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Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 77 customer reviews

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Length: 322 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews


“A darkly comic romp.” ―Elizabeth Kolbert, staff writer, The New Yorker

“An environmentalist book that avoids the usual hyperventilation, upending stubborn myths with prosaic facts . . . Blackwell is a smart and often funny writer.” ―Wall Street Journal

“Witty and disturbing . . . Call this the anti-guide book.” ―New York Post "Required Reading"


"Andrew Blackwell is a wonderful tour guide to the least wonderful places on earth. His book is a riveting toxic adventure. But more than just entertaining, the book will teach you a lot about the environment and the future of our increasingly polluted world." -- A.J. Jacobs, New York Times bestselling author of The Year of Living Biblically

"With a touch of wry wit and a reporter's keen eye, Andrew Blackwell plays tourist in the centers of environmental destruction and finds sardonic entertainment alongside tragedy. His meticulous observations will make you laugh and weep, and you will get an important education along the way." –David K. Shipler, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of Rights at Risk: The Limits of Liberty in Modern America

"I'm a contrarian traveler. I don't obey any airport signs. I love the off season. And, when someone says to avoid a certain place, and almost every time the U.S. State Department issues a travel warning, that destination immediately becomes attractive to me. Visit Sunny Chernobyl is my new favorite guidebook to some places I admit to have visited. As a journalist, as well as a traveler, I consider this is an essential read. It is a very funny -- and very disturbing look at some parts of our world that need to be acknowledged before we take our next trip anywhere else." -- Peter Greenberg, Travel Editor for CBS News

"Humor and dry wit lighten a travelogue of the most polluted and ravaged places in the world...With great verve, and without sounding preachy, he exposes the essence and interconnectedness of these environmental problems." -- Starred Kirkus Review

"In 'Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places,' Blackwell avoids the trendy tropes of "ecotourism" in favor of the infinitely more interesting world of eco-disaster tourism...[Visit Sunny Chernobyl] is a nuanced understanding of environmental degradation and its affects on those living in contaminated areas...[Blackwell] offers a diligently evenhanded perspective...Blackwell is a smart and often funny writer, who has produced a complex portrait in a genre that typically avoids complexity in favor of outrage." -- The Wall Street Journal

"In this lively tour of smog-shrouded cities, clear-cut forests, and the radioactive zone around a failed Soviet reactor, a witty journalist ponders the appeal of ruins and a consumer society’s conflicted approach to environmental woes." -- The Times-Picayune

"Entertaining, appealing, and thoughtful travelogue covers some of the world's most befouled spots with lively, agile wit... The book...offers an astute critique of how visions of blighted spots create an either/or vision of how to care for the environment and live in the world." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Devastatingly hip and brutally relevant." -- Booklist, Starred Review"Visit Sunny Chernobyl is hard to categorize--part travelogue, part memoir, part environmental exposé--but it is not hard to praise. It's wonderfully engaging, extremely readable and, yes, remarkably informative...An engagingly honest reflection on travel to some of the world's worst environments by a guide with considerable knowledge to share."-- Roni K. Devlin, owner of Literary Life Bookstore & More

"Ghastliness permeates Visit Sunny Chernobyl...[Blackwell] presents vivid descriptions of these wretched places, along with both their polluters and the crusaders who are trying—usually without success—to clean them up" -- The New York Times

Product Details

  • File Size: 1661 KB
  • Print Length: 322 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale (May 28, 2013)
  • Publication Date: May 28, 2013
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007W5MQSA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #381,837 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Andrew Blackwell is a journalist and filmmaker living in New York City. He is a 2011 fellow in nonfiction literature from the New York Foundation for the Arts. VISIT SUNNY CHERNOBYL is his first book.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a fan of both adventure travel writing and ecological nonfiction, and Visit Sunny Chernobyl is a solid, highly entertaining instance of both. Blackwell doesn't necessarily claim to be writing either, though -- he's just a tourist who wants to vacation in the world's most polluted places, and has written the missing travel guide for pollution tourism.

