15 Books You Have To Read About Chernobyl And The Chernobyl Disaster

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I am obsessed with Chernobyl.  I’ve always loved watching anything I can about it and reading anything I can find online, but it wasn’t until recently that I thought about looking for actual books about Chernobyl.

Once I realized books about Chernobyl were a thing, I mean, why wouldn’t they be, I scoured Goodreads for as many as I could find, which it turns out isn’t all that many.  I do know that I want to read all kinds of these Chernobyl books now.  A few of them are pretty pricey, so if you can get your hands on one for less than Amazon, definitely, do it.  Or let me know so I can jump on that.  In the meantime, enjoy the more affordable books on Chernobyl.

You can check out my other book posts here.

All That is Solid Melts Into Air

Part historical epic, part love story, All That is Solid Melts Into Air follows the collapse of the Soviet Union through the focal point of the Chernobyl disaster.  It’s told from the perspective of a nine-year-old piano prodigy from Moscow, his aunt who makes car parts in a factory on the edge of the city, a surgeon avoiding his failed marriage, and a teenage boy in a rural village in Ukraine.  He woke to a sky of the deepest crimson with cattle dripping blood from their ears and just ten miles away something unimaginable happened at the Chernobyl Power Plant.

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

Adam Higginbotham brings us a harrowing and compelling narrative from a collection of interviews, letters, unwritten memoirs, and documents from recently declassified archives about the world’s worst nuclear disaster in Chernobyl in the early hours of April 26, 1986.  It brings the disaster to life with the help of men and women that witnessed it firsthand.

Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future

The real damage done by the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 was never really tallied.  31-54 people died in the disaster, but there were anywhere from 35,000-150,000 deaths from radiation exposure in Ukraine alone.  Kate Brown reveals the true amount of devastation and whitewashing that occurred after a decade of archival research and interviews with people living in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus.

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Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster

Svetlana Alexievich is a journalist that set out to share what happened to the people of Belarus after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.  She interviewed hundreds of people affected by the disaster in one way or another from innocent citizens to firefighters and those called in for cleanup.  Their stories reveal the fear, anger, and uncertainty that they live with to this day and she came away with an immune deficiency herself from the radiation exposure.

Chernobyl

Fiction and truth are woven together in this novel by Frederik Pohl.  The story is told through fictitious characters, mostly officials and workers at the plant, along the timeline of the real event documented in the Soviet press and Moscow’s unusually candid report to the International Atomic Energy Agency in 1986.

Chernobyl: Confessions of a Reporter

On April 26, 1986, Igor Kostin took the very first photo after Reactor #4 exploded at the V.I. Lenin Nuclear Power Plant near Chernobyl.  He continued to endure massive radiation overexposure in order to document the disaster for the International Atomic Energy Agency.  He spent the next twenty years persistently investigating the disaster’s effect on humans and nature.  This is a photographic collection of never before heard stories from liquidators, soldiers, scientists, and residents from Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Latvia, Germany, Sweden, and France that have been affected by the catastrophe in some way.

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Wormwood Forest: A Natural History of Chernobyl

In 1986, Reactor #4 exploded and spewed chunks of burning radioactive material and flames into the atmosphere.  Dozens (or thousands) of people died from the explosion and radiation illness, which thousands more continued to suffer from.  Today, Mary Mycio, a journalist, returned to the site of the accident with dosimeter and camo protective gear to explore the world’s most infamous radioactive wilderness.  She tours the zone to find the long term effects on the human, floral, and faunal residents.  She also learns the area around Chernobyl is now Europe’s largest wildlife sanctuary, a flourishing and occasionally unearthly wilderness.  Chernobyl shows us an unexpected future among fears of apocalypse and a barren radioactive future.

The Truth About Chernobyl

Grigori Medvedev was the top Soviet physicist originally commissioned to investigate the Chernobyl disaster.  This is his account of the long-suppressed, minute-by-minute account of the tragedy and the cover-up that followed with an analysis of the consequences.

Chernobyl’s Wild Kingdom: Life in the Dead Zone

The Dead Zone is supposed to be a barren wasteland created by the atomic radiation released by Reactor #4, but today it is thriving with wildlife including beetles, swallows, catfish, otters, beavers, foxes, lynx, deer, moose, brown bears, and wolves.  But they’re all radioactive.  This is the account of international scientists studying the wildlife to find out if the wildlife has adapted to living with radiation or if they’re being harmed in ways we can’t see.

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Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World’s Most Polluted Places

Andrew Blackwell takes us on a journey to some of the worlds most gruesomely polluted destinations from Canada’s oil sand strip mines and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  If you’re interested in other environmental disasters, this is a must-read.  It’s equal parts travelogue, expose environmental memoir, and faux guidebook that approaches a deeper understanding of what is really happening to our planet.

Ablaze: The Story of the Heroes and Victims of Chernobyl

This is a moment-by-moment account of what happened before, during, and after the devastating explosion of Reactor #4.  It describes what happened to the survivors and neighboring countryside after the disaster.

Chernobyl 01:23:40: The Incredible True Story of the World’s Worst Nuclear Disaster

At 01:23:40 on April 26, 1986, Alexander Akimov pressed the emergency shutdown button for Reactor #4, forcing the permanent evacuation of Pripyat, killing thousands and crippling the Soviet Union.  This book is the result of five years of research bringing us an accessible and comprehensive account of what really happened.  From the desperate fight to prevent the burning reactor core from irradiating Eastern Europe to the self-sacrifice of the men that entered fields of radiation so strong machines wouldn’t work to the surprising truth about the Chernobyl Divers, this historical narrative is woven together with the authors trip to the current abandoned city of Pripyat and the Chernobyl Zone.

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The Boy from Reactor 4

Nadia’s father died when she was thirteen as an angry and secretive man, leaving most of his past a mystery.  She agrees to meet a stranger that claims to have known her father during his early years in Eastern Europe then watches him get shot in the street.  With his last breath, he whispered a cryptic clue sending her on a wild goose chase from New York to her ancestral homeland of Ukraine where she meets Adam, a teenage hockey prodigy who honed his skills on the abandoned cooling ponds of Chernobyl.  He is permanently scarred by radiation syndrome but has a secret that could change the world.  All she has to do is keep him alive long enough to do it.

Wolves Eat Dogs

A billionaire businessman commits suicide causing Arkady Renko, a detective from Moscow, to investigate dark secrets and international plots that could have driven the billionaire to his death, which leads to discovering dark crime surrounding Chernobyl.

The Sky Unwashed

Marusia has lived in Starylis in rural Ukraine for over seventy years in ancient thatched-roof cottages, where everyone grows their own vegetables and bakes bread in the outdoor community ovens.  It also happens to be down the road from Chernobyl.  Their lives changed forever on April 26, 1986, when the air started to taste weird and the workers didn’t come home from their shifts from the power plant.  The government orders a mandatory and permanent evacuation, but within the year, starting with Marusia, a handful of elderly women return to their now deserted town.  Despite their differences and losses, they band together for survival, companionship, and to confront the Soviet officials responsible for their fate.

If you’ve ever had an interest in the Cit, you should definitely try to read some of these books about Chernobyl and the Chernobyl disaster.  I know I just added a bunch to my Amazon cart.

Have you read any of these?  Which ones?  What did you think of them?  Are there any others you would recommend?

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