In the last few days, Chernobyl has been a lot in the news. If you want to learn more about Chernobyl after watching the HBO miniseries, here are the best books about Chernobyl that you can read to prepare for a Chernobyl tour.
The Best Books about Chernobyl
All at once…
Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future by Kate Brown
Kate Brown, a historian, is trying to figure out how propaganda after the Chernobyl disaster can be compared to the real damage caused by the disaster and its aftermath. She looks at how the Soviet Union, post-Soviet Ukraine, and other countries tried to keep the world from knowing how bad the disaster and its aftermath were. She compares what happened in Japan in 2011 to what happened at Chernobyl. She says that some of the misinformation that came out of Chernobyl had an impact on how Fukushima was handled.
In this book, you’ll get a hard look at the disaster and its real effects if you want to see them for yourself. This book is based on Brown’s interviews and research into archives. They show us how the disaster and the world’s inability to deal with it left us open to repeat Chernobyl’s mistakes, so we don’t make the same mistakes again.
Chernobyl: Confessions of a Reporter by Igor Kostin
When the Chernobyl disaster happened, Igor Kostin was on the ground and took the first picture that could be proven to be real. He kept taking pictures and writing about this story for the next twenty years, exposing himself to a lot of radiation in the process.
It’s the first time Chernobyl: Confessions of a Reporter has been released. It includes photos of the disaster and his work from the next two decades, which he took after the disaster. Showing what it was like to be there in the days after an accident, but also what their lives and work looked like.
Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham
Using his reporting, Higginbotham comes up with the whole story about the Chernobyl disaster, which he breaks down into its history over time. He shows how it led to the breakup of the Soviet Union and how it made the world think of Soviet life as a kind of near-post-apocalyptic decay and abandonment.
If you want to know what happened before and after the disaster, he tells you. This is a way to tell the story that has been almost impossible until now. Besides, he shows how it fits into the bigger picture of Soviet life, which also had secret police and controlled travel and food shortages and breadlines, all in the shadow of a dying empire. This is what he says:
Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World’s Most Polluted Places by Andrew Blackwell
If you’re into dark tourism, urban exploration, or Red tourism, then you need to buy this book right now. In Visit Sunny Chernobyl, Blackwell almost came up with a new type of dark tourism: pollution tourism. He goes to some of the most polluted places on the planet, and tries to figure out how to love the planet even in the places where we’ve done the most damage.
Even though the book is a travelogue, it comes across as unpretentious and in love with the world even when things are bad. But he also takes us to places we might not be able to go on our own, giving us a new perspective on places that don’t usually make the travel brochure.
Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich
The best book about Chernobyl written by a Nobel Prize winner is this one. Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2015, because her “polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time,” earned her the prize.
If you want to read her books, they’re written as monologues based on interviews she’s done with people who have lived their lives. Her best work is in Voices from Chernobyl, where she exposes the dark forces that tried to hide the disaster and fights them with real voices from the people who lived through it.
All That Is Solid Melts into Air by Darragh McKeon
If you want to read a long, epic historical novel about Chernobyl, then All That Is Solid Melts into Air is the book for you.
It shows the last days of the Soviet Empire through the eyes of people who were affected by Chernobyl and the fall of the USSR. It connects the lives of people from Ukraine to Moscow.
Each character is part of the overall picture of the book, but each person has the dignity of being a full person in the world of the book. We learn about a lot of different people, voices, and stories, which all come together to look at one of the most important things that happened in the twentieth century.
Visiting Chernobyl by Bill Murray
if you want to go to Chernobyl, you need this travelogue from Murray’s trips there. People who live in Chernobyl today can help him learn about what happened at the time of the disaster and what happened in the USSR at the time. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to visit Ukraine. If you can’t make it there, this is almost as good as going there in person.
Chernobyl’s Wild Kingdom: Life in the Dead Zone by Rebecca L. Johnson
There have been rumors and full-length documentaries about how the wildlife in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone has come back to life. You might be interested in learning more about how this supposed dead zone has worked on itself.
Some plants and animals have been able to get back to normal even though humans haven’t done anything to help them. These plants and animals are still victims of the current levels of radiation. The Exclusion Zone: What will this mean for them, their health, and the long-term future of the Zone?
Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe by Serhii Plokhy
When Plokhy talks about Chernobyl’s aftermath, he talks about the people who risked their lives to stop the disaster while it was still going on. He also talks about the history of the Soviet nuclear industry, and how its flaws hampered the recovery efforts and cost people their lives, which he also talks about.
As Plokhy also points out, we have a modern nuclear industry that’s a little sloppy. When the next nuclear accident happens, we’re likely to make the same mistakes we did before.
Chernobyl 01:23:40: The Incredible True Story of the World’s Worst Nuclear Disaster by Andrew Leatherbarrow
It’s Leatherbarrow’s goal to paint a complete picture of the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster. He wants to get rid of both the coverup and the conflicting exaggerations that followed. He also talks about how he went to visit Pripyat and Chernobyl.
A single, easy-to-follow account of the whole disaster is a good place to start if you want to know what happened the morning of April 16, 1986, and how everything went so wrong after that.
A Short History of Nuclear Folly: Mad Scientists, Dithering Nazis, Lost Nukes, and Catastrophic Cover-ups by Rudolph Herzog
It’s a good book for people who are interested in nuclear science and want to know exactly how the world’s most powerful country has failed when it comes to nuclear safety. Herzog talks about nuclear accidents, blunders, near-misses, and forgotten disasters with a sense of humor. This is enough to make you want to hide under your desk and wait for everything to end.
In this book, you’ll learn if there were nuclear weapons that were meant to kill astronauts, if nuclear material was accidentally implanted in people, or if nuclear bombs were dropped by accident. Though the answers might keep you up at night. This is a good thing.
A History of Civilization in 50 Disasters by Gale Eaton
To get a dark but hopeful look at the Chernobyl disaster, check out A History of Civilization in 50 Disasters, which talks about 50 disasters.
If you want to know how it feels to live near disaster, Eaton talks about the world’s most devastating events and shows how they are linked and show why humans have been so clever. When Eaton talks about disasters that people know about, he gives them new ideas. He also talks about disasters that you haven’t heard of before. Eaton shows us that no one who is part of a civilization is ever far from another disaster.