Chernobyl

Listen to a sample

What to expect

Shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize

‘An insightful and important book, that often reads like a good thriller, and that exposes the danger of mixing powerful technology with irresponsible politics’ – Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens

‘As moving as it is painstakingly researched. . . a cracking read’ – Viv Groskop, Observer

The gripping story of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, from an acclaimed historian and writer

On the morning of 26 April 1986 Europe witnessed the worst nuclear disaster in history: the explosion of a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Soviet Ukraine. The outburst put the world on the brink of nuclear annihilation. In the end, less than five percent of the reactor’s fuel escaped, but that was enough to contaminate over half of Europe with radioactive fallout.

In Chernobyl, Serhii Plokhy recreates these events in all of their drama, telling the stories of the firefighters, scientists, engineers, workers, soldiers, and policemen who found themselves caught in a nuclear Armageddon and succeeded in doing the seemingly impossible: extinguishing the nuclear inferno and putting the reactor to sleep. While it is clear that the immediate cause of the accident was a turbine test gone wrong, Plokhy shows how the deeper roots of Chernobyl lay in the nature of the Soviet political system and the flaws of its nuclear industry. A little more than five years later, the Soviet Union would fall apart, destroyed from within by its unsustainable communist ideology and the dysfunctional managerial and economic systems laid bare in the wake of the disaster.

A poignant, fast paced account of the drama of heroes, perpetrators, and victims, Chernobyl is the definitive history of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.

Critics Review

  • An insightful and important book, that often reads like a good thriller, and that exposes the danger of mixing powerful technology with irresponsible politics

    Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens
  • The first comprehensive history of the Chernobyl disaster. . . here at last is the monumental history the disaster deserves

    The Times
  • A work of deep scholarship and powerful stroytelling. Plokhy is the master of the telling detail

    Sunday Times
  • This history reads like an academic thriller written by Malcolm Gladwell. Without losing any detail or nuance, Plokhy has a knack for making complicated things simple while still profound. As moving as it is painstakingly researched, this book is a tour de force and a cracking read

    Observer
  • A compelling history of the 1986 disaster and its aftermath. . . Plokhy’s well-paced narrative plunges the reader into the sweaty, nervous tension of the Chernobyl control room

    Guardian
  • Plokhy’s range, from scene-setting and character-sketching to hard science and political analysis, is near-Tolstoyan. His voice is humane and inflected with nostalgia

    Spectator

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up to get tailored content recommendations, product updates and info on new releases. Your data is your own: we commit to protect your data and respect your privacy.