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

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  1,740 ratings  ·  293 reviews
For most of us, traveling means visiting the most beautiful places on Earth—Paris, the Taj Mahal, the Grand Canyon. It's rare to book a plane ticket to visit the lifeless moonscape of Canada's oil sand strip mines, or to seek out the Chinese city of Linfen, legendary as the most polluted in the world. But in Visit Sunny Chernobyl, Andrew Blackwell embraces a different kind ...more
Hardcover, 306 pages
Published May 22nd 2012 by Rodale Books
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 ·  1,740 ratings  ·  293 reviews

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Jun 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: ecology
This author has a weird bee in his bonnet about finding the beautiful, the friendly, the cosy and the endearing in the least attractive of places. In his introduction he describes a visit to Kanpur which says it all. Kanpur was recently awarded the title of “India’s Most Polluted City” by its national government.

What followed was an intensive, three-day tour of dysfunctional sewage-treatment plants, illegal industrial dumps, poisonous tanneries, and feces-strewn beaches. The crowning moment was
Sep 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
I felt a little conflicted about this book. Taking the book at face value, I really enjoyed it. Blackwell has a surprising way with words and his story telling is at times laugh out loud funny and endearing. Overall, he's not the investigative journalist many people assume he would be with writing a book about "the most polluted places on earth." I would have liked a deeper investigation into many of the places he visits, but that's not the point of his book. He put himself out there for an adve ...more
Thomas Edmund
Dec 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
If while picking up this book you're concerned this may be environmental or greenie propaganda hidden in a humorous title, worry no more. Blackwell, despite a keen sense of the environment is a genuine pollution voyeur, a main with a love of ruin.

There is a good balance found within this book. While Blackwell's shared experiences of pollutourism are imparted with a unique visceral glee, he also successfully imbibes us with the history and science of each 'attraction.' Along the way Blackwell als
Jul 12, 2019 rated it liked it
A tale that finds the author visiting Chernobyl and six other of the most polluted places on Earth. It's fascinating people find this an adventurous form of travel. I found Chernobyl, Alberta Canada and Texas the most interesting and well written of the 7 excursions. ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
"Who knew petroleum could be so adorable?"

I needed a light read in between other reads, and this fit the bill. The author travels to the world's most polluted places and pretends as if he could ever think about being a tourist there. He isn't there as an activist. And it's a little weak, but it does tie a few interesting places together. It's the writing that drove me crazy. He writes like he would talk in a casual setting, not leaving out the "you knows" and "hey maybes" - I'm torn as to what I
cardulelia carduelis
Sep 24, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: discarded
Let’s start off with a quote, trust me you’ll enjoy this:

To understand the Chernobyl accident, it helps to know something about how electricity gets generated and, specifically, about nuclear power -- though not so much that your eyes glaze over.
In general, power plants generate electricity by spinning turbines. Picture a big hamster wheel and you get the idea. Each turbine is connected to a generator, in which a conductor turns through a field of a strong magnet, thus creating electricity by m
Nov 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Like any good travel book, Andrew gives us a feel for the places he visits and muses about what it all means. Except he's not visiting Victoria Falls or St. Petersburg. He's visiting Chernobyl, the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch, Port Arthur Texas, and other grungy places. His narrative is fun and sometimes insightful. He really doesn't think much of the oil industry, and that started to wear a little thin. And you probably don't want to read the chapter on Indian river pollution while eating (as ...more
Moira McPartlin
A great blend of entertainment and enlightenment. I read this book for research and ended but loving it. Blackwell visits seven of the most polluted places in the world. He starts off at Chernobyl and finishes at a sewer polluted river in Delhi. And although the subject and the facts were often truly horrific, the relaxed writing style made it very funny. The stories are made memorable and stayed with me because of the writing style. Some myths are debunked but most of the messages are clear; hu ...more
May 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
The title article was excepted in the New Yorker a few months ago. It was a pleasantly written essay and I looked forward to seeing more from Andrew Blackwell. Unfortunately, the rest of the book is not as durable. As a travel journalist, Blackwell does a better job of describing people than environments. Though the people are interesting, I want to know more about the conditions of their worlds. More fundamentally, this narrative is woven with a thread of the authors own life, which distracts f ...more
Mikey B.
Mar 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Mikey B. by: Caroline
This is an immensely informative book on different types of pollution world wide. It’s also a great travelogue as the author unearths information and explores the personalities who live in these areas. One of the strengths of the book is the variety of sites under scrutiny. The author is not out to lay blame on evil-doers; but he literally exposes what life is like in these areas.

