19 in a packed city centre restaurant. Dr Amin Jaafie, an Israeli Arab, is a surgeon at a nearby hospital. Respected and admired by his colleagues, the doctor represents integration at its most successful. But this night of turmoil and death takes a horrifyingly personal turn as his beloved wife’s body is found among the dead… could she have caused the devestation?
From the graphic, shocking description of the bombing that opens the novel to its searing conclusion, The Attack portrays the reality of terrorism and its costs. Intense and humane, thoughtful, sensitive and heartfelt, it displays a profound understanding of that which can seem incomprehensible.
12. The Bookseller of Kabul, Åsne Seierstad
Two weeks after September 11th, award-winning journalist Åsne Seierstad went to Afghanistan to report on the conflict there. In the following spring she returned to live with an Afghan family for several months.
For more than twenty years Sultan Khan defied the authorities – be they communist or Taliban – to supply books to the people of Kabul. He was arrested, interrogated and imprisoned by the communists and watched illiterate Taliban soldiers burn piles of his books in the street. He even resorted to hiding most of his stock in attics all over Kabul.
But while Khan is passionate in his love of books and hatred of censorship, he is also a committed Muslim with strict views on family life. As an outsider, Seierstad is able to move between the private world of the women – including Khan’s two wives – and the more public lives of the men. And so we learn of proposals and marriages, suppression and abuse of power, crime and punishment. The result is a gripping and moving portrait of a family, and a clear-eyed assessment of a country struggling to free itself from history.
Karen Kingsbury’s 9/11 Series;
13. One Tuesday Morning
A devoted fireman and a driven businessman, strangers with the same face. On that fateful Tuesday, one will leave the Twin Towers alive–but will he ever find his way home?
Followed by Beyond Tuesday Morning and Remember Tuesday Morning a.k.a. Every Now and Then
14. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
Afghanistan, 1975: Twelve-year-old Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. But neither of the boys can foresee what will happen to Hassan that afternoon, an event that is to shatter their lives. After the Russians invade and the family is forced to flee to America, Amir realises that one day he must return to Afghanistan under Taliban rule to find the one thing that his new world cannot grant him: redemption.
If you are interested in literature about Muslim Extremism check out The Guardian’s list of suggested texts here