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The Ukrainian town that became emblematic of humanity’s worst collective nightmares.

At 1.23am on Saturday 26 April 1986, an explosion and subsequent fire at the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station in Soviet Ukraine sent a cloud of radioactive smoke into the atmosphere. Days later, alarm bells rang as several Scandinavian countries reported abnormally high atmospheric radiation. Initially, Soviet officials denied there had been an accident at all. But in the months and years that followed, the catastrophic fallout from the event has been estimated at around 400 times the magnitude of the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Here are some books that bring the details of the world’s largest nuclear disaster into terrifying focus.

  • The definitive, dramatic untold story of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, based on original reporting and new archival research.

  • A dramatic, minute-by-minute account of one of the most shattering events of the Cold War, from an award-winning historian.

  • The devastating history of the Chernobyl disaster by Svetlana Alexievich, the winner of the Nobel prize in literature 2015

  • A chilling expose of the international effort to minimize the health and environmental consequences of nuclear radiation in the wake of Chernobyl.

  • In the spirit of Dr. Strangelove and The Atomic Café, a blackly sardonic people’s history of atomic blunders and near-misses revealing the hushed-up and forgotten episodes in which the great powers gambled with catastrophe

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