Released on September 9, Boston University professor Mitchell Zuckoff’s exclusive account of the terrorist attack in Benghazi was ranked as the New York Times’ number one nonfiction bestseller on Sunday.
The book, “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi,” chronicles the attacks on two United States’ compounds in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, which took the lives of four United States officials and injured ten others, Zuckoff said. The story is told from the perspective of six American security operators who fought during the incident.
“It’s very exciting to share this with the guys who lived it,” Zuckoff, a journalism professor in the College of Communication, said. “This is a part of who I am and what I do as a journalist…This is an important unknown piece of American history, so I was immediately excited about the idea that I’d be the one who tells it.”
Zuckoff said the book has been accepted as a factual account of what transpired in Benghazi despite political debate and a lack of clarity surrounding the 2012 attack.
“I worried that people wouldn’t take the book at face value and they would wrap it up in all their other ideas about Benghazi…it’s been extra gratifying that people have accepted what it is, not try to project onto it what it isn’t,” he said. “People are pleased to know, for the first time, exactly what the fuss is all about.”
William McKeen, chair of the journalism department, said he is proud of Zuckoff’s success and appreciates his contributions as a faculty member.
“Most of the professors continue to be practitioners,” he said in an email. “They love to teach, and they love to continue to report and write, make films, deliver commentary on politics, and in other ways remain in the game…One of the cool things about all this is that the guy with the No. 1 book on the nonfiction list is teaching our beginning journalism course this semester. That course assignment was his request.”
Richard Lehr, a journalism professor in COM, said the book is a shining example of the skills Zuckoff and his colleagues teach COM students and how to apply those skills in their professional lives
“It’s good to be doing what you’re trying to teach, so everyone benefits,” he said.
“A book like this, this deeply reported reconstruction, based on exclusive interviews with the security team telling their story for the first time, can have a huge effect in terms of people having now a way to understand what happened in those hours, those awful hours…and that’s what Mitch has accomplished in an unbelievably compelling way.”
Andrea Young, a senior in COM studying film and television, said “13 Hours” helps shed light on what truly occurred in Benghazi, information that has been clouded by most media sources.
“I do appreciate him trying to find the truth,” she said. “When I turn on the TV to get information, I want it [the news] to be truthful, but end up not watching because it isn’t. It’s a vicious circle…that’s a testament of how skewed the news is and how hard it is to get a clear account of what is happening rather than just opinions. The book is helpful.”
Nicole Gergits, a sophomore in COM studying public relations and journalism, said Zuckoff’s experience and accomplishments make him an inspiration for students.
“It’s a good example for students to make them reach for similar accomplishments in their lifetimes,” she said. “It [his success] shows that something like that is attainable. Having a professor who’s done that is admirable, and he is a resource and a great connection to have here.”
Zuckoff said though he is proud to receive critical acclaim for his book, he values the reporting it entailed more than its reception.
“I learn and grow from every project I do,” he said. “I enjoy the success, but I really love the process. I’ve written a number of books, and I don’t distinguish between them in terms of how many books get sold. I’m much more focused on whether I feel as though this was a worthy project, whether I did it justice.”
Stephanie Pagones contributed to the reporting of this article.