Let the Great World Spin was written by Colum McCann and published in 2009 by Random House. Its inception occurred shortly after the September 11th terrorist attacks, in which the Twin Towers of New York City's World Trade Center were destroyed. During this time, McCann, like many of his fellow writers living in New York, wrote journalistic pieces on the topic of 9/11. But it was ultimately a novel that allowed him to best express the intensely human themes of interconnectedness and redemption brought to light following the attacks.
Although the work is thematically and emotionally rooted in 9/11, the novel is set . The events of Let the Great World Spin take place within roughly the span of one day in August 1974, centering loosely about the real-life tightrope walk of Philippe Petit (unnamed in the novel) between the Twin Towers. The majority of the work, however, deals with the characters on the ground, who each come from tremendously distinct backgrounds yet are all affected and connected by the walk. Let the Great World Spin consists of ten main sections, each one corresponding to a particular protagonist. By varying the voice of narration and perspective, McCann creates a unique multifaceted portrait of the city. In doing so he draws together neighborhoods as seemingly distinct as the burning Bronx and the posh Upper East Side, and people as seemingly distinct as an Irish monk and a prostitute, all linked by the universal constants of love and death.
Let the Great World Spin received widespread praise upon its release. The novel was the 2009 winner of the U.S. National Book Award and the 2011 winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.