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Kate Brown's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Kate Brown recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Kate Brown's favorite book recommendations of all time.

Lessons from the massive Chernobyl nuclear accident about how we deal with modern hazards that are largely imperceptible.

Before Fukushima, the most notorious large-scale nuclear accident the world had seen was Chernobyl in 1986. The fallout from Chernobyl covered vast areas in the Northern Hemisphere, especially in Europe. Belarus, at the time a Soviet republic, suffered heavily: nearly a quarter of its territory was covered with long-lasting radionuclides. Yet the damage from the massive fallout was largely imperceptible; contaminated communities looked exactly like...
Recommended by Kate Brown, and 1 others.

Kate BrownShe talks about how Chernobyl disappears from the public eye; how it became a dangerous topic or one to bring up each year only at the anniversary. She writes about how this new invisibility turns to ignorance and how the consequences of Chernobyl have become an area of non-knowledge. The radiation effects dissolved into health problems of non-specific origins. That makes the problem become... (Source)

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Code-named the Manhattan Project, the detailed plans for developing an atomic bomb were impelled by urgency and shrouded in secrecy. This book tells the story of the project's three key sites: Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Hanford, Washington; and Los Alamos, New Mexico. less
Recommended by Kate Brown, and 1 others.

Kate BrownYou can tell that as one of the first researchers to work in these newly declassified records, that he was really angry, as an American citizen, about what the Manhattan Project legacy meant for the American landscape. That anger translates into really powerful prose. It’s really worth a read. (Source)

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An examination of how the technical choices, social hierarchies, economic structures, and political dynamics shaped the Soviet nuclear industry leading up to Chernobyl.

The Chernobyl disaster has been variously ascribed to human error, reactor design flaws, and industry mismanagement. Six former Chernobyl employees were convicted of criminal negligence; they defended themselves by pointing to reactor design issues. Other observers blamed the Soviet style of ideologically driven economic and industrial management. In Producing Power, Sonja Schmid draws on interviews...
Recommended by Kate Brown, and 1 others.

Kate BrownShe gives a biography of the development of nuclear power in the Soviet Union and shows the immense challenges involved in managing and sharing this expertise. She does a great job here of discussing in superb and easy-to-read technical detail what an RBMK reactor is, and why the Soviets chose this design among other possible variants. (Source)

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History of a Tragedy

On 26 April 1986 at 1.23am a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Soviet Ukraine exploded. While the authorities scrambled to understand what was occurring, workers, engineers, firefighters and those living in the area were abandoned to their fate. The blast put the world on the brink of nuclear annihilation, contaminating over half of Europe with radioactive fallout.

In Chernobyl, award-winning historian Serhii Plokhy draws on recently opened archives to recreate these events in all their drama, telling the stories of the scientists, workers, soldiers, and...
Recommended by Stephen Bush, Kate Brown, and 2 others.

Stephen BushIt’s just a really thrilling book, as well as being a really interesting history of that time. But the reason why I think it’s also a brilliant political book is fundamentally what Plokhii reveals in his writing, is that the failure of Chernobyl was fundamentally a failure of a political system, as well as a failure of a scientific system. (Source)

Kate BrownHe’s really good here at laying down the background of the disaster itself, the plant’s construction, the days leading up to it, the moments the accident occurred. He talks about the accident itself, the delay in informing the public, the censorship of news, the trial of the nuclear power plant operators who he thinks were treated as scapegoats, and the political outcomes of all this deception. (Source)

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Voices from Chernobyl

On April 26, 1986, the worst nuclear reactor accident in history occurred at the Chernobyl complex in Pripyat. English-language reportage on the incident has, so far, focused on facts, names, and data; Voices from Chernobyl presents first-hand accounts of what happened to the people of Belarus and the fear, anger, and uncertainty that they lived through. In order to give voice to their experiences, Svetlana Alexievich interviewed hundreds of people (firefighters, disaster-cleanup technicians, and innocent citizens alike) affected by the meltdown. She presents these interviews in monologue... more

Craig MazinThese are sources I found fascinating and useful. Not ALL of them, but a bunch. First up, obviously... Svetlana Alexievich's Voices From Chernobyl. Absolutely essential, and heartbreaking, reading. There's a reason Ms. Alexievich has a Nobel Prize. (Source)

Kate BrownIt’s a very beautiful work and I think it gives you the emotional landscape of how people dealt with their anxieties, fears, the health problems that ensued, and their growing sense of disillusionment with their political leaders and the Communist party. (Source)

Rebecca AltmanWhat follows events like Chernobyl is a politics of measurement. Who counts? What counts? Who does the counting? How are boundaries drawn for the purposes of counting and comparing? And what is discounted, or never counted at all? (Source)

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