The diversity of habitats gives us a view of how the people live – except in one area, but a little about this later.
Nov 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
a really good idea here, visit very polluted places on earth "as a tourist" but do your research so you can write intelligently about cause and affect and local cultures but also write in the ironical hipsterism style to try and be "funny" while having an overall tone of "wide-eyed american innocence" so that.....what? can claim you are just a wide eyed innocent when it comes to actually analyzing the places you visit? cause that's what the author does, he cops out, a bunch.
he visits: Cher
Sep 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Visit Sunny Chernobyl and Other Adventures in the World’s Most Polluted Places by Andrew Blackwell had an instant appeal for me. I love travel books, I did my Peace Corps service in tiny Moldova (a close neighbor to the Ukraine which took a giant hit of the Chernobyl radiation due to the winds that day) so I appreciate off-beat places, and like many people I desperately want to find out more about pollution around the globe, how it affects my family and how it can be reduced. Sunny Chernobyl met ...more
Aug 03, 2012 rated it liked it
I was 3/4 of the way through this book when I heard the author being interviewed on satellite radio. I have more appreciation for the book after hearing the interview. Isn't that interesting when that happens? One of my problems was that I wanted MORE information about these places. But, as the author points out, there is just so much we don't know about the lasting effects of things like Chernobyl. Scientists can't even agree on how many people died when Chernobyl blew up-the estimates are wild ...more
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
An eye-opening book. Disguised as a travelogue, the book is really a window to the places humans are polluting the most. My favorite sections were the ones about Chernobyl and the one about the Pacific garbage patch which clarified a lot of questions I had about this larger-than-life accumulation of trash.
Jul 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I recommend this book to everyone who are planning to visit some of the world's most polluted sites and why not also for people who are not planning to visit this kind of sites because they are polluted. Whichever group you belong to, this book makes you, like Mr Phil Collins himself puts it, to "think twice".

Even though, none of the environmental problems were particularly new for me, and my suspicion is that they are not very new for many people, the very best thing in this book was the social
Linda Lipko
Nov 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Well written and entertaining, the author takes the reader with him to some of the largest wastelands in the world. The first chapter is the focus on Chernobyl. Finding a guide to take him to the center of the disaster, the reader cannot help but be upset by the lack of common sense of the engineers who were to blame for this largest radioactive disaster.

Using a sense of humor, what could be pedantic is rendered as fact in a serious, but not over dramatic style.
Sep 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Of course, the title grabbed me but this is a fascinating glimpse at ecotourism by someone with an interesting sense of humor. Andrew Blackwell visits Chernobyl (Ukraine), Northern Alberta (Canada), Port Arthur (Texas), the Pacific, the Amazon, China, and India to see for himself what human beings can do and what that means for the future.

p.5: "Of, fission. People make it sound so complicated, but any chump can get the basics."
p.7: "If journalism can teach us anything, it's that local people are
Oct 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
I finished Visit Sunny Chernobyl today. (And I made my computer guru kid read the section on China where they break-down/recycle electronic components.) It's a thought-provoking book. Blackwell visits & describes the places & people there, but leaves you to draw many of your own conclusions. I typically enjoy travel memoirs, and this book is no exception. It brought me to corners of the globe where I've never been (and most likely will never go); I like & respect that Blackwell visits the places ...more
Eric B. Kennedy
Visit Sunny Chernobyl is a rather anecdotal travelogue from Andrew Blackwell, chronicling his journey to a variety of different 'most polluted places.' The trips take him from the oil sands of Northern Alberta to the polluted rivers of India, encountering not just the soiled landscapes but the people who live within them. Yet, it's also quite a personal narrative, leaning heavily on his idiosyncratic interactions with locals and his evolving personal love life, rather than any sort of systematic ...more
Cassie Sands
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Part travel, part science, part autobiography-I loved this book! This was one of the most enjoyable, informative, and unique books I have read in awhile. The author embarks upon a quest to visit the most polluted places in the world. And...he does. Along the way he lives and learns and seems to form a shifting understanding of how we discuss human beings' place in nature. Blackwell has an infectious curiosity and a self deprecating sense of humor that I found quite charming and compelling. I lea ...more
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book started off really interesting, but near the ending it lacked. It was still a good read, but I was more capable of putting it down without wondering what was going to happen next. However, I did enjoy the authors way of writing, and all the running jokes he included, like how he referred to things as the size of Texas and the people screaming AUGHHHH!

