Obviously, the whole concept of “the best of” is inherently problematic. Something is always missing from any “best of” list that immediately renders the list suspect.
But earlier this month, ProPublica, the non-profit investigative reporting organization, provided about as complete and perceptive a list as I can imagine of the best investigative reporting of the events of 9/11.
Lois Beckett, Braden Goyette, and Marian Wang compiled the mini-anthology, and they call it The Best, Most Damning Reporting of the 9/11 Era.
Check it out, and assume the inevitable that some piece of superb work was — for no reason other than the volume of possible choices — omitted. By the way, ProPublica is the kind of organization that I know would welcome additional suggestions for inclusion.
I strongly recommend Jane Mayer’s The Black Sites (The New Yorker, 2007), Seymour Hersh’s Torture at Abu Ghraib (The New Yorker, 2004), and Lawrence Wright’s masterful book The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11.
A personal observation: As is my frequent yet almost always futile impulse, I immersed myself in this literature several years ago with the hope that I could beat its heinous incomprehensibility into submission. I could, I imagined, study it into clarity. And while I did learn a lot , I now realize that I was really looking for the kind of existential and philosophical answers that no amount of history or social science could provide.
To be sure, the political and social behavior of individuals and institutions , even the complex and intersecting web of those institutions that can lead to a catastrophic event like 9/11, can be understood in all their galling intricacy.
But if, like me, you are also haunted by questions of evil and cruelty and the blood lust that seems to fuel so much nationalism and religious fundamentalism, a whole set of other disciplines including philosophy, literature, theology and the arts might be more fruitful places to turn.