Books that examine how 9/11 and its aftermath reshaped our world

Recommended reading from UChicago Press for the 20th anniversary of 9/11

As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the University of Chicago Press has curated a list of books that reflect on the tragedy of that event, as well as the many political, cultural and literary aftershocks that have followed.

Two decades later, we continue to grapple with the terrorist attacks and how they have dramatically reshaped our world. The list below offers a variety of expert perspectives that are shaping our understanding of 9/11 itself and how it has changed us. Including works from UChicago scholars Bruce Lincoln and W.J.T. Mitchell—as well as many other leading thinkers—these books examine topics ranging from citizenship, to religion, to the imagery of the war on terror.

Cloning Terror: The War of Images, 9/11 to the Present by Prof. W.J.T. Mitchell

“This is a brilliant and wide-ranging book that considers the role of images in the recent war on terror, locating a new logic of reproduction within the visual field. The centrality of imagery for understanding and waging the so-called war on terror is widely discussed, but few scholars are able to trace the animating effects of reproducible images with Mitchell’s acuity.” —Judith Butler, UC Berkeley

Holy Terrors: Thinking about Religion After September 11 by Prof. Emeritus Bruce Lincoln

“Modernity has ended twice: in its Marxist form in 1989 Berlin, and in its liberal form on September 11, 2001. In order to understand such major historical changes we need both large-scale and focused analyses—a combination seldom to be found in one volume. But here Bruce Lincoln . . . has given us just such a mix of discrete and large-picture analysis.” —Stephen Healey, Christian Century

Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jurgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida by Giovanna Borradori

“9-11 is still calling. Who will answer? For Vassar professor Giovanna Borradori, who lived through 9-11 at her East Side apartment, that call goes out to philosophy. Her admirable response to her own grief and confusion was to interview two of Europe’s foremost philosophers, Jurgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida. . . . [Philosophy in a Time of Terror] reminds us that the most constructive response to 9-11 may simply be to recognize the event as an opportunity to ask the decisive questions about ourselves and our place in the world.” —Gregory Fried, Village Voice

Unsettled Belonging: Educating Palestinian American Youth After 9/11 by Thea Renda Abu El-Haj

“This is a highly original, extremely important, and compelling account of transnational citizenship. With her focus on Palestinian American youth and by fleshing out the concept of transnational citizenship, Abu El-Haj offers a unique book that will significantly push the anthropology of education forward and will take its place as one of the great educational ethnographies of our time.” —Andrea Dyrness, author of Mothers United

9/11: The Culture of Commemoration by David Simpson

“Within our collective consciousness, 9/11 is regarded as a cataclysmic disruption of the ordered world, the day after which nothing would ever be the same. Simpson dares to refute this claim, examining the ways in which 9/11 has been exploited in American public discourse, from the debates over how to commemorate the Ground Zero site, to the rush to invade Iraq.” —Toronto Globe and Mail

States of Terror: History, Theory, Literature by David Simpson

“The word ‘terror,’ translated across many languages and contexts, has left its mark on diverse literary traditions—tragedy, the Gothic novel, the sublime. Once the attribute of gods and kings, in the modern era it charts a course from the French Revolution to the ‘war on terror,’ and at a certain point in that trajectory enters into an ambivalent symbiosis with ‘terrorism.’ Many cultural critics have addressed themselves to the later phases of this word’s history, but, as far as I know, no one prior to David Simpson has taken on the task of untangling—insofar as this is possible—the entire philological knot that ‘terror’ represents for us. This powerful, wide-ranging study helps us reimagine the function of criticism in dark times.” —Marc Redfield, author of The Rhetoric of Terror: Reflections on 9/11 and the War on Terror

Dead Reckoning: Air Traffic Control, System Effects, and Risk by Diane Vaughan

Diane Vaughan’s famous analysis of the Challenger tragedy is followed here with a study of air traffic control. Vaughan really wants to know how it works and she succeeds. As a result she is in the right place, both physically and analytically, to explain what happened to a sky full of airplanes on 9/11. And Vaughan can write: just her introductory description of how she invaded the controllers’ domain is gripping. Like her Challenger book, this sets the gold standard.” —Harry Collins, Cardiff University

—A version of this story was first published by the University of Chicago Press.