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A New York Times Best Book of the Year
A Time Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of the Year
2020 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence Winner
From journalist Adam Higginbotham, the New York Times bestselling “account that reads almost like the script for a movie” (The Wall Street Journal)—a powerful investigation into Chernobyl and how propaganda, secrecy, and myth have obscured the true story of one of the history’s worst nuclear disasters.
Early in the morning of April 26, 1986, Reactor Number Four of the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station exploded, triggering one of the twentieth century’s greatest disasters. In the thirty years since then, Chernobyl has become lodged in the collective nightmares of the world: shorthand for the spectral horrors of radiation poisoning, for a dangerous technology slipping its leash, for ecological fragility, and for what can happen when a dishonest and careless state endangers its citizens and the entire world. But the real story of the accident, clouded from the beginning by secrecy, propaganda, and misinformation, has long remained in dispute.
Drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews conducted over the course of more than ten years, as well as letters, unpublished memoirs, and documents from recently-declassified archives, Adam Higginbotham brings the disaster to life through the eyes of the men and women who witnessed it firsthand. The result is a “riveting, deeply reported reconstruction” (Los Angeles Times) and a definitive account of an event that changed history: a story that is more complex, more human, and more terrifying than the Soviet myth.
“The most complete and compelling history yet” (The Christian Science Monitor), Higginbotham’s “superb, enthralling, and necessarily terrifying...extraordinary” (The New York Times) book is an indelible portrait of the lessons learned when mankind seeks to bend the natural world to his will—lessons which, in the face of climate change and other threats, remain not just vital but necessary.