Book Recommendations

last updated May 9, 2022

Adult Books 

Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich

A journalist by trade, who now suffers from an immune deficiency developed while researching this book, Alexievich presents personal accounts of what happened to the people of Belarus after the nuclear reactor accident in 1986, and the fear, anger, and uncertainty that they

still live with. This book includes “shocking accounts of life in a poisoned world.” What quintessentially human stories these are, as each distinct voice expresses anger, fear, ignorance, stoicism, valor, compassion, and love. Alexievich put her own health at risk to gather these invaluable frontline testimonies, which she has transmuted into a haunting and essential work of literature that one can only hope documents a never-to-be-repeated catastrophe. (e-book available at Hoopla)

My Chernobyl by Alexander A. Borovoi   

The devastating accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, occurred on April 26, 1986. On April 29, Alexander A. Borovoi, an atomic physicist with the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow, was ordered to Chernobyl to help measure and control the release of lethal radioactive materials. He stayed for twenty-three years. In My Chernobyl, first published in 1996, Borovoi writes of his first two years at Chernobyl, when the initial response to the catastrophe was, as a rule, heroic, but unfortunately not always effective. Although this book touches on technical aspects of dealing with the uncontrolled release of radioactivity from the damaged nuclear reactor, Borovoi tells stories – sometimes humorous, sometimes chilling – of people charged with different aspects of the cleanup, as well as some who were directly affected by the tragedy. Told in an engaging style, My Chernobyl is a personal and unforgettable story of an international crisis. Borovoi’s calm, levelheaded, and human responses to both the original meltdown and the problems created by ill-founded attempts to manage the disaster contain lessons for our world today, especially as new crises continually loom on the horizon (e-book available at Hoopla)

The Chernobyl Disaster by 50 Minutes        

Keen to learn but short on time? Learn the history of the Chernobyl disaster in next to no time with this concise guide of 39 pages. provides a clear and engaging analysis of the Chernobyl disaster. When a reactor exploded at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in April 1986, nobody could have known just how devastating the effects would be. Thousands of people died as a result of the catastrophe, and even today, the surrounding areas are considered uninhabitable. But what makes Chernobyl even more shocking is the mystery that clouds it. The government’s attempts to cover up the accident and the unknown long term-effects of radiation mean that the story of Chernobyl is far from finished.

In just 50 minutes you will:
– Learn what happened at the Chernobyl nuclear plant and why the reactor exploded
– Understand why the disaster had such catastrophic effects in Ukraine and the surrounding   

– Analyze the actions of the employees and the government and learn how they tried to hide

   the truth about the accident

(e-book available at Hoopla)

Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham

Early in the morning of April 26, 1986, Reactor Number Four of the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station exploded triggering history’s worst nuclear disaster. The disaster sent a radioactive cloud across the Soviet Union and Europe, triggered pandemonium and cover-ups, involved thousands of cleanup workers, and played out at a cost of $128 billion against the secrecy and paranoia of Soviet life at the time. In the thirty years since then, Chernobyl has become lodged in the collective nightmares of the world: 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 has written a harrowing and compelling narrative which brings the disaster to life through the eyes of the men and women who witnessed it firsthand. The result is a masterful nonfiction thriller and the definitive account of an event that changed history. It is a story that is more complex, more human, and more terrifying than the Soviet myth. Journalist Adam Higginbotham’s definitive, years-in-the-making account of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster is a powerful investigation into how propaganda, secrecy, and myth have obscured the true story of one of the twentieth century’s greatest disasters. Higginbotham writes a detailed account of the disaster and includes an extensive bibliography of secondary and primary sources. He masterfully re-creates the emotions, intrigue, denials, and disbelief of Communist Party officials, workers, engineers, and others at every stage (including politicians ignorant of nuclear physics, scientists “paralyzed by indecision,” doctors treating radiation sickness, and refugees shunned by fellow countrymen). Midnight in Chernobyl is an indelible portrait of one of the great disasters of the twentieth century, of human resilience and ingenuity, and 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. Written with authority, this superb book reads like a classic disaster story and reveals a Soviet empire on the brink. (e-book and e-audiobook available at eLibraryNJ)

Young Adult Books

Chernobyl Explosion: How a Deadly Nuclear Accident Frightened the World by Michael Burgan