It's a brilliant conceit. But what makes the book successful is that, while partially tongue-in-cheek, Blackwell is serious. He found something captivating in one of the world's most polluted cities in India, which contradicted his preconceptions of nature-is-good and pollution-is-gross. That's not to say that he's pro-polution. He's absolutely not. It's that these places are usually presented as news, or obscured by political agenda, or simply invisible to the rest of the world, and the real world is always richer than any one view. It's not human vs. nature: everything is far more mixed up than that.

Blackwell gets the story from the people he meets. The world's most polluted places are usually someone's home -- pollution is, after all, the result of human activity. And as with the best non-fiction writing, the result is compassionate and humanizing, erasing the easy idea of "other." It turns out that this is the fundamental key in solving any problem.

Blackwell is humorous without being glib, satirical without being dishonest, personal without being self-indulgent, and insightful without being ponderous. He weaves separate trips into one complete narrative, each building on the previous chapter. The book contains an important (and urgent) ecological message, but does so without being preachy. It's too much fun to read. Highly recommended for anyone.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book because of the terrific title...whoever thought of it, the author or an editor, is a genius. I was captivated at the beginning...the chapter on Chernobyl is terrific, as is the one on the Alberta tar sands. But then he starts to lose direction, and we get more and more of him and his relation with his girlfriend, the "doctor," and by the time he gets to the last chapter, in India, he's really gone adrift. In the last chapter we get some fairly gross descriptions of horrible river pollution, but then he goes off on some sort of pilgrimage with a bunch of people protesting the pollution, and the book goes unfocussed. He seems to lose interest in pollution, and instead is captivated by the sociology of Indian protest marches. Possibly it was written at great speed, or the editor lost interest, but my interest certainly flagged before the end.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
He recounts casual conversations with exotic foreigners. A simplified tour of the science for the benefit of liberal arts majors. I'm curious how Mister Blackwell accomplished all this.

I was hoping for a clear explanation of Chernobyl which I could share with friends, as I live in Kiev and have been to all the places he describes. His is not bad. I am a bit suspicious as to the authenticity of his dialogue. Unless he is awfully modest on his Facebook page, he speaks only French and Spanish, but not Russian or Ukrainian. No surprise there - I've been trying for five years to learn and could probably just barely managed to conversations that he reports. And a by the way, Russian is the first language in most of this part of Ukraine. Blackwell speaks of Russkrainian - the locals call the mixture Surjik.

Blackwell is absolutely on the money and the most important thing. Chernobyl was not that big of a deal, in terms of human deaths. The UN puts the outside death toll at 100 at the time of the accident, and 5,000 maximum for lifetime exposure to radiation. As Blackwell says, this drives Greenpeace crazy. They have their own estimates, reaching as high as 100,000. Certainly nobody in Ukraine would give credence to such a number.

He also talks about the way that the disaster has been exploited. The Ireland-based Children of Chernobyl charity has milked it pretty well for 25 years, with large charity balls here in Kiev every year and Lord knows what going on elsewhere in the world. The question in my mind is always been, what children? Those who were children at the time of the disaster are all well into adulthood. There aren't any widespread, documented pathologies among them.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of the best works of non-fiction I've read in a long time. I'd like to write a longer review, but until then, I can highly recommend Andrew Blackwell's book for a number of reasons:

--Fascinating subject matter (He actually goes to the most repugnant places in the world, and let's face it, you want to know about those places even if you never want to get anywhere near them.)
--Smooth, compelling writing that balances humor and insight in a way that makes the book hard to put down
--A perspective that is honest and direct about our man-made catastrophes without erring on either side of preachiness or dismissiveness
--Blackwell's personable narration, which is personal enough to let us feel that we are on these adventures with a wise (if smart-alecky) friend, but detached enough to let us have our own reactions to the places he visits
--The hilarious gems that Blackwell effortlessly drops throughout his writing--some of the cleverest turns of phrase I've read in a while

This one is a must-read.
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