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Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  609 ratings  ·  102 reviews
A chilling exposé of the international effort to minimize the health and environmental consequences of nuclear radiation in the wake of Chernobyl.

Dear Comrades! Since the accident at the Chernobyl power plant, there has been a detailed analysis of the radioactivity of the food and territory of your population point. The results show that living and working in your village
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published March 12th 2019 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Will Byrnes
Chernobyl was not a single event but was instead a point on a continuum; the radioactive contamination of Polesia lasted more than three decades. Chernobyl territory was already saturated with radioactive isotopes from atomic bomb tests before architects drew up plans for the nuclear power plant. And, after Chernobyl as before Chernobyl, the drumbeat of nuclear accidents continued at two dozen other Ukrainian nuclear power installations and missile sites. Sixty-six nuclear accidents occurred
Godzilla vs Marie Curie

"The system of collecting medical data was interconnected with the political system" (p.164) says ex soviet epidemiologist

Silly introduction
Reading, I was reminded of Dirk Gently’s holistic detective agency, firstly because of the electric monk which the aliens send out to inspect their spaceship because they don’t want to know the truth they want reassurance, and the software sold to the US military which provides a justification and a rationale for what ever action you h
Another amazing, well written and interesting book from Kate Brown. I have to say I am biased, I think her work is amazing. The depth of research and scope of topic is incredible, but she manages to keep the book easy enough for anyone to read and understand. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in Chernobyl and world politics. Or just anyone.
Mar 17, 2019 rated it did not like it
.I'm a fan of nuclear power. I started reading this book to gain a convincing argument against nuclear power. I don't think this is a good book for that. At each stage Kate uses flowery language to invoke fear in the reader and doesn't provide a convincing argument about why I should be afraid of nuclear power. She clearly did the work to back up her claims, having done exhaustive work to collect the information about what actually happened, but having read the book I don't draw the same conclus ...more
Damian Sowa
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book, very well researched, and written like a narrative instead of a non-fiction fact-pile. It is truly astonishing, however, at the international involvement in keeping the Chernobyl disaster under cover, and in covering up the true extent of the disaster & human impact.

We all live in "patriarchal" societies, and having done so rely on our governments to implement safeguards on our technology, and to protect us when they have access to life-threatening information. The governments of
Brian D.
May 02, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Revising my review after reading many contravening takes on this event.

A well-written book, perhaps, but even while reading I thought it seemed a bit improbable; as if the author was heavily aligning the facts to support a forgone conclusion.

The idea that bureuacratic scientists would suppress data to avoid government payouts to citizens affected by weapons testing is just plausible enough to hook you, but the story does not hold up to critical examination. Why would so many agree to cover this
Mar 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an exhaustively researched work, which attempts to get to the truth of the health effects of the Chernobyl disaster of 1986. Brown’s writing is engaging despite the sometimes dry subject matter. This book is as much an indictment of the international scientific community as it is of the Russian government’s handling of the accident.
Peter Tkačenko
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Welly well, you will come to learn a lot about emergency management, thanks to scrupulous study in archives you will become somewhat skilled in recognising radionuclides and radioactivity levels and their dangers, but for me, this book is about Soviet Union itself in the first place. For better or worse (usually rather worse), that was a truly fascinating country. Equally huge, monstrous, powerful, yet fragile, deeply cynical and at the same time able of great humanist feats.
Seth Austin
Jul 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Access: Chatswood Public Library

The clear triumph of Kate Brown’s Manual for Survival is her exhaustive parsing of classified archives, in order to distil the nuances of a deeply misrepresented industrial disaster. The approach taken to the subject matter is a no-holds-barred exegesis of political malfeasance, while also making a devoted effort to lift the fog over the correlative (even causal) effects of the disaster. Her delivery of the decidedly dry literature is presented with a clear urgenc
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An amazing book a great sequel to Voices From Chernobyl and the recent HBO docudrama. Nonfiction that reads like fiction
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recently I read "Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe" by Ukrainian historian Serhii Plokhy, published in 2018. See That book was to a great extent a blow-by-blow account of what happened before, during, and after the Chernobyl reactor explosion.

