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

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4.43  ·  Rating details ·  12,779 ratings  ·  1,681 reviews
The definitive, dramatic untold story of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, based on original reporting and new archival research.

April 25, 1986, in Chernobyl, was a turning point in world history. The disaster not only changed the world’s perception of nuclear power and the science that spawned it, but also our understanding of the planet’s delicate ecology. With
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Hardcover, First Simon & Schuster hardover edition February 2019, 538 pages
Published February 12th 2019 by Simon & Schuster
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Stian I've read both now (finished Midnight yesterday), and while I liked both I prefer Higginbotham.
Part of the reason for this is the balance; I thought…more
I've read both now (finished Midnight yesterday), and while I liked both I prefer Higginbotham.
Part of the reason for this is the balance; I thought Plokhy spent too much space/time on Ukrainian intellectuals/writers reaction to the accident and too little on the cleanup and containment of the exclusion zone(barely covered by Plokhy). While I can see that the intellectual angle lead to political changes, and isn't unimportant, weighed up against the containment efforts...I think that warrants more attention on overall (I almost skipped the last parts of Plokhy's book).
And, Higginbotham has more extensive sources and bibliography (almost exhaustive). Also interesting, Higginbotham and Plokhy portray Chernobyl manager Bryukhanov quite differently IMO.
So, while I enjoyed both, if I would have to recommend one, I'd go for Higginbotham, which I found more balanced, ultimately more readable and better sourced.(less)

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Beata
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having read several books on this catastrophe, I was tempted yet again to learn more about the disaster which affected directly, among others, my country to a still unknown degree. The Midnight in Chernobyl is one of the best non-fiction that you can read in order to obtain the most insightful and detailed account into the reasons behind the explosion, but it offers more. The Author tells the story of the nuclear ambitions during the communist era in the USSR, describes the building process of ...more
Jenna
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jenna by: Kathleen
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Had you asked me a week ago what I know about Chernobyl I'd have been able to muster only one short phrase: "A nuclear accident in the former Soviet Union". I couldn't have told you anything more than that. When my friend Beata reviewed this book, I realised how ignorant I was on this topic. The review was enticing and I decided to read this book. How happy I am that I did!

Thank You Blowing Kisses GIF - ThankYou BlowingKisses Muah GIFs
Shout out to Beata!

Midnight in Chernobyl reads like an apocalyptic thriller; I did not want to put this book down! Wow!
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Beverly
Jan 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Surreal and demoralizing, Midnight in Chernobyl tells the true story of the worst nuclear accident in the history of the world. This statement by one of the officers from the Department of Internal Affairs of the former USSR sums it up. He wrote in the official log on that horrible morning, about six hours after the explosion, at 7:07 a.m., that" . . . The situation is normal. The radiation level is rising. "

These two opposing statements tell the story of a group of bureaucrats so invested in
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Nick T. Borrelli
The Chernobyl disaster is an event that has fascinated me over the past couple of decades. I was in my early teens when it actually happened and although I remember seeing the news stories about the disaster on TV, being an adolescent at the time with an adolescent's priorities, it didn't really register with me. As I've gotten older I have become more interested in reading about historical events that took place either before I was born or when I was too young to fully appreciate the ...more
mindful.librarian ☀️
Riveting, horrifying, absolutely STELLAR reporting. I have always been fascinated (in horror) at the Chernobyl disaster and this book was JUST what I needed to wrap my mind around it. The only criticism I can possibly think of is that I would have loved even MORE pictures but I was able to find tons on The Atlantic and Nat Geo and Time online to fulfill my need for visual confirmation. What I found even more fascinating about this account than the many articles I had read previously was the ...more
Melki
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
The worst nuclear disaster in history occurred April 26th, 1986 in northern Ukraine.

Chernobyl's deputy chief engineer for science was the first to call back. He calmly explained what he knew: Unit Four had been taken off-line for routine maintenance, and some kind of electrical tests were being carried out; exactly what, he couldn't say. During those tests, an accident had occurred.
But when asked about the progress of emergency cooling of the core - the vital work that would ensure Reactor
...more
Jackie
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways
I won this book as a giveaway for goodreads. Interesting book about the horrible events that unfolded almost 30 years ago. It gives you a look at why it was created, why the location, who were involved, what are atoms, Gemma and beta, and so forth. I do wish we got more information about the people made to leave and followed them more, but this book focused more on the administration which was still really interesting. Granted, I’m not 100 percent sure how accurate it is and how dramatic the ...more
Ken
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A expertly detailed and fascinating read of the nuclear power plant disaster in Chernobyl on the morning of 26th of April 1986.
I’ve always been interested in the disaster but it was the award winning HBO series that has led me to want to learn more.

