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Midnight in Chernobyl: The Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster

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Jacques Roy

13 Hours 57 Minutes

Simon & Schuster Audio

February 2019

Audio Book Summary

One of AudioFile’s Best Audiobooks of 2019!

A New York Times Best Book of the Year
A Time Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of the Year
2020 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence Winner
One of NPR’s Best Books of 2019

Journalist Adam Higginbotham’s definitive, years-in-the-making account of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster—and a powerful investigation into how propaganda, secrecy, and myth have obscured the true story of one of the twentieth century’s greatest disasters.

Early in the morning of April 26, 1986, Reactor Number Four of the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station exploded, triggering history’s worst nuclear disaster. In the thirty years since then, Chernobyl has become lodged in the collective nightmares of the world: shorthand for the spectral horrors of radiation poisoning, for a dangerous technology slipping its leash, for ecological fragility, and for what can happen when a dishonest and careless state endangers its citizens and the entire world. But the real story of the accident, clouded from the beginning by secrecy, propaganda, and misinformation, has long remained in dispute.

Drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews conducted over the course of more than ten years, as well as letters, unpublished memoirs, and documents from recently-declassified archives, Adam Higginbotham has written a harrowing and compelling narrative which brings the disaster to life through the eyes of the men and women who witnessed it firsthand. The result is a masterful nonfiction thriller, and the definitive account of an event that changed history: a story that is more complex, more human, and more terrifying than the Soviet myth.

Midnight in Chernobyl is an indelible portrait of one of the great disasters of the twentieth century, of human resilience and ingenuity, and the lessons learned when mankind seeks to bend the natural world to his will—lessons which, in the face of climate change and other threats, remain not just vital but necessary.

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Reviews

  • James H.

    Enjoyed this book a lot. I was about 39 yrs old when this occurred and have always wondered about the story of what actually happened and what the initial and long lasting results were. Higginbotham’s research into the individuals involved from plant workers and supervisors to government officials brought the story to life with how it impacted those involved. One takeaway for me was that the bureacracy in the USSR may not have been too much different from the USA today. As an engineer (but not nuclear) I appreciated his handling of what technical details were necessary to tell the story which I was able to understand but were laid out in a way that a non-technical background person would also grasp. Good follow-up also on residual effects on the land, population and those involved in the plant operation and subsequent liquidation (cleanup) operations. Excellent narration as well.

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  • Elizabeth G.

    Great book! Super interesting! Not a light read tho more like a text book but it can hold your attention

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  • DrZaco

    Detailed information and descriptions; a compelling exposition of deceit, Xian’s cover up as well as bravery and sacrifice. Reminiscent of the attempts to market thalidomide, and the campaigns to discredit scientific research about the damage caused by second hand smoke, CFL damage to the ozone layer and similar denial of climate change and its relationship to fossil fuels. In the USSR the currency was saving face for the party; in the other aforementioned it is money.

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  • Amber L.

    I teach science and love reading about real life events and while some of the logistics of the Chernobyl reactors were extremely detailed with lots of chemical jargon and specific information that overwhelmed the senses, I found the book extremely enlightening. The possibilities of what could have been, how the government tried to detailed the truth from not only the world, but their own people suggest that although we have come a long way in intellect and trust, countries behave just like people when the truth is something you'd rather hide.

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  • Laura S.

    Started out slow and very technical with how the reactors/plant was built. Had already watched the HBO serious and work in the radiation field so I persisted. The story finally got into the human aspect of what transpired and it was quite interesting. If you aren't technical and can stick with it until the story unfolds, it was worth the time to list to it. Crazy and sad to know this truly happened.

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  • Anonymous

    Interesting book

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  • Anonymous

    What a great companion to the HBO Series. I was able to understand the science, but was surprised by the strong human characters.

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  • Timothy C.

    Excellent look into the beaurocracy that was - is? - the Russian empire

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  • Anonymous

    Interesting book. Well worth listening too.

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