Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: In Soviet Russia, things go boom!

Quick synopsis: An in-depth look at the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, Russia in 1986.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: Marie Curie and her husband discovered polonium and radium. Her notes on them are so radioactive they are still kept in lead boxes to this day.

Fun Fact for History Nerds: You want to see a very specific account of how screwed up Communist Russia was? Here you go!

My Take: Who would have thought a nuclear power plant would be so complicated?

Higginbotham has written a very fast paced and in-depth look at the Chernobyl disaster. It goes way behind what went wrong that night and instead details how years of Soviet cost cutting, compressed timelines, and bureaucracy made Chernobyl a matter of time and not the one-off disaster which was portrayed immediately after.

Higginbotham’s narrative jumps consistently but not unnecessarily. In a way, his need to list out all of these government players is the perfect illustration of just how endless the Soviet hierarchy could be. People drop in from nowhere with very vague powers to do some things but not others and no one is ever on the same page.

The author also doesn’t turn this into a book meant to skewer certain individuals. Obviously, some people are more at fault than others, but Higginbotham makes sure to lay blame evenly and identifies people who were scapegoats throughout the process.

This book is great and by far one of, if not the most, complete study of the disaster.

Verdict: Fantastic book which will probably be interesting even for non-history fans.

If You Liked This Try:

  • Laura MacDonald, Curse of the Narrows
  • Donnie Eichar, Dead Mountain
  • David McCullough, The Johnstown Flood
  • Ed O’Donnell, Ship Ablaze
  • Daniel Brown, Under a Flaming Sky
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Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham
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