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Bookstores Fill With Sept. 11 Titles

The tragic events of Sept. 11 have become a real page-turner.

More than 100 related titles, ranging from essays and memoirs to children's stories and books of photographs, are due out this fall. And despite the still painfully fresh memories of the attacks, virtually all booksellers have displays dedicated to the subject.

"You walk a fine line," said Ann Binkley, a spokeswoman for 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."

Among the books expected to sell best are Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11, featuring essays by New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman that won him the Pulitzer Prize, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's Leadership and former Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen's Strong of Heart: Life and Death in the Fire Department of New York.

Other releases include self-help works such as Chicken Soup for the Soul of America: Stories to Heal the Heart of Our Nation; photo books such as Here Is New York: A Democracy of Photographs; and literary anthologies like 110 Stories: New York Writers After September 11, which includes contributions from Paul Auster, A.M. Homes and others.

While most of these books are for adults, there are also some geared toward children, such as the true story about a fireboat, John J. 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 how people responded to the attacks.

"It's the story of the little fireboat that could," she said. "It's the sense that we all can prevail."

Another book that gently teaches kids lessons about that fateful day is Mouse Family Most Terrible, Terrifying Day: Helping Children Cope With Terrorism Fears, which explains the events of the day in simple language.

"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 author Joan Dunphy.

Nancy Poffenberger and Val Gottesman penned September 11, 2001: A Simple Account for Children, which 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, despite the fact that 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," she said. "Even years from now, parents can turn to these books when kids want answers -- or need comfort."

Even within the Sept. 11 literature, publishers see themselves as fulfilling a specific niche. Seven Stories Press, a publisher located near Ground Zero, has released works by Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and others that are critical of the Bush administration.

"Our political reality changed on that day in many different ways and is still changing," said Greg Ruggiero, senior editor at Seven Stories. "This all needs to be examined."

Doubleday is publishing September 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 those in the book biz also understand that this rash of books about the tragedy can be overwhelming.

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.