Non-Fiction Reviews

Midnight in Chernobyl | Book Review

Author: Adam Higginbotham

Genre: Non-Fiction

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐🌟/5

Trigger Warnings: death of loved ones, body burning


To anyone who isn’t familiar with the Chernobyl incident, this book would serve as a strong introduction. It is all about how the Party invests in building a nuclear power plant in the city of Pripyat. But due to negligence, operational issues and technical defects, one of the reactors explodes at midnight which leads to a bigger catastrophe that affects the country and the neighboring countries as well.

The disaster not only changed the world’s perception of nuclear power and the science that spawned it, but also our understanding of the planet’s delicate ecology. Chernobyl was also a key event in the destruction of the Soviet Union, and, with it, the United States’ victory in the Cold War.

What I Liked About the Book

Okay where to begin with this book? First of all, I am obsessed with any book that might even be mildly related to science. By default this book is interconnected heavily with nuclear physics which I absolutely adored and devoured.

This book is definitely a more documentary styled story but while reading it pans out more like a thriller. Each scene is described in such rich detail and builds up so much that it keeps you hooked and leaves you gasping at several parts.

Of course with reporting and writing about an accident at this scale, there would have been massive amounts of research undergone behind the scene which is reflected perfectly in the book. The author has given such importance to showing what lead to the disaster by starting from how the city, Pripyat, was built to how the disaster lead to the decline of the Party . He also took immense care and effort in highlighting how politics and the Party played a huge role in hiding the defects and shortcomings of the nuclear plants which largely contributed to the disaster. For someone like me who had no idea about this disaster other than the name, it really started out with an accessible introduction and provided a base for the story to build upon. The author also ventured into the technical intricacies of a nuclear plant and what triggered the chain reactions and explained it beautifully.

Also to anyone who thinks this is a massive book, it’s not. The last 200 pages or so comprise of Glossary and Notes which can be skipped.

What I Disliked About the Book

There’s nothing I particularly disliked about this book but I definitely had issues with the various names mentioned. There were several people who contributed to this story who also happened to share similar or same first names which became difficult to keep track of. My advice to anyone wanting to pick up this book is to not become heavily invested in the names and feel free to skim over it.

Recommended for anyone who:

  • wants to read more about the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster
  • loves a documentary styled book
  • is interested in technical details behind a nuclear plant
  • wants to read something set during the time of the Soviet Union

Comment down below your thoughts on the book or if you are going to be picking it up soon.


By Harini @BookSpiral

Hi! I am Harini and I run this blog. I am a massive lover of books and like to spend all my time reading. My main aim is to explore new topics and unique books and talk about it on my blog. Hope you enjoy the content that I put out!

3 replies on “Midnight in Chernobyl | Book Review”

What an excellent, detailed review!!! You really nailed it- especially about the names. I had a really hard time remembering who was who; I haven’t read too much about this area, so my brain struggled to differentiate between the similar names. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to fully grasp the intricacies of nuclear physics, but this was definitely a fascinating and terrifying read.

Liked by 1 person

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