This is the fifth year I am participating in Sheila of Book Journey’s First Book of the Year. The purpose is for readers all over the world to share that first book that we will be reading as we welcome in the new year. It can be a book that has been languishing on your shelves forever, just waiting to be read. It can be one that you got as a gift this Christmas. It can be a physical book, an eBook, or an audiobook. It doesn’t matter which book you choose, just one that you want to read and will kick off your year of reading. You can choose a fiction that puts you in a different time and place or a non-fiction that helps you learn about a topic you are interested in. You could even reread a beloved classic that reminds you of why you love to read. It really doesn’t matter what you choose, just choose a book that will get you excited about reading in 2020.
My previous years have included books I absolutely loved like THE TWO FAMILY HOUSE and I’D RATHER BE READING and a book I didn’t love like A MANUAL FOR CLEANING WOMEN. Two years ago, I chose JUST BETWEEN US, a thrilling read that kept me turning the pages. This year I’ve decided to choose a non-fiction read that many people have raved about since it came out in September of 2019. I’ve been wanting to read it and ordered it as soon as I heard about it. Even though I bought it for my husband’s birthday, I don’t think he will mind me reading it before he does.
My First Book of 2020 is………………….
THE ONLY PLANE IN THE SKY by Garrett M. Graff
Over the past eighteen years, monumental literature has been published about 9/11, from Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower, which traced the rise of al-Qaeda, to The 9/11 Commission Report, the government’s definitive factual retrospective of the attacks. But one perspective has been missing up to this point—a 360-degree account of the day told through the voices of the people who experienced it.
Now, in The Only Plane in the Sky, award-winning journalist and bestselling historian Garrett Graff tells the story of the day as it was lived—in the words of those who lived it. Drawing on never-before-published transcripts, recently declassified documents, original interviews, and oral histories from nearly five hundred government officials, first responders, witnesses, survivors, friends, and family members, Graff paints the most vivid and human portrait of the September 11 attacks yet.
Beginning in the predawn hours of airports in the Northeast, we meet the ticket agents who unknowingly usher terrorists onto their flights and the flight attendants inside the hijacked planes. In New York City, first responders confront a scene of unimaginable horror at the Twin Towers. From a secret bunker underneath the White House, officials watch for incoming planes on radar. Aboard the small number of unarmed fighter jets in the air, pilots make a pact to fly into a hijacked airliner if necessary to bring it down. In the skies above Pennsylvania, civilians aboard United Flight 93 make the ultimate sacrifice in their place. Then, as the day moves forward and flights are grounded nationwide, Air Force One circles the country alone, its passengers isolated and afraid.
More than simply a collection of eyewitness testimonies, The Only Plane in the Sky is the historic narrative of how ordinary people grappled with extraordinary events in real-time: the father and son working in the North Tower, caught on different ends of the impact zone; the firefighter searching for his wife who works at the World Trade Center; the operator of in-flight telephone calls who promises to share a passenger’s last words with his family; the beloved FDNY chaplain who bravely performs last rites for the dying, losing his own life when the Towers collapse; and the generals at the Pentagon who break down and weep when they are barred from rushing into the burning building to try to rescue their colleagues.
At once a powerful tribute to the courage of everyday Americans and an essential addition to the literature of 9/11, The Only Plane in the Sky weaves together the unforgettable personal experiences of the men and women who found themselves caught at the center of an unprecedented human drama. The result is a unique, profound, and searing exploration of humanity on a day that changed the course of history, and all of our lives.
I’m certainly looking forward to a fabulous year of reading ahead. If you decide to choose a first book, be sure to let me know in the comments. Also, be sure to head over to Sheila’s blog, Book Journey, to see all the other First Books chosen by readers all over the world!
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