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9/11 books challenge us to relive fateful day

Two reflecting pools National September 11 Memorial sit footprints twtowers. The borders around pools display names 2982 people killed 9/11

Two reflecting pools at the National September 11 Memorial sit in the footprints of the twin towers. The borders around the pools display the names of the 2,982 people killed in the 9/11 attacks — in New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon — and in the Fe

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Updated: November 4, 2011 9:35AM

It is difficult to recommend books about 9/11.

Most adults in America saw it unfold from their living rooms. And news cycles for weeks and months to come kept it vivid in our minds. To read any more about it in book form is to rip open old wounds.

On the other hand, it’s an event that will never be — and shouldn’t be — forgotten by those who were alive when it happened and for future generations who will view it as a significant event in history.

Over the summer, leading up to today’s 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York, dozens of books on the subject came across my desk. Some of the titles are old — re-issues of books published between the time of the attacks and now — and many are new. All encourage the reader, in a way, to relive the vulnerability of that day.

With that in mind, here are my recommendations:

A Place of Remembrance: Official Book of the National September 11 Memorial (National Geographic, $19.95).

The photos on this page come from this book, which also includes the architectural plans and other never-before-published photos of the making of the memorial that is being dedicated today at Ground Zero in New York City. The book gives respectful attention to the horrors of Sept. 11, 2001, and the heroic recovery efforts, but then focuses on the process of deciding how best to memorialize the tragic and historic event on eight acres of real estate in Lower Manhattan. A fold-out section in the book includes the names of all who perished in the New York, Pennsylvania and Pentagon attacks. Proceeds from the sale of the book will go to support the memorial.

102 Minutes: The Unforgettable Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers (Times Books, $17), by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn.

First published in 2005, this meticulous reporting of the events of that day is as real and raw an account as you might ever experience. The authors, New York Times journalists, conducted hundred of interviews from those who escaped the towers and gathered other accounts from witnesses, e-mails, phone messages and radio transcriptions. A new postscript begins and ends with the funeral of survivor Josephine Harris, a widowed bookkeeper for the Port Authority. “In his homily, Monsignor [John] Delendick spoke of how the firefighters had been saved. . . . ‘Interesting,’ he told the church about Harris and firefighters, ‘how both groups accuse each other of saving the other. I think that’s the best part.’”

The Legacy Letters: Messages of Life and Hope from 9/11 Family Members (Perigee, $22), collected by Tuesday’s Children, edited by Brian Curtis.

Try not to tear up as you read letters from 100 loved ones of folks who died on Sept. 11, 2001. These people left behind — children, spouses, extended family members — not only look back on fond memories, but also look forward, telling their loved one how they’re coping. Irene Boehm, whose husband worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, writes: “My best friends these days are four women who I never knew before September 11, 2001. Their husbands also worked for Cantor. We joke that ‘we wish we never had to meet.’ Yet they are the friends who comfort me the most. . . . There is a huge hole in my heart that will never heal. It just doesn’t bleed as much anymore. What has changed is that I now realize how much I loved you and still do. . . . Love, Me.”

Rubble: How the 9/11 Families Rebuilt Their Lives and Inspired America (Potomac, $27.50), by Bob Kemper.

The author was a White House correspondent for the Chicago Tribune at the time of the attacks. He was one of few journalists who spent the next day with President George W. Bush, where he “watched the White House try repeatedly to thwart the families’ push for an investigation and witnessed firsthand the power of ordinary people who did not give up.” The tenacity of those people helped change the way the United States combats terrorism.

One Nation: America Remembers September 11, 2001 — 10 Years Later (Little, Brown, $29.99), from the editors of Life.

In this 10th anniversary edition, Life does what it does best with a pictorial history of 9/11 paired with original essays by some of America’s finest writers. Tom Brokaw provides the foreword.

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