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Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  1,502 ratings  ·  290 reviews
A powerful and unflinching account of the enduring impact of nuclear war, told through the stories of those who survived.

On August 9, 1945, three days after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the United States dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, a small port city on Japan’s southernmost island. An estimated 74,000 people died within the first five months, and another 7
Hardcover, 389 pages
Published July 28th 2015 by Viking
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But the city as she had known it no longer existed. All around, thick layers of splintered glass, metal dust, and twisted wire covered the ground, along with scorched corpses staring upward or facing down as though sleeping. Hundreds of men, women, and teenaged students who had climbed out of the factory rubble staggered across the grounds, half-naked, their blistered skin falling off their bodies; many held their arms stretched out in front of them - probably, one survivor guessed, to keep the ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Last year when I read A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding, I realized how little I knew about Nagasaki, particularly in the era of World War II. Most of the focus goes to Hiroshima, and then the second bomb gets mentioned in passing. As I prepare to lead a book club discussion on the novel, I wanted more background information. Enter this book!

I learned quite a bit about events leading up to August 9, 1945. I never knew that we firebombed so many cities in Japan, and that many of them had suffe
Lisa Vegan
The signature line of one of the atomic bomb survivors, who participated in educating youth about the bombing, whose life is one of the five main survivors’ lives followed in this account says a lot of what needs to be said: “The basis of peace is for people to understand the pain of others.”

With all the reading I thought I’d done I should have known the word hibakusha and its pronunciation but I didn’t. I do now.

This was not easy reading or particularly wise bedtime reading, but it was worth i
May 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
Won this book in a goodreads giveaway.

This is both a depressing and exhilarating read. Depressing for what really happened: the event itself, the horrific aftermath, the fact that so much was hidden or minimized for so many years. Exhilarating for the fact that the few who did survive were able to step forward with their stories, with data and facts, with photos and physical proof on the true consequences of nuclear weaponry.

The book is loaded with facts; it has been highly and well-researched.
Sharman Russell
Jul 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The author of this pretty amazing book, Susan Southard, spent twelve years in the researching and writing and was a student of mine in the MFA program at Antioch University in Los Angeles. Susan told me she started the MFA because she knew she needed more skills in order to write about Nagasaki. That seemed so focused and so smart. She and I actually worked together for about six months on another writing project of hers—which was also compelling and which I hope and expect to see in print somed ...more
Oct 18, 2018 marked it as to-read
“If you're thinking about 'aftermath' and the hibakusha, then this offers some insights on that. ” - my brand-new super-cool friend Mimi. Thank you Mimi! I was thinking about the first thing, and I plan to be interested in the second thing as soon as I figure out what it is.
Jun 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Not just the story of the bomb and its immediate aftermath, but what happened after. Southard follows six different survivors who were teenagers at the time of the bomb, through their terrible injuries and recoveries, and their lives as bomb survivors. Although there was a lot of stigma around this status as survivors, they became speakers and activists (some soon after, some not until they were quite old).

Interspersed with these personal stories is a larger narrative of the city and the moral
Chris Blocker
Jun 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War is a haunting account of the second atomic bomb to fall on a civilian populace. As the title implies, this book goes far beyond the events of August 9, 1945, though it is in the initial weeks and months after the bombing that the story of Nagasaki is most gripping. Southard has clearly devoted significant time and energy researching the bombing, but she does an admirable job keeping her personal feelings from clouding her narrative.

A book that removes the layers
Dec 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wwii
Mothers and fathers searched for their children at schools, factories, and shelters throughout the area, but facial burns and swelling rendered people so unrecognizable that many parents could only identify their sons or daughters by reading the ID tags on their school uniforms. Fortunate families were overwhelmed with gratitude when a loved one returned. When one mother burst out shouting and crying with happiness when her daughter finally came home, a military policeman rebuked her loudly: “Su ...more
Katie/Doing Dewey
Jul 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Summary: This was a difficult book to read, but incredibly well written and worthwhile.

I hoped to write a review of this book on August 9th, the 70th anniversary of the day an atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki. Unfortunately, life interfered, but this horrific event still deserves to be remembered today. Drawing on extensive interviews, the author is able to share the stories of five survivors, from the time of the bombing through the present. She also places their personal stories
Aug 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
The remaining survivors of the nuclear bomb attacks at Hiroshima and Nagasaki are dwindling. The author has done a very good job of weaving the history of the attack at Nagasaki with the stories of five survivors. Although the subject is difficult and sad, I think it's important that we don't forget what happened there and why. The historical record after 70 years is showing that the bombs were used with little understanding of the devastation they would cause, and that the usual U.S. defense of ...more
Sep 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War was an incredibly engaging read. Utterly heart-wrenching, filled to the brim with facts and information which is never included or talked about in the American education system. There's a profound amount of ignorance among the American population about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which Southard addresses later in her work. If it is mentioned, it's only to say that the bombing of those two cities ended World War II, saving hundreds of thousands of lives ...more
Sean Blake
This is a harrowing and emotional journey into the lives of Nagasaki atomic bomb victims (hibakusha). Susan Southard details the terrifying moment the nuclear bomb exploded over the city, its immediate aftermath and the long term repercussions of the attacks.
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Books like Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War are why I read non-fiction: throughly researched cohesive narratives giving perspectives into lives or experiences of others that would otherwise be inaccessible to me.