Why this account makes for a perfect addition is the detailed backstory that Higginbotham introduces the reader, as he makes this incident even more tragic.
The city of Pripyat that was founded in 1970 to serve the nearby power plant sounded so
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Jill Hutchinson
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It could have easily become the end of the world as we know it.....a nuclear disaster which was not connected to war......a series of human error that continues to haunt. This is the harrowing account of the April, 1986 explosion at Reactor 4 of the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station in Chernobyl, Ukraine (then the USSR) which released unbelievable amounts of radiation into the atmosphere. The ever-secretive Soviet government attempted to keep news of this horror from becoming public even within ...more
ALLEN
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chris
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Midnight in Chernobyl is magnificent: a page-turner that is scary as hell, but a history that is meticulous and surprising. I read this after watching the spectacular HBO mini-series, Chernobyl, and it was the perfect companion read. I loved this book — every heart-stopping chapter and every well-chosen word.
Julie
Dec 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I knew bits and pieces about this but nothing prepared me for this in-depth coverage of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. Painstakingly researched and written in an engaging style, this was an enthralling and horrifying account of the disaster written through the eyes of the many people involved at all levels. Tears fell on many occasions. One instance that haunts me is when two men went to fix a broken pipe in contaminated water and used their bare hands as the gloves they were issued fit so ...more
Elizabeth
Jan 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Midnight in Chernobyl is a definitive and chilling account of the nuclear disaster that began on April 25-26, 1986 when the fourth nuclear reactor of the Chernobyl plant exploded, causing a nuclear disaster that the USSR tried to deny but had to reveal when the fallout spread into Europe.

If you remember Chernobyl, this book is definitely worth reading.

If the words Chernobyl or USSR seem like ancient history, Midnight in Chernobyl is definitely worth reading.

When Reactor #4 of the Chernobyl
...more
Marianna Neal
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
4.5 out of 5 stars

A very good, comprehensive look at the Chernobyl disaster. Higginbotham tries to cover it all—politics, people, science, even some of the international response. So, if you aren't too familiar with what happened—Midnight in Chernobyl is an excellent starting point. It's also written in a very engaging way and reads like a long work of journalism, which is a writing style that really worked for me.
Monika
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"For us, the war continues, and, little by little, we are slipping away from this world."
- Midnight in Chernobyl, Adam Higginbotham

'The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster', as the subtitle of the book reads, really interested me from a very long time. I have been meaning to read Svetlana Alexivich's work, Chernobyl Prayer: A Chronicle of the Future and Voices from Chernobyl but somehow, I couldn't get around to it. It was only when I started watching Chernobyl, which was
...more
Kathleen
Mar 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Everyone knows that Chernobyl was a horrible nuclear accident that poisoned the entire area around the reactor. So—what is to be learned in this latest recounting of the disaster? Plenty! Higginbotham’s excellent journalism reads like a true crime novel. And his human interest stories place a human face on the tragedy.

It all began innocently enough—just a routine safety check to simulate what would happen during an electrical blackout on April 25th, 1986. The senior engineer, Leonid Toptunov,
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Dax
Nov 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 3-stars
I can appreciate the effort that went into collecting sufficient research and organizing those documents into a coherent narrative. I can’t imagine that the USSR was transparent with its documentation of facts. For that, Higginbotham gets an A+. I am also a fan of Higginbotham’s efforts to illustrate the ramifications of the disaster beyond death toll and pollution. The Chernobyl disaster was, in a way, the straw that broke the camels back with regards to the USSR’s economic viability as well as ...more
Juli
Oct 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interest in the Chernobyl nuclear disaster has spiked since the award winning HBO mini-series aired. I watched the show and listened to HBO's accompanying podcast and several other podcast episodes on the accident and its aftermath. Several of the podcasts mentioned this book, so I secured a spot on the library's wait list for the audiobook. I'm glad I did! This book is excellent!