This installment in the Captured History spinoff series examines the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear spill in the Ukraine and the photographic documentation of it. The chilling photos by Igor Kostin, Volodymyr Repik, and others shook the world when they were released. An engaging and thought-provoking discussion of the disaster’s scientific and historical impact is profusely illustrated with these archival images. (e-book available at Hoopla)

Chernobyl’s Wild Kingdom: Life in the Dead Zone by Rebecca L. Johnson

To the surprise of many, some wildlife flourishes in Chernobyl, Ukraine, more than 25 years after the explosion at the nuclear power plant there. After opening with a background chapter describing the 1986 disaster, evacuation, and cleanup efforts, Johnson goes on to describe scientific studies on the wildlife in the area from which humans have been excluded. The present-day Exclusion Zone is an area along the Ukraine-Belarus border about the size of South Carolina. Very few human residents have returned. Occasional visitors include scientists and journalists. But, other large mammals survive. The author includes a scientist’s photographs of a red fox and a moose. Observers have seen wild boar and stray dogs. A herd of Przewalski’s horses, captive-bred and released into this isolated area, seems to be flourishing. The author devotes chapters to radioactive bank voles, rodents that seem to have developed some resistance, and to barn swallows that, in contrast, display obvious abnormalities. Finally, she reminds readers that in 2011 the world experienced a similar nuclear meltdown, in Fukushima, Japan. Continued research on radiation effects is crucial. Still, life carries on. This clear presentation is supplemented with captioned photographs, explanatory boxes, and a helpful map. The appropriate background and clear, easy-to-understand explanations make this one-of-a-kind title both accessible and interesting. An important story clearly and engagingly told by an experienced science writer. (e-book available at Hoopla)

Springtime in Chernobyl by Emmanuel Lepage

As the world moved on, find out what happened to those left behind in this memoir of tragedy and death, people and land, and what comes after disaster.

April 26, 1986. The reactor core of the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl began to melt, setting into motion the greatest nuclear disaster of the twentieth century. While Europe slept, a cloud laden with radiation traveled thousands of miles in every direction, contaminating five million people who were unaware of its danger and unable to protect themselves. At the time, Emmanuel Lepage was 19 years old, watching and listening to the news reported on television. Twenty-two years later, in April 2008, a group of nuclear energy-adverse activists and artists visit Chernobyl to document the lives of survivors and their children living on the highly contaminated land. Sent to sketch brutal landscapes of disaster and the folly of man, Lepage is surprised at the unexpected beauty he encounters. Often wondering to himself: What am I doing here? (e-book available at Hoopla)

Children’s Books

The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman.  Recommended for Ages 8-12.

On a spring morning, neighbors Valentina Kaplan and Oksana Savchenko wake up to an angry red sky. A reactor at the nuclear power plant where their fathers work–Chernobyl–has exploded. Before they know it, the two girls, who’ve always been enemies, find themselves on a train bound for Leningrad to stay with Valentina’s estranged grandmother, Rita Grigorievna. In their new lives in Leningrad, they begin to learn what it means to trust another person. Oksana must face the lies her parents told her all her life. Valentina must keep her grandmother’s secret, one that could put all their lives in danger. And both of them discover something they’ve wished for: a best friend.  (Available through Axis360).

The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages.  Recommended for Ages 8-12. 

It is 1943, and 11-year-old Dewey Kerrigan is traveling west on a train to live with her scientist father—but no one, not her father nor the military guardians who accompany her, will tell her exactly where he is. When she reaches Los Alamos, New Mexico, she learns why: he’s working on a top secret government program. Over the next few years, Dewey gets to know eminent scientists, starts tinkering with her own mechanical projects, becomes friends with a budding artist who is as much of a misfit as she is—and, all the while, has no idea how the Manhattan Project is about to change the world.  (Available through eLibraryNJ).

Chernobyl by Nikole Brooks Bethea.  Recommended for Ages 8-12.

Readers will learn about the science behind the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster.  (Available through Hoopla).

Nuclear Energy by Robyn Hardyman. Recommended for Ages 10+.

Can nuclear energy be a clean, green, and safe way to power our lives? Discover the answer to this critical question and find out how sustainability is being achieved through science as the energy industry evolves in its quest to find solutions to our energy crisis. In this inspiring science book readers will find out why we burn fossil fuels, the harm it is causing, and why evolution in the nuclear industry could make it a powerful weapon in the fight to create a sustainable future. (Available through Hoopla).