Wednesday, August 05, 2009

More fun than a barrel of nukes

My favorite nonfiction book of all time is The Making of the Atomic Bomb. Telling a story that combines brilliant individuals, the biggest scientific endeavor of all time and intense political drama, it is hard to go wrong, but author Richard Rhodes knocked it out of the park with this phone book sized opus. It is, I believe, the only nonfiction book I have read three times.

Loving the subject matter and having had success with some of her other histories, I had to try Diana Preston's Before the Fallout, which covers much of the same ground. The Preston book is much shorter and has a tighter bibliographic focus that the Rhodes book. While the achievements of the scientists lies at the core of the Preston book, it doesn't go into the intense detail that the Rhodes book does. You won't see the extensive reporting on weapons design that you will find in the Rhodes book, but you will get a close look at the community of science that discovered the secrets and created the ideas that led to the bomb.

Preston writes clear, accessible engaging prose and her books cover a wide range of subjects including the Lusitania sinking, the Boxer Rebellion and polar exploration. This one on the Taj Mahal looks quite good as well.


Citizen Reader said...

Have you ever read Jim Ottaviani's nonfiction graphic novel "Fallout"? That might be one of my favorite nonfiction titles of all time; weird, because I normally avoid GNs like the plague. I think maybe because it was the first book about atomic power and physics I ever read that I understood.

Tripp said...

Thanks, that one looks good and no I haven't read it. I like the image of Oppenheimer on the cover.