Higginbotham outlines the buildup of the soviet power grid and nuclear technology. Along the way there were
...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
The narration was a little dry, but this was otherwise a fascinating, in-depth account of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Arrogance, incompetence, and truly masterful levels of denial worked to create the nuclear meltdown. It that had far-reaching effects for the health of the people throughout Asia and Europe, as well as political consequences for the former USSR. Well-researches and written. I also liked that the focus was kept on the Soviet people and their perspective rather than trying to ...more
George
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book covers the events from the construction of the plant to the fall of the Soviet Union, but unlike Serhii Plokhy he does it from the perspective of the people who were actually close enough to absorb the radiation. Mostly he focused on the scientists, workers and liquidators, who had to deal with the clean up. He focused so much on these people that at the beginning of the book there was a list of characters, as if it was a play or something. I've never seen that done with a nonfiction ...more
Carolyn
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
The author has written an impressive, comprehensive book of historical importance. It brings to light events surrounding the Chernobyl catastrophe of 1986 which may be unknown to many in the Western world, and even to the Russian people. The author presents a crash course in nuclear physics and energy, simplified as much as possible. This may present difficulties for the average reader without some background knowledge. I thought the human factor surrounding the disaster to be interesting and ...more
Steven Z.
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
March 28, 1979 was an overcast day in Woodbridge, Va. when news arrived of a nuclear accident at Three Mile Island Unit 2 reactor near Middletown, Pa. Feeling totally in the dark when it came to information about the accident, my neighbors and I gathered outside our homes and immediately began testing to see which way the winds were blowing, and should we pack up and head in the opposite direction. Living about two and a half hours from the reactor which would eventually partially melt down, we ...more
Jimmy
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have long been fascinated with Russia. Russian dissenters have long been my heroes going all the way back to Alexander Solzhenitsyn up to Pussy Riot and Garry Kasparov. It feels like Russia has an inferiority complex. The government is always trying to look bigger and stronger than they really are. Thus the arms buildups, the Olympic obsession, the meddling. In the case of Chernobyl, it was the cover ups, the refusal to admit mistakes, the effort to make the reactor bigger than anything else ...more
Robert Sheard
Dec 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is without question my top nonfiction read of 2019. It handles an amazingly complicated subject and history, and a massive cast of Soviet names, and somehow keeps it all clear even for non-scientist reader. If you're too young to remember Chernobyl, read this (and watch the HBO miniseries). If you are old enough to remember Chernobyl (and perhaps even Three Mile Island), read this anyway. It's frightening, compelling, brilliant, and vital as we try to ward off climate change and turn to ...more
Mellie Antoinette
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Picture it, Sophia Petrillo style:

April 26, 1986
1:23:45 in the morning (though God knows why anyone was up to notice. Ma!)
Boom. Kablewey. You pick. Things burn.
51,300 comrades (Ma!) in their beds.

It was only a 2 minute flight from Reactor 4 to Pripyat. Maybe 10 minutes by car.
The radioactive dust took the car. MA!
Are you telling this story, Dorothy?

The explosion was mostly vertical, but the damage? The damage was horizontal, soaring on winded wings as far as Sweden and that’s when sh*t
...more
Radiantflux
72nd book for 2019.

Friends have told me lots of good things about the HBO series on Chernobyl, too bad that many of its details are inaccurate, and will become fact in many people's minds.

If, instead, you want to know the true story read Higginbotham's fine book, which does an excellent job of not only describing in a blow-by-blow fashion the disaster and it's aftermath, but places the disaster in the broader context of Soviet society and rule.

4-stars.
ElizabethAnne Olsen
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Just. Fucking. Fantastic. The descriptions of the destruction seemed so surreal like it was a fictional dystopian novel. So difficult to grasp the enormity of this as a real event. The horrific descriptions of ailments to the ones who suffered exposure was intense and necessary. Everyone should real this book. Everyone.
Alex Givant
Dec 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was 10 days shy of 16 when Chernobyl explosion happens, lived 150 km from it (in Zhitomir, 130 km west of Kiev) and knew nothing about it until our "fearless" leaders with pants full of shit cannot hold the truth from us anymore. On May 1st they told us to go to May parade and refusing was not an option - and who can refuse such festivity of happy Soviet people marching, saying thanks to our beautiful motherland same time as party leaders of all ranks evacuated their relatives to safe places. ...more
Jessica ☢ Spartan Ranger
"Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster" (A. Higginbotham), 2019: 5.0 Stars.

Senior Lieutenant Alexander Logachev loved radiation the way other men loved their wives. Tall and good-looking, twenty-six years old, with close-cropped dark hair and ice-blue eyes, Logachev had joined the Soviet army when he was still a boy. They had trained him well. The instructors from the military academy outside Moscow taught him with lethal poisons and unshielded
...more
Leftbanker
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I began this book out of desperation from the cliff-hanger of episode 2 of Chernobyl on HBO, one of the best TV dramas I’ve ever watched. Like the series, the pacing and tone of this account reads like the best of thrillers and I literally couldn’t put it down.

I’m old enough to have vivid recollections of the event as it was unfolding. My USAF unit stationed in Athens, Greece, received intelligence on the crisis well ahead of the local news. We knew that it was a nuclear accident well before
...more
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