Chernobyl by Serhii Plokhy

Penguin Press author Serhii Plokhy has won 2018’s Baillie Gifford prize for non-fiction with book ChernobylHistory of a Tragedy.

The book sees Serhii Plokhy, a Harvard history professor, drawing on recently opened archives to recreate the events of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in all their drama. A moment-by-moment account of the heroes, perpetrators and victims of a tragedy, Chernobyl is the first full account of a gripping, unforgettable Cold War story.

The prize, formerly known as The Samuel Johnson Prize, celebrates the best non-fiction books in the areas of current affairs, history, politics, science, sport, travel, biography, autobiography and the arts. Chernobyl came out on top of this year’s prize, ahead of books from fellow Penguin Random House authors Hannah Fry (Hello World) and Ben MacIntryre (The Spy and the Traitor), winning the £30,000 prize.

Chair of the judges Fiammetta Rocco celebrated the win, calling Chernobyl, 'A great book with a real moral imperative. No one but Serhii Plokhy could have written this.'

Find out why the Baillie Gifford judges chose Chernobyl as their winner:

  • Chernobyl


    'As moving as it is painstakingly researched. . . a cracking read' Viv Groskop, Observer

    'A riveting account of human error and state duplicity. . . rightly being hailed as a classic' Hannah Betts, Daily Telegraph

    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. A moment by moment account of the heroes, perpetrators and victims of a tragedy, Chernobyl is the first full account of a gripping, unforgettable Cold War story.

    'A compelling history of the 1986 disaster and its aftermath . . . plunges the reader into the sweaty, nervous tension of the Chernobyl control room on that fateful night when human frailty and design flaws combined to such devastating effect' Daniel Beer, Guardian

    'Haunting ... near-Tolstoyan. His voice is humane and inflected with nostalgia' Roland Elliott Brown, Spectator

    'Extraordinary, vividly written, powerful storytelling ... the first full-scale history of the world's worst nuclear disaster, one of the defining moments in the Cold War, told minute by minute' Victor Sebestyen Sunday Times

    'Plays out like a classical tragedy ... fascinating' Julian Evans, Daily Telegraph

    'Here at last is the monumental history the disaster deserves' Julie McDowall, The Times

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