Boston Marathon bombing: Seeking answers at the library

Books to help adults and children deal with the trauma of the Boston Marathon bombing. Photo: (AP) Candlelight vigil in Boston

DOTHAN, AL, April 17, 2013 - Bombs have always been a favored tool of anarchists and terrorists who see themselves as heroes of a cause rather than the cowardly vermin they really are.

In 1886, anarchists set off a bomb at a labor rally in Chicago that killed eleven and injured over 100. The Los Angeles Times building was bombed in 1910 by two disgruntled union leaders, killing 20 people.

Forty people were killed by a bomb set off on Wall Street in 1920. In 1927, a bomb at a school killed 45 people, 38 of them children. In the early 1950s New York City was plagued by the “Mad Bomber” who set off numerous blasts that fortunately did not kill anyone. The list goes on and on.

To cope with the unthinkable we often turn to books for clues to the behavior of those who commit acts of violence against innocent people. The most often asked question about bombings is, “Why?”

Why would anyone think it is acceptable to murder others on a grand scale? What cause or ideology could possibly be so important as to sacrifice lives of those who have no involvement whatsoever in that cause?

There are no easy answers to “why” and unfortunately there are few books about terror bombing. Most books about bombs focus on how they are used in warfare, but some offer insight into violence against innocent civilians. The following is by no means an exhaustive or scholarly list, but is offered as a starting point for anyone wanting to delve deeper into the subject of terror bombing.


The business of martyrdom : a history of suicide bombing, Jeffrey William Lewis, Naval Institute Press, 2012.
Lewis presents a comprehensive history of bombings from its origins in Imperial Russia to modern times, and examines bombers and the organizations that train them. He argues that all bombings basically stem from a mismatch of military capabilities between opposing sides.

Dying to kill : the allure of suicide terror, Mia Bloom, Columbia University Press, 2005.
Bloom examines the success and failures of suicide bombings in Asia, the Middle East and Europe against the effectiveness of government responses. Bloom also points out how terrorist groups learn from the actions of other groups, how they respond to anti-terrorist programs and how they get financing.

Practical bomb scene investigation, James T Thurman, CRC/Taylor & Francis, 2006.
This is a forensic handbook on how authorities go about investigating all details of an explosion site. Thurman uses case studies, with color illustrations, as examples of the procedures and methodologies currently used to study bomb scenes and piece together evidence.

Bomb squad, Michael Newton, Chelsea House Publishers, 2011.
Another look at the forensics of dealing with bombs and bomb scenes, including details on how bomb squads locate and disarm explosives and deal with the risks involved in this very dangerous occupation.

Terrorism on American soil : a concise history of plots and perpetrators from the famous to the forgotten, Joseph T McCann, Sentient Publications, 2006. 
9/11 was not the first time acts of terror were committed on American soil. McCann profiles a total of 37 attacks dating from the end of the Civil War to present day.



As important as it is for adults to understand and find ways to cope with terror bombing, it is equally important to help children deal with modern violence. The following is a brief list of books to help children cope with violent events and should be available at most public libraries.

For more information on helping children cope with trauma, please visit The Child Witness to Violence Project, at CWVP operates under the Department of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at Boston Medical Center.

Healing days : a guide for kids who have experienced trauma, Susan Farber Straus; Maria Bogade, Magination Press, American Psychological Association, 2013.

A terrible thing happened, Margaret M Holmes; Sasha J Mudlaff; Cary Pillo, Magination Press, 2000.

Let’s talk about living in a world with violence : an activity book for school-age children, James Garbarino; Erikson Institute, 1993.

Trauma, Joy Wilt Berry, Joy Berry Books, 2010.

Those who remain : what it means to be a survivor, Ellyn Sanna, Mason Crest Publishers, 2009.

One April morning : children remember the Oklahoma City bombing, Nancy Lamb; Floyd Cooper, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1996.


(For more book news and updates be sure to visit Rick’s weekly newsletter blog   at and his author blog at

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Rick Townley

Rick Townley was a bookseller before switching to electronic publishing with The New York Times, Reuters, Grolier and others. He is the author of a humor book, For Boomers Only – Exploring Life in the New Millennium, a supernatural novel, Stepping Out of Time, and numerous short stories. In addition to contributing to the Washington Times Communities, Rick is working on a fiction series called Stigma and resides in southern Alabama with his 7-year-old granddaughter, Chloe.


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