In Nagasaki, Southard presents the story of the atomic bomb which hit the city in August 1945, as told from the experience of 5 locals who were children or teenagers at the time. There is some pre-amble giving context about the war which was helpful if, like me, it has been years since y
Aletha Pagett
Jul 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Whether the politics are right or wrong, the devastation of war falls most frequently on those who are just living their lives, raising their families and worshiping their God. This book, received through Goodreads, was a nuclear bomb of words, thought provoking and emotion searing.
Jenn Ravey
Jul 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
*I requested this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

In her preface to Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, Susan Southard talks about living in Yokohama in high school as an international student. On a school trip, her class visited Nagasaki, and only there did she realize the lack of knowledge she had about this city's role in World War II.

As I mentioned in my Pacific War reading post, I felt (and feel) the same way. Southard - and others who write on this top
My copy of this book is published by Souvenir Press with this cover from -

Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear War by Susan Southard is an amazing, heart-wrenching book.

The facts are horrendous – on August 9th 1945, two days after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, a five-ton plutonium bomb was dropped on the small coastal town of Nagasaki. The effects were cataclysmic.

This must be one of the most devastatingly sad and depressing books I’ve read and ye
May 08, 2016 rated it it was ok
Southard here mostly focuses on the experiences of five residents of Nagasaki, tracing their experiences both in the immediate aftermath of the bombing and for the decades thereafter. The five are not a random sample by any means: they are all activists with long history of speaking out about their experiences (in contrast to the more common silence for fear of negative reaction; the selection means that thinking and dealing with the bomb may have dominated these victims' daily lives even more t ...more
“Do-oh died on March 14, 2007, just as the buds of her beloved drooping cherry trees behind her house were ready to burst. Having surpassed by two years her goal to live until seventy-five, she had, by her own measure, defeated the atomic bomb. "What I mean is - I mean, they dropped the bombs thinking everyone will die, right? But not everyone was killed. I think it takes great emotional strength and force of will to triumph over nuclear weapons.”
― Susan Southard

This book will haunt me for the
Aug 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an absolutely brilliant work. If you're going to read just one nonfiction book this year, let this one be the one.
I thought I was pretty well-read on the subject of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but I learned so much from this book. The writing flows beautifully, and the research is incredibly detailed and thorough. Kudos to the author!

Of course this is a hard book to read emotionally. Though it reads very smoothly and logically, you have to put it down and walk away at times. But that is just
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is difficult for me to write reviews on books such as Nagasaki because I have a hard time putting into words the way they make me feel. Before reading this book and studying the topic further, I was guilty of holding the same belief the US hoped its citizens would carry to justify use of the atomic bomb - that the bomb ultimately ended the war and saved millions of American lives. I no longer feel this is the case. While the issue is multilayered and complicated in ways I can never fully unde ...more
Aug 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
An incredibly intimate portrayal of five survivors of the Nagasaki bombing that traces their lives from their childhood in a militaristic, wartime Japan, to the atomic bombing and immediate aftermath, post-war experiences of recovery, consequences of full-body radiation exposure, and activism as hibakusha speakers, unwilling to let the past fade and repeat itself, interspersed with the larger war-time context of Japanese and American politics of the narrative of necessity of the atomic bomb and ...more
Jun 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Emotionally difficult to read, yet a testimony unlike any I have read. Outstandingly researched and a learning experience,everyone should have. What happened in Nagasaki should never happen again.
Louis C Smith
Nov 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
a book everyone should read
Sep 28, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars!

“Death from high-dose radiation exposure is “without undue suffering” and “a very pleasant way to die.””

So said General Groves as he testified before the US Senate.

“I didn’t do anything.” So said one of the young boy victims to a friend, before breathing his last breath and dying of his horrendous injuries.

Southard makes a very good point in saying that when most people talk about the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan in 1945 that Hiroshima seems to take up the vast amount of conversatio
One of the critical (and difficult) questions to ask is how we as Americans defined then—and define now—just action, the cost of victory, and our criteria for committing to and accepting the mass killing or wounding of civilians of a nation we consider our enemy.

[...] In answering queries about the necessity of the bombings, I redirect people to the stories of those who experienced them, without which discussions of the military, moral, and existential questions about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Oct 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those rare books that has so much for a reader to contemplate and reflect about what happened August 9, 1945 to some young people who lived through the 2nd atomic bomb. These young Japanese youth suffered greatly and as adults became hibakusha that spoke about their lives through the Nagasaki Foundation for the Promotion of Peace.

The author does an excellent rendering of the days before August 9, the flashpoint day and aftermath. Their are excellent graphics and pictures that help
This book is a must-read. I learned an incredible amount about the effects of the nuclear bomb in Nagasaki, in both the short-term and over the decades that followed. The author focused especially on the experiences of 5 survivors who were teens at the time of the bombing, did their best to pull their lives together as much as possible afterward (while coping with severe injuries and the loss of family members and their community), and who later went on to become activists against nuclear prolif ...more
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Either this book will be the best book I read in 2017, or it will be in the top three. I was captivated from the first page. Considering the subject matter, this could have gone either way. It easily could have became textbook monotonous, but it did not. History blends seamlessly with the personal accounts from survivors. Pictures are included on the pages and there easily could have been more. I'll certainly keep an eye out for this author.
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, books-i-own
Stunning and horrific. If the claim that the atomic bomb was necessary and peaceful has ever made you raise your eyebrows, pick up this book. This book addresses what you'll never see covered in history class.
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  Tami Charles is a former teacher and the author of picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, and nonfiction. As a teacher, she made...
23 likes · 36 comments
“The basis of peace is for people to understand the pain of others.” 6 likes
“Like everyone else in Nagasaki that day, Yoshida’s immediate survival and degree of injury from burns and radiation depended entirely on his exact location, the direction he was facing in relation to the bomb, what he was wearing, and what buildings, walls, trees, or even rocks stood between him and the speeding force of the bomb’s titanic power.” 1 likes
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