Today we will share our favorite 10 books on Hanford that you can add to your reading list this year.
Here’s the first one from the list – ‘The Fifth Risk’ by Michael Lewis. He has published many New York Times bestselling books on various subjects. His most recent works are The Fifth Risk, The Undoing Project, Flash Boys, and The Big Short.
Author: Michael Lewis
The Fifth Risk is a 2018 political book. Review from the Washington Post – “It is a love letter to underappreciated people and old-fashioned notions, and to underappreciated people holding fast to old-fashioned notions. With Trump-era politics turning Washington into Crazytown, Lewis has written a countercultural, almost subversive, book: one that praises the intellectual curiosity, dedication, foresight and sense of mission he finds among America’s federal workers.” Well, we think ‘The Fifth Risk’ is a great book and the author was able to tell an important and timely story, one that all of us who pay for, care about, and want government to work should hear.
The next book suggestion is one of our favorites – ‘Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters’ by Kate Brown
Author: Kate Brown
Though Plutopia was published in 2013, it is still one of the most sought after book on Cold War and nuclear history. In this book, Kate Brown draws on official records and dozens of interviews to tell the extraordinary stories of Richland, Washington and Ozersk, Russia-the first two cities in the world to produce plutonium. The author of ‘Stalin and the bomb’, David Holloway wrote, “Kate Brown has written a provocative and original study of the two cities-one American, one Soviet-at the center of their countries’ nuclear weapons complexes. The striking parallels she finds between help us-impel us-to see the Cold War in a new light. Plutopia will be much discussed. It is a fascinating and important book.” Plutopia was successful because in its zoned-off isolation it appeared to deliver the promises of the American dream and Soviet communism; in reality, it concealed disasters that remain highly unstable and threatening today. An untold and profoundly important piece of Cold War history, Plutopia invites readers to consider the nuclear footprint left by the arms race and the enormous price of paying for it.
The third on the list is an amazing read and narrates on what it was like to grow up in the 1950’s and 1960’s in eastern Washington.
Author: Teri Hein
Atomic Farmgirl is a wise, irreverent, deeply personal story of growing up right in the wrong place. The granddaughter of German Lutheran homesteaders, Teri Hein was raised in the 1950s and 1960s in rural eastern Washington. This starkly elegant landscape serves as the poignant backdrop to her story, for one hundred miles to the south of this idyllic, all-American setting lay the toxins — both mental and physical — of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. From horseback riding to haying, Flag Day parades to Cold War duck-and-cover drills, Atomic Farmgirl chronicles a peculiar coming of age for a young girl and her community of hardworking, patriotic folk, whose way of life — and livelihood — are gradually threatened by the poisons of progress.
Combining a profoundly tender story of youth with politics and an unmistakable sense of place, Teri Hein has written a memoir that is part Terry Tempest Williams, part Erin Brockovich, part Garrison Keillor. In the end, she offers a rich and ribald journey into the universal mysteries of childhood, love, community, and home, a journey that confirms humankind’s infinite capacity for hope.
The Manhattan Project at Hanford Site is definitely the next on the list. This book provides a greater depth on the story of “Site W” and the surrounding region’s World War II efforts.
Author: Elizabeth Toomey
Originally published: 2015
‘The Manhattan Project at Hanford Site’ describes the top-secret effort undertaken during World War II to develop a weapon never imagined at “Site W” or “Hanford Engineer Works,” one of three sites selected in the United States (plus Los Alamos and Oak Ridge) to research and produce weapons that were ultimately used to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki and end World War II. It was a research and engineering feat of unimaginable proportion, and the total project cost for all three sites was $2.1 billion–an unthinkable amount for a country that was coming out of the Great Depression. It is a story of gumption, resolve, tenacity, patriotism, pride, and selflessness for the thousands of people who worked multiple shifts, seven days a week, in a hot, dry, and desolate desert, never knowing what they were working on. It is a tribute to American resolve in the face of overwhelming adversity.
Yet another great read is ‘On the Home Front: The Cold War Legacy of the Hanford Nuclear Site’.
Author: Michele Stenehjem Gerber
Originally published: 1992
On the Home Front published in 1992 and is considered the only comprehensive history of the Hanford Nuclear Site, America’s most notorious plutonium production facility. Located in southeastern Washington State, the Hanford Site produced most of the plutonium used in the atomic bombs that effectively ended World War II. This book was made possible by the declassification in the 1980s of tens of thousands of government documents relating to the construction, operation, and maintenance of the site. Some considers On the Home Front provides a detailed history and commentary on the first twelve years of the Hanford cleanup project—the largest waste cleanup program in world history. If you are someone who loves fact and figures, then this book is for you.
The sixth on the list week is – ‘Working on the Bomb: An Oral History of World War II Hanford’.