This book is much less about what happened in a descriptive sense and more about the meaning or significance of what happened for our collective future - what can be learned from this ex
Isaac R. Fellman
Jun 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
A staggering depth of archival research underlies Brown’s political and bureaucratic history of Chernobyl’s aftermath.
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am so lucky to have won this book in Goodreads giveaway!
First of all, let me say that Kate Brown deserves ten stars just for the research she had to do to write this book. It was monumental! This is what I most appreciated about it: author did not just draw assumptions and jumpy to conclusions about the topic from the information about Chernobyl we have now. Instead, she conducted thorough research combing through many archives and interviewing countless people, traveling through Belarus and U
Oct 03, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Didn't finish. Good but tells the same story over and over, this was affected that was affected, OK I get it. ...more
K De
May 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Kate Brown writes with authority about the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. She covers the health effects of nuclides spewed out by the explosion of reactor number four which covered thousands of square kilometers of Soviet Republics and Europe. The rise in cancer rates of the youth of Belarus and Ukraine are detailed. She delves into the response of states, national and international governmental and NGO responses. What is shocking is to read how all of the relevant agencies worked ...more
May 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is well written and easy to read, despite the scientific and sociological depth of the material. My dad was born in the Pinsk marshes of southern Belarus. He left in 1942, in the midst of WWII. My family never knew the family that he left behind in Volka. It is so sad to read this book and realize that they must have had/continue to have a very hard life along the marshes since the Chernobyl accident. It's inconceivable that such an idyllic and old fashioned life style, so connected wi ...more
Sandra Burns
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this, a bit at a time. What was done to those people was criminal. Saying their food and water were safe,after the accident.
As stated, I could only read a bit at a time. Was so angry!
She did a ton of research on this.
I had gone to a high hilly area, by 3 MIle Island, several months after the accident there. It glowed at night.
Rachel Paster
Apr 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book picks up where Midnight in Chernobyl left off. It is horrifying. If it's even half true, hundreds of thousands of people have suffered and died from radiation poisoning in the Chernobyl zone, and there is no real comprehensive international study of Chernobyl (or any other nuclear disaster, probably). Completely engrossing but just... horrifying. ...more
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I won a copy of "Manual For Survival" on Goodreads First Reads. This book is amazing. There was so much information about Chernobyl and the people of the area. It was fascinating, scary and a must read for everyone interested in our world. ...more
Gemma Williams
Dec 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
This fascinating and often chilling book considers the legacy of the Chernobyl disaster, the cover ups and obfuscation surrounding it which have led to massive underestimation of the impacts and the widespread false view that nature is thriving now in the Zone of Alienation, and the admirable courage and persistence of a few individuals who tried to discover the truth and make it known. I was especially interested to read about the effects of Western scientists' negative preconceptions about Sov ...more
Apr 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
One of the most disturbing books I’ve read in awhile, about the total failure of a totalitarian government to protect its citizens during one of the worst public health and climactic crises in history. Cover-ups, blatant lies, propaganda, threats against dissenters ... all while people, animals, and the environment are dying. Chilling echoes of present day tactics by US government “leadership” during the current pandemic. Well written and impeccably researched, this is an impressive piece of inv ...more
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I received an ARC through Goodreads Giveaways, put off reading it for way too long, and then tore through this in a matter of days.

