Great books arise from a convergence of trifles. The best books are not built on cataclysm or epiphany. Great books are built around a series of human incidents, until, like a set of Legos® which becomes a dinosaur,, something magical has been constructed.
Imagine for a moment, in 2016, another book is released about the tragedy of 9/11. It was a horrible day, that day in 2001. However, with fourteen years of academic hindsight; those acts dissected through our understanding of terrorism, history, economics, anger, marginalization, hate — a book is published that interests few who are not scholars.
Let’s imagine another scenario. Same theme, but with the addition of a human face and a series of nearly meaningless incidents. You, an aspiring author, discover that in 1998, a young man left his home near the city of Topi, Pakistan outside of Rawalpindi, for graduate study at Columbia University. Upon graduation, this young man took a position with investment bankers Cantor Fitzgerald, located in the World Trade Center. His work proceeded well, and although communication with his family was sketchy, his family was proud of his accomplishments.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, the young man leaves his apartment for work at 8:00. He stops at his local coffee shop, and runs into another Pakistani national, a woman he does not know, at the coffee shop. The sip tea, they chat, they share a scone. It turns out they both work in World Trade. At 8:45, they decide to leave for work. They gather their goods, start the walk to their offices in World Trade, and they see are shocked to see smoke billow from their office center. They are aghast as people charge up the streets away from Ground Zero. The hijacked planes have hit the towers.
Back home in Pakistan, it is 7:00 pm, and the news that planes have slammed into the side of the World Trade Center is on the TV from Rawalpindi. Cell phone and internet communications in the NYC area were overwhelmed throughout this tragedy. For the next few days, our young man and his new friend are horrorstruck over the deaths of many of their colleagues. They are doubly horrorstruck that they cannot communicate their well-being to their families back in Pakistan. For the rest of their lives, our couple will reflect on the chance meeting in a local coffee shop that saved both their lives.
Your book is no longer a dry, academic dissection of radical Islam and poverty and terrorism. It is a page turner destined for the NY Times best-seller list.
Tags: on writing, best-sellers, Great Books, 9/11