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  • Published: 12 March 2019
  • ISBN: 9780241352076
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook

Manual for Survival

A Chernobyl Guide to the Future




'The most brilliant and essential book on Chernobyl since that of Nobel Prize-winner Svetlana Alexievich' Irish Times

The official death toll of the 1986 Chernobyl accident, 'the worst nuclear disaster in history', is only 54, and stories today commonly suggest that nature is thriving there. Yet award-winning historian Kate Brown uncovers a much more disturbing story, one in which radioactive isotopes caused hundreds of thousands of casualties, and the magnitude of the disaster has been actively suppressed.

For years after, Soviet scientists, bureaucrats and civilians were documenting staggering increases in birth defects, child mortality, cancers and other life-altering diseases. Worried that this evidence would blow the lid on the effects of radiation release from Cold War weapons-testing, scientists and diplomats from international organizations, including the UN, tried to bury or discredit it. Brown also encounters many everyday heroes, often women, who fought to bring attention to the ballooning human and ecological catastrophe, and adapt to life in a post-nuclear landscape, where the dangerous effects of radiation persist today.

Based on a decade of archival and on-the-ground research, Manual for Survival is a gripping historical detective story that brings to light the real consequences of Chernobyl - and the plot to cover them up.

  • Published: 12 March 2019
  • ISBN: 9780241352076
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook

About the author

Kate Brown

Kate lives in a flat in Oxford with her pet snail called Hercules. She really really likes comics. If Hercules could talk, he'd say he likes comics too. Kate's favourite types of stories are happy ones with sad endings, her favourite colours are red and blue, and her favourite food is MSG.

Kate was a Winner of a 2010 Arts Foundation Fellowship.

Praise for Manual for Survival

Manual For Survival is a remarkable book, distinguished by Kate Brown's rare combination of skills: formidable archival history, investigative research, and vivid storytelling. There are parts of this book that grip with the force of a thriller - but again and again, the plot is proved true. A decade's work has gone into uncovering the real human cost of Chernobyl. This is a book about even bigger subjects than the disaster at its core, however: about how politics processes disaster, about the unseen legacies of the 'friendly atom', and about the Anthropocene futures faced by the human species, surviving in an epoch of ruin.

Robert Macfarlane, author of The Lost Words

Kate Brown presents a convincing challenge to the official narrative of the Chernobyl disaster. Deeply reported and elegantly written, "Manual for Survival" is chilling.

Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

Combining the skills of a historian, investigative reporter, and detective Kate Brown has blown the lid off the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster and decades of official efforts to suppress its grim truths. Disturbing in its conclusions, destined to incite controversy, Manual for Survival is first-rate historical sleuthing.

J.R. McNeill, author of The Great Acceleration

This engagingly written book reads like a cold war thriller and uncovers the devastating effects of one of the world's worst nuclear disasters.

Alison MacFarlane, Director, Institute for International Science and Technology Policy, George Washington University

Gripping . . . Kate Brown's relentless, tenacious reporting shows that Chernobyl isn't the past at all. Nothing, she makes clear, can stop its radiation from seeping through all attempts to bury the truth, for a long time to come. This deftly written, impassioned, courageous book should make the world think twice about what's at stake when we unleash nuclear reactions.

Alan Weisman, author, The World Without Us and Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?

This deftly written, impassioned, courageous book should make the world think twice about what's at stake when we unleash nuclear reactions.

Alan Weisman, author, The World Without Us and Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?

Brown's page-turner skilfully weaves an original narrative on the long-term medical effects of the Chernobyl disaster... Her capacity to immerse herself and pick up on nuances brings these stories from factory workers, technicians, doctors and villagers alive.

Nature

Help[s] us comprehend, both emotionally and rationally, a disaster so great that future scholars will detect it thousands years from now, whether they have written accounts of it or not.

The Evening Standard

Exemplary ... Brown is an indomitable researcher

Luke Harding, Observer

An astonishing unconventional history.

The Times

A magisterial blend of historical research, investigative journalism and poetic reportage, Kate Brown sets out to uncover Chernobyl's true medical and environmental effects . . . an awe-inspiring journey.

The Economist

Full of passion . . . [an] admirable uncovering of the hidden story behind Chernobyl.

The Guardian

Kate Brown [...] shows that there are still many ways to tell this story, and that the lessons of Chernobyl remain unresolved ... Brown argues persuasively that [researchers] are grossly underestimating the scale of the damage.

Sophie Pinkman, The New York Review

This thrilling, frightening book tells the truth about the Chernobyl disaster . . . the most brilliant and essential book on Chernobyl since that of Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich.

The Irish Times

A troubling book, passionately written and deeply researched ... the book moves from science to thriller and realm of conspiracy... there is no doubt about Brown's gift for vivid narrative. Her conclusion is chilling.

The Sunday Times

A magnificent monograph that stands out among the multiple books on Chernobyl simply because it tells us the truth - the whole unadulterated truth - about one of the worst disasters in history. As such, it may itself be regarded as a survival manual of sorts. And a guide to the future, too.

Engineering and Technology

Vital work, making a convincing case for the catastrophic long-term medical and ecological effects of the disaster

Tobie Mathew, Literary Review

A humane book about the irreversible things a technological disaster does to people and landscapes.

Owen Hatherley, New Statesman, 'Best Books of 2019'

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