Beautifully written, chilling, and timely (especially if you’ve been watching a certain HBO show) but spoiler alert: this book isn’t really about Chernobyl. Or rather, it isn’t about Chernobyl as a disastrous accident that we’ve now learned from & moved on from. It’s about Chernobyl as one point on a continuum of ways that nuclear power affects human bodies, environm
Terralyn Brown Barfield
5 ✨ Stars

“A nuclear accident anywhere in the world is everywhere in the world.” Dr. Robert Gale. Pg. 247

This is the story of the global governmental coverup of the damage caused by chronic, repeated exposure to ‘low’ doses of radiation. Doses considered (politically) to be ‘acceptable’ based on the 5 year delayed (flawed) study of the 2 single, 100 second exposures experienced in Japan at Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII. Apples and oranges. The Chernobyl ‘accident’ contamination and ongoing h
Aug 03, 2019 rated it liked it
My main issue with this book is that the title is a bit of a misnomer. The book looks almost entirely into the past, as a historical reflection. It spends little time actually focusing on best deal with a Chernobyl-type disaster (though I think that part of the title is merely a device), but the subtitle is wholly inaccurate, given the themes dominating the book -- that is, of telling the story of how people were impacted.
Chris Melville
Apr 04, 2019 rated it did not like it
This book's thesis is that the government bodies, international health institutions, and the broader scientific community have conspired to cover-up the damage caused by Chernobyl. Dismissing expert opinion and consensus is the hallmark of conspiratorial thinking. It is okay to have contrarian interpretations of events and their impacts, but you are unlikely to be right. In this case, dismissing the literature and expert opinion looks more like academic misconduct for self-promotion and profit. ...more
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, ussr, ukraine
Not much in this book surprised me because we somehow knew that whatever the official discourse was could not be true. Great look at how so many people decided to do whatever they could to stop information of the consequences of Chernobyl from spreading and actually helping people.

My only gripe with this book is one passage where the author seems to misunderstand the conflict in Donbas and states that it's a civil war.
Dec 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I gave this book 5 stars because I think it’s a significant book that should be read.

Like “Silent Spring” and “Our Stolen Future” this book addresses large-scale environmental toxins that have affected us all. In this case, the effects of radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear fiasco. Kate Brown meticulously researches and documents the radiation exposure to humans and their food supplies from Chernobyl. I came away with a feeling that I actually understood how and why dangerously high amounts of
May 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Kate Brown has unearthed all sorts of forgotten bits of Chernobyl's history-- from Soviet efforts to manipulate the weather, to the wool factory workers forced to deal with the carcasses of radioactive sheep, to blueberries with trace radioactivity sold in the EU today. This is a fascinating book (the first half in particular-- my attention wandered at the end-- but actually, I think some of her more controversial claims may be in the second half of the book), and it had the unexpected effect of ...more
Unfortunately, not really a guide to the future. This is very much a civil history of the Chernobyl disaster, which was fascinating in and of itself, but doesn't seem to illustrate that any lessons were learned or offer any real advice for what civilization should do going forward. Seeing the complicity of different governments to cover up the true effects of the disaster was striking and disturbing, and of course so was the hinting that the same thing was down following the Fukoshima disaster i ...more
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not an easy book to read, it documents the Chernobyl disaster and its after effects mainly in the old Soviet Union. There is a lot of information about how the leadership in the USSR covered up the disaster and failed to protect the population, but is leavened with evidence that the other nuclear powers did the same with fallout from bomb testing when that was progressing. I hope this isn't our future-- but sad to say, while it might not be nuclear poisoning, we are sure doing the job with chemi ...more
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Kate Brown is a Professor of History at University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), and a 2009 Guggenheim Fellow. She is the author of A Biography of No Place, which won the American Historical Association’s International European History Prize for Best Book.

Brown received her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and her Ph.D. from the University of Washington, Seattle.

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Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” So, this January, as we celebrate Martin Luther King...
43 likes · 16 comments
“In the transcripts, he described how the accident took place because of a “routine safety test.” Because the test put the reactor in a highly unstable state, Anatoly Diatlov, the second chief engineer at the plant, told two operators (both would die a few weeks later in Hospital No. 6) to turn off the reactor’s alarm system. They did and then proceeded to manually slow down the reactor to see if the turbines would generate electricity with the reactor coasting to a stop. Once they finished the test, Diatlov gave the order to activate the SCRAM button for a complete shutdown. Five seconds later the reactor blew.” 0 likes
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