Author: S. L. Sanger
Originally published: 1995
The book, published in 1995 presents a history of the design, construction, and operation of the United States’ top-secret plutonium manufacturing project in Hanford, Washington during World War II. Using over 50 personal recollections and first-hand accounts, the author conveys the role that Hanford played in the success of the Manhattan Project. The book also helps to document emotions and opinions concerning the atomic bomb and the war among many participants, from top scientists to construction workers. In addition, two guest experts comment on Hanford’s evolution and development since 1945.
‘Atomic Harvest’ is the next on the list. This is a great book for everyone who wants to know more about Hanford.
Author: Michael D’Antonio
Originally published: 1993
In Atomic Harvest Michael D’Antonio tells the story of the “Hanford Site,” where the plutonium for the Trinity and Nagasaki bombs was made and where a large share of America’s plutonium for bombs continued to be produced for decades. As an attractive device, he follows the evolution of thinking and actions by a prime set of actual characters: Tom Baillie, a farmer who lived and worked close by; Karen Dorn Steele, an earnest reporter for the Spokane Spokesman-Review; Casey Rund, a harassed safety auditor at the Hanford Works; and Paul Lorenzini and Michael Lawrence of the management side of the Hanford Works. Numerous other interesting characters fit into this story along the way. The result is a most readable, engaging book, clearly written. It is all done with grace and without demonizing any of the characters in the story, friend or foe.
Next book we would like to highlight is ‘America’s Nuclear Wastelands’ by Max S.Power.
Author: Max S. Power
Originally published: 2008
The book was originally published in the year 2008. In this book, Max S. Power uses non-technical language to present a brief overview of nuclear weapons history and contamination issues, as well as a description of the institutional and political environment. He provides a background for understanding the major value conflicts and associated political dynamics, and makes recommendations for navigating long-term stewardship, but his key purpose is to demonstrate the critical role of public participation, and in so doing, encourage citizens to take action regarding local and national policies related to nuclear production and waste disposal. If you want a great book written in a simple language, then you shouldn’t miss this one.
We highly recommend you to ‘Life and death of A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia: Blaine Harden’. Though the focus is on the mighty Columbia river, Hanford is still an interesting part of the book. If you want some quick read for the week, don’t miss this one.
Author: Blain Harden
Originally published: 1996
“A River Lost is superbly reported and written with clarity, insight, and great skill.”―Washington Post Book World
After a two-decade absence, Washington Post journalist Blaine Harden returned to his small-town birthplace in the Pacific Northwest to follow the rise and fall of the West’s most thoroughly conquered river.
Harden’s hometown, Moses Lake, Washington, could not have existed without massive irrigation schemes. His father, a Depression migrant trained as a welder, helped build dams and later worked at the secret Hanford plutonium plant. Now he and his neighbors, once considered patriots, stand accused of killing the river.
As Blaine Harden traveled the Columbia-by barge, car, and sometimes on foot-his past seemed both foreign and familiar. A personal narrative of rediscovery joined a narrative of exploitation: of Native Americans, of endangered salmon, of nuclear waste, and of a once-wild river now tamed to puddled remains.
This book is Part history, part memoir, part lament, “this is a brave and precise book,” according to the New York Times Book Review. “It must not have been easy for Blaine Harden to find himself turning his journalistic weapons against his own heritage, but he has done the conscience of his homeland a great service.”
The last one from this series is ‘Made in Hanford: The Bomb that Changed the World’.
Author: Hill Williams
Originally published: 2011
Hill Williams traces the amazing but also tragic story from the dawn of nuclear science through World War II and Cold War testing in the Marshall Islands.
On the eve of World War II, news of an astonishing breakthrough filtered out of Germany. Scientists there had split uranium atoms. Physicists in the United States scrambled to verify results and further investigate this new science. Ominously, they soon recognized its potential to fuel the ultimate weapon, one able to release the energy of an uncontrolled chain reaction. With growing fears that the Nazis were on the verge of harnessing nuclear power, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gambled on a project to research and produce uranium for military use. By 1941, experiments led to the identification of plutonium, but laboratory work generated the new element in amounts far too small to be useful. Large-scale manufacture would be required., in 1945, and others tested on the Bikini and Enewetak Atolls, profoundly altering many lives.
In 1942, a small plane carrying Lt. Col. Franklin T. Matthias and two DuPont engineers flew over three farming communities in eastern Washington. The passengers agreed. Isolated and near the powerful Columbia River, the region was the ideal site for the world’s first plutonium factory. Two years later, built with a speed and secrecy unheard of today, the facility was operational. The plutonium it produced fueled the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945. Hill Williams traces the amazing but also tragic story from the dawn of nuclear science through World War II and Cold War testing in the Marshall Islands.