Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation” as Want to Read:
Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Read Book

Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  269 ratings  ·  38 reviews
The fascinating science and history of radiation.

More than ever before, radiation is a part of our modern daily lives. We own radiation-emitting phones, regularly get diagnostic x-rays, such as mammograms, and submit to full-body security scans at airports. We worry and debate about the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the safety of nuclear power plants. But how much d
Hardcover, 512 pages
Published February 23rd 2016 by Princeton University Press (first published February 22nd 2016)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Strange Glow, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Strange Glow

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.22  · 
Rating details
 ·  269 ratings  ·  38 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation
John Gribbin
Apr 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Adapted from a review I wrote for the Literary Review

I approached this book with low expectations. Ho hum, I thought. A book about radiation, written by a professor of radiation medicine. Probably some dull memoir by a retired old boy. How wrong I was. Strange Glow is a cracking good read, filled with fascinating stories about the people behind the science, and covering vastly more of that science than I anticipated, in an accessible style.

The first delight is that Timothy Jorgensen deals with r
Riley Culhane
Jan 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very rarely does one find a writer that can casually blend complex scientific theories and data with a canny ability to tell a story. I felt like I understood the book better because of my personal background in Chemistry but I found Jorgensen's writing style accessible and extremely fascinating. ...more
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-misc
"This book was not meant to be a classic; it was meant to be useful. I have, therefore, written it using straightforward language largely devoid of scientific jargon... [It] is the story of people's encounters with radiation, and of how mankind has been transformed by the experience. The story is, therefore, told with an emphasis on the human aspects, and it is told from a health-centric perspective." (from the Preface)

Timothy J. Jorgensen explains that radiation is often in the form of electrom
Sep 19, 2019 rated it liked it
The interesting parts were REALLY interesting. The dry parts were REALLY dry. At times I felt like I was reading a textbook the goal of which is keeping the interest of the 10th grade AP science class. I'm not sorry I read it, but I'm also still not quite sure if I liked it or not. ...more
Daniel R.
Oct 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mos
A fascinating mix of science and stories exploring the history and impact of radiation is all its forms. Some of the topics covered include the rapid adoption of x-rays in medical treatment, the unfortunate work consequences to the radium girls, the various health implications of radiation exposure, and how best to consider the implications of radiation exposure used in medicine. Throughout the history of radiation, making the best of a bad situation seems to be a recurring theme. The Life Span ...more
Mike Lawson
Feb 17, 2018 rated it liked it
It was on OK book. The beginning was very interesting, with a good history of the discoveries of radioactivity. What annoyed me was that too many paragraphs ended with questions, that would then be immediately answered. This just felt like lazy writing.
Susan Andrews
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I encountered the first explanation of "half life" that I could actually understand in this book. A really fascinating and offbeat account of the history of this weird subject. Full of strange facts like the consequences on the women workers of painting the faces for luminous watches. (quite gruesome unsurprisingly).
Also some pretty scary acounts of accidents involving nuclear material. I did not agree with everything he writes. My definition of "safe" may differ from his. Nonetheless, I really
Brian Richard
Jul 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. Won the book in a Goodreads giveaway, and was certain it would be dry, technical, and dull; science books tend in these directions. I was wrong. It was highly educative while also being quite entertaining, the key to presenting information to your average layman. I would recommend this book highly, as it is one of my ten best reads of the year thus far.
Meg Coulson
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I think I learned more about Chemistry and Biology from this book than I did in high school and college. The way Jorgensen ties in simple lessons about science into the historical narrative is both engaging and memorable. I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in learning more - especially if they have read Radium Girls or are planning to do so.
Jay Thompson
I found that there was a lot of interesting information tucked in the book however it felt as though I were reading a textbook. Full of repeated statements, reviews and recaps, and a ton of detail that seemed to be way off-topic. It's not a bad book, but one that you should read the first couple pages of a chapter, then scan the rest.

Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great book. I've read a fair bit about the Atomic Age, but reading this one cleared up a lot of the science I didn't understand. A readable mix of history and science that a layman can comprehend. ...more
Barb Flory
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely amazing book! Tough reading for all the chemistry and physics, but fascinating and highly informative. Everyone should read it.
K. F.
May 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When people think of radiation, they usually think of the nuclear kind, and the two big white elephants in the room - nuclear weapons and Chernobyl - usually dominate the topic. This book takes a look at radiation from a more biological/medical perspective and although our white elephants still get their fair share of attention, they are just part of a bigger story.

The story itself is truly fascinating in its details (Röntgen's discovery of x-rays saved a man's leg from amputation less than two
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"We must be skeptical of all new claims, not to be obstructive to progress, but rather because the offspring of skepticism is rigor. It is rigorous inquiry that purges us of our biases and makes it harder for others to deceive us, and for us to deceive ourselves. Going forward into our future with radiation, let us embrace skepticism and insist on rigor."

