Published September 09, 2002
NEW YORK – The tragic events of Sept. 11 have become a real page-turner.
In fact, more than 100 related titles are due out this fall and virtually all booksellers have display tables dedicated to the subject.
Among those expected to sell best are Longitudes and Attitudes, featuring the essays by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that won him the Pulitzer Prize.
"You walk a fine line," says Ann Binkley, a spokeswoman for the chain Borders Group Inc., which had an outlet in the World Trade Center. "We do believe it's appropriate to feature related titles and make it easy for customers to educate themselves about Sept. 11. What you try to do is find a balance between offering what is out there without trying to exploit it."
Personal reflections are a hot topic. Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani penned Leadership, which includes his memories of his response to the attacks. Former New York City Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen takes a look back in his book, Strong of Heart.
Other releases include self-help works such as Chicken Soup for the Soul of America, photograph books such as Here Is New York and literary anthologies like 110 Stories, which includes contributions from Paul Auster, A.M. Homes and others.
While most of these books are for adults, there are some geared specifically toward children, such as the true story about a fireboat, named The John Harvey, brought out of retirement to fight fires at the World Trade Center.
Maira Kalman, author and illustrator of Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey said she wanted to write about what really happened, but also show how people responded.
"It's the story of the little fireboat that could … it's the sense that we all can prevail," she said.
Another book that gently teaches kids lessons spawned from the fateful day is Mouse Family Most Terrible, Terrifying Day: Helping Children Cope With Terrorism Fears. This story explains that bad guys crashed planes into our buildings and that they are very angry with us and wanted to hurt us.
"I had hoped this would open a discussion between parents and children, between children and teachers about what one should do when one is angry," said Joan Dunphy, the author.
Nancy Poffenberger and Val Gottesman penned September 11, 2001: A Simple Account for Children to help answer questions children may have about that day. The text provides a straightforward narrative of the events in a kid-friendly manner, accompanied by a variety of illustrations by children themselves.
Nancy Paulsen of Penguin Putnam books said authors and illustrators have been coming to her with their ideas since Sept. 11.
"There was such a sense of immediacy -- we wanted to get the books out as quickly as we could to get kids talking about their fears," she said.
The publisher has released nearly 10 books targeted at helping children understand Sept. 11, but some bookstores aren't reporting a huge demand for Sept. 11 reading overall.
But this doesn't worry Paulsen. "Kids will always have questions about Sept. 11 and even years from now parents can turn to these books when kids want answers -- or need comfort," she said.
Publishers see themselves as fulfilling specific needs. Seven Stories Press, a left-wing publisher located near Ground Zero, has released works by Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and others that strongly criticize the Bush administration. A book on the Middle East, by Israeli academic Tanya Reinhart, is due in October.
"Our political reality changed on that day in many different ways and is still changing," says Greg Ruggiero, senior editor at Seven Stories. "This all needs to be examined."
Doubleday is publishing Sept. 11: An Oral History, which includes remembrances of Pentagon and Trade Center employees. Doubleday President Stephen Rubin says the book is an invaluable document of how "ordinary people" experienced the attacks.
But Rubin also understands that this rash of books about the tragedy can be overwhelming to consumers.
Michael Powell, owner of Powell's Books in Portland, Ore., will feature a few Sept. 11 titles, but thinks publishers have issued far too many books.
But just a few blocks from Ground Zero at Shakespeare & Co., Sept. 11 books are always in demand, said Shappy Seasholtz, a sales clerk, adding, "Our 'New York' section has pretty much changed into the 'Sept. 11' section."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.