I really wish I could say more about it, but nothing really comes to mind. It wasn't enjoyable, more okay. I stopped reading it completel
Kelley Goewey
Jul 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
I only read the section on Chernobyl, but it was excellent.
Jennifer Vu
Dec 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
“Visit Sunny Chernobyl” by Andrew Blackwell tells the story of himself, a tourist who wants to travel the most polluted place on Earth. The book is set in Kanpur, India, where it was named the worst and most polluted city in India by its own government. Not wanting to go to a beautiful place, like Paris, Italy, Spain, or Hawaii, Blackwell wants to experience a journey to the most polluted places, where he did not know he had found how others had lived and had a mysterious feeling he never had be ...more
Jan 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Not terribly deep as journalism goes, but an entertaining read with some worthwhile considerations about what constitutes nature in the Anthropocene. 3.5 stars.
Kevin Hogan
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Highly entertaining travelogue as Blackwell visits places that are polluted (or otherwise environmentally damaged) in a variety of ways. It made me want to visit some of these places myself (...but not Linfen, China).
Shivanee Ramlochan
Excerpted from the full review:

"If Andrew Blackwell’s book were a boy you used to date, he’d be the cardigan-clad loner who’d nick your dad’s best weed and keep you up all night with hot, intellectual discourse. He’s not necessarily the one you want for homecoming, but God, how you’d like to travel the world in his post-anarchic company.

And travel the world you will, in Visit Sunny Chernobyl. Oh, the places you’ll go!

♦ Northern Alberta, to check out some oil sands mining;
♦ Port Arthur, Texas, wh
Aug 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Environmental tourism’s next great idea – visiting the most polluted places on the planet. Everyone’s love’s a top ten list – how about the 10 most polluted places? The author tours us through the exclusion zone of Chernobyl – which is rapidly becoming Europe’s largest wilderness zone without people, the tar sands region of Alberta which is an engineer’s wild fantasy of big machines, and there are even people who love Port Arthur Texas. He takes a voyage with a miss-guided group of environmental ...more
May 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ecology

"Visit Sunny Chernobyl," or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Polluted Planet

I'm a fan of both adventure travel writing and ecological nonfiction, and Visit Sunny Chernobyl is a solid, highly entertaining instance of both. Blackwell doesn't necessarily claim to be writing either, though -- he's just a tourist who wants to vacation in the world's most polluted places, and has written the missing travel guide for pollution tourism.

It's a brilliant conceit. But what makes the book succe
Feb 19, 2012 rated it really liked it

It sounds like a silly idea at first: visiting seven of the most polluted places on the planet and treating them as vacation spots. But from the moment he hits the ground in Chernobyl and as we follow him to Canada, Texas, the Pacific Garbage Patch, Brazil, China, and India, Blackwell is an engaging story teller, combining anecdotes with facts, philosophy, interesting observations about environmentalism and the environment, and his own personal journey.

It's also fascinating to take a guided tour
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Andrew Blackwell is a journalist and filmmaker living in New York City. He is a 2011 fellow in nonfiction literature from the New York Foundation for the Arts. Visit Sunny Chernobyl is his first book.

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“It is a turn of events that highlights a certain human arrogance about our destructive powers. It is only hubris to imagine that we can destroy nature, or the world. It is the mirror image of the industrialist's egotistical desire to exploit and control it. And it is true that we can kill off continents of forest and destroy species by the thousands, and even wreak climate change. But once we're gone, the rest of nature will rush on, as it has after so many other cataclysms, growing over and through and out of us. The apocalypse we can create is for ourselves and for our cousins, but not for life on Earth.” 4 likes
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