I loved this book. I loved the no-nonsense and factual presentation of the science behind radiation and the strong course of logic that it foll
Jerome A. Nast
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation
Wonderful book. This work is a very clear, concise and objective history of the discovery, use and dangers of the people and research that brought radioactivity into our lives. A non-alarmist coverage of a an alarming subject. He gives a balanced view of the genie that will never be returning to the lamp. The author's continual emphasis on risks vs benefits of nuclear energy is refreshingly different from the often anecdotal histrionic treatment covering this
C.A. Craven
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I won this book through a GoodReads giveaway, and I loved it!

Radiation is a fascinating subject, and this book presents it and its history in a very easy-to-read way. There's enough science for the really interested to feel they're learning something new, but no so much that a more casual reader to feel overwhelmed. The sections are laid out well, to discuss the different aspects of radiation in a clear way.

The only criticism I would have is formatting - there are notes in an appendix, which was
Feb 27, 2021 rated it liked it
I am a radiation physicist by trade, and I picked up this book for two reasons: as a potential recommendation for non-technical friends and family wishing to learn more about radiation and as a potential source for introductory radiation courses I may reach in the future. Overall, the book has anecdotal accounts of how radioactivity was first discovered, etc. that are interesting, but it also has several oversimplifications and outright errors such that I cannot recommend the complete book. For ...more
Dec 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Jorgensen is not only a talented scientist but also a great storyteller. Contrary to some reviewers, I did not find the book slow at any point. I appreciate how well he explained risk assessments and applied them to real-word nuclear mishaps. My main critique is that the last quarter of the book or so (more contemporary history) felt rushed. Contemporary For example, Chernobyl seemed to my dismay mostly glossed over. Overall still a great read regardless of how scientifically knowledgable you ar ...more
Craig Pearson
Jul 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads, reviewed
Won this book on a goodreads giveaway. I must have not given it enough of a chance but I cannot agree with most other reviewers. The book itself is factually accurate but for the most part a very dry read. Considering the subject matter it would take a very creative author to keep me interested and turning the pages. This book just did not do it for me.
Rayfes Mondal
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Long (512 page) book chronicling our history with radiation. Wide ranging well beyond just telling the stories relating to our discoveries to how radiation effects us and how it is used in so many ways. Ends with mishaps and geopolitical discussion. Also covered topics such as whether cell phones are safe (they are).
Britta Nova
Dec 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
A few less than enthralling bits, but all around good book IMHO. I like my science non-fic to read like a story book, and this one does a good job of that. Stick around for the ending. It's worthwhile. ...more
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was a long read for me, but I still loved it! The author did a wonderful job of putting everything simply enough to understand, while not avoiding difficult topics. It was very interesting.
Lucas Bradburn
Jun 18, 2019 rated it liked it
I feel like I better understand the history of the discovery of radiation and many of its dangers and benefits, but don't feel any wiser when it comes to the actual scientific explanations of what it actually is. Overall, interesting. ...more
Jan 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I found this either through my favorite murder or this podcast will kill you. I found this somewhat easy to read considering I'm not into science. I liked hearing about how radium was discovered, and how it was used. These are things we don't think about like how x Ray's were discovered. ...more
Nov 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: science, non-fiction
Radiation can do BAD things to people, but I also took the message that people are also surprisingly resilient to the stuff. Interesting read.
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Plus two more stars please.
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
A neat read. It did a good job of explaining everything in a simple way.
Ron Krajcik
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Interesting read. History of our discovery of and uses of radiation. Also some technical 'what is'. More in 'layman's' terminology. I found it fascinating. Will probably read it again. ...more
Jun 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Some startling brilliant parts of this book and other sections which were turgid and, dare I say, tedious.
Aug 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
A little technical at times, but not overwhelmingly so given the subject matter.
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Radiation: What It Is, What You Need to Know
  • Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster
  • Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber
  • The Family that Couldn't Sleep
  • Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex
  • Aztec Autumn (Aztec, #2)
  • How To Be a Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Tudor Life
  • Kick Back (Kate Brannigan, #2)
  • Bradshaw's Continental Railway Guide and General Handbook
  • The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking)
  • Bradshaw’s Handbook
  • The Complete Guide to High-End Audio
  • 1984
  • How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems
  • Quantum Entanglement
  • The Spanish Flu: A History from Beginning to End
  • Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre
  • Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World
See similar books…

Goodreads is hiring!

If you like books and love to build cool products, we may be looking for you.
Learn more »
Timothy J. Jorgensen is professor of Radiation Medicine, and director of the Health Physics and Radiation Protection Graduate Program, at Georgetown University in Washington DC. His scientific expertise is in radiation biology, cancer epidemiology, and public health. His research interests include the genetic determinants of cellular radiation resistance, and the genes that modify the risk of canc ...more

Related Articles

Happy Women's History Month! One of the undisputedly good things about modern scholarship is that women’s history is finally getting its due....
117 likes · 20 comments