Podcast Episode 38: Garrett M. Graff (Author of The Only Plane in the Sky)

In Episode 38, Garrett M. Graff goes behind-the-scenes of his new book, The Only Plane in the Sky (one of my top books of 2019).


Courtesy of Avid Reader Press, I’m giving away one copy of The Only Plane in the Sky! Head over to my Instagram to participate!

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link), through which I make a small commission when you make a purchase (at no cost to you!).


  • Where Garrett was on 9/11.
  • What he was trying to accomplish with his book.
  • The big challenge of understanding 9/11 as it moves “from memory into history.”
  • The lack of communications and confusion of that day.
  • How Garrett compiled all these little snippets of memory into a compelling story arc.
  • How 9/11 was an inflection point in how Americans respond to a potential threat.
  • What Garrett thinks is the “most interesting moment of 9/11.”
  • The general demeanor of people he interviewed in person as they reflected back on 9/11.
  • The one person he wanted to interview for the book that declined and why it ultimately ended up being a good thing for the book.
  • The original length of the book.
  • Why Garrett was able to talk about the U.S. government’s emergency plans, bunkers, etc.
  • How The Only Plane in the Sky sort of came out of Garrett’s previous book, Raven Rock.
  • Survivor’s guilt surrounding 9/11 and reaction from the Clinton Administration.
  • Garrett’s favorite fiction writer.

Garrett’s Book Recommendations

Two OLD Books He Loves

Three NEW Books He Loves

One NEW RELEASE He’s Excited About

Other Books Mentioned

Other Links

About Garrett

Garrett M. Graff Author Website | Twitter | Instagram 

Garrett M. Graff, a distinguished magazine journalist, bestselling historian, and regular TV commentator has spent more than a dozen years covering politics, technology, and national security—helping to explain where we’ve been and where we’re headed.

Today, he serves as the director of the Aspen Institute’s cybersecurity and technology program, and is a contributor to WIRED, Longreads, and CNN. He’s written for publications from Esquire to the New York Times, and served as the editor of two of Washington’s most prestigious magazines, Washingtonian and POLITICO Magazine, which he helped lead to its first National Magazine Award, the industry’s highest honor.

Graff is the author of multiple books, including The First Campaign: Globalization, the Web, and the Race for the White House, which examined the role of technology in the 2008 presidential race, and The Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller’s FBI, which traces the history of the FBI’s counterterrorism efforts. His book, Raven Rock, a national bestseller, about the government’s Cold War Doomsday plans, was published in May 2017, and his most recent book, co-authored with John Carlin, examined the rise of cyber threats, Dawn of the Code War: America’s Battle Against Russia, China, and the Rising Global Cyber Threat.

Inside both journalism and politics, he has a long history as a new media pioneer. He was the founding editor of mediaBistro.com’s FishbowlDC (www.FishbowlDC.com), a popular blog that covers the media and journalism in Washington, and co-founder of EchoDitto, Inc., a multi-million-dollar Washington, D.C.-based internet strategy consulting firm. During his time at FishbowlDC, he was the first blogger admitted to cover a White House press briefing in 2005, a moment considered significant enough that his reporter’s notebook from that first briefing is on display at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. A Vermont native and graduate of Harvard, he served as deputy national press secretary on Howard Dean’s presidential campaign and, beginning in 1997, was then-Governor Dean’s first webmaster. 

He taught at Georgetown University for seven years, including courses on journalism and technology, and his writing and commentary has appeared in publications like the Washington PostThe Wall Street JournalNew YorkBloomberg BusinessWeekRolling Stone5280PoliticoAARP Magazine, Eater, Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine, USA TodayGQ UKNextCity, and he has appeared on CBS This MorningThe Today ShowGood Morning America, CBC, the BBC, Al Jazeera English, the History Channel, National Geographic, and various NPR programs, including “This American Life,” “Fresh Air,” and “All Things Considered.” His reporting has been cited on shows ranging from Stephen Colbert to John Oliver to Rachel Maddow. 

He also is the chair of the board of the National Conference on Citizenship, a congressionally-charted civic engagement group founded by Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, and serves on the board of Vermont Public Radio and the Burlington Housing Authority.

Next Episode

Mini Episode…featuring Lindsay Creech (airing Wednesday, November 20).

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  1. Angela wrote:

    I’m reading this book right now, and it’s so powerful. It really brings you back to that day. I’ve already cried several times and I’m about 1/3 of the way through.

    Posted 11.13.19 Reply
  2. Excellent episode, Sarah. I am reading this now and had to listen right away. This book is so compelling; all of these stories are forever changing my perspective on that day. I am definitely giving this one as a gift for Christmas–it’s a hard read, but one that everyone can appreciate.

    Posted 11.13.19 Reply
  3. Jennifer O. wrote:

    I’m catching up on podcasts, so I’m late to this episode, but I just wanted to add something about the Bush twins. There is a chapter in their memoir, Sisters First, that addresses 9/11. I believe it’s from Barbara’s point of view, and it takes you through her experience of the day, as a student at Yale, and the time immediately after. I thought it was really interesting to see that through her eyes, from someone who views the president as her dad and is scared for him, like when he threw out the first pitch at a Yankees(?) game after 9/11. Barbara and Jenna read the audiobook too so you can hear it in their voices.

    Posted 1.27.20 Reply

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