Adam Higginbotham Journalist and author of the awarding winning book, Midnight in Chernobyl

About the Author

Adam Higginbotham is a journalist and narrative non-fiction writer whose work has been featured in magazines including The New Yorker, Smithsonian, The New York Times Magazine, Wired and more. He began his career in magazines and newspapers in London, where he was the editor-in-chief of The Face and a contributing editor at The Sunday Telegraph. Many of his stories have been optioned for development in film or television.

His book Challenger is tells the definitive, dramatic, minute-by-minute story of the Challenger disaster, based on fascinating in-depth reporting and new archival research—a riveting history that reads like a thriller. Higginbotham reveals the history of the shuttle program and the lives of men and women whose stories have been overshadowed by the disaster, as well as the designers, engineers, and test pilots who struggled against the odds to get the first shuttle into space. His first book, Midnight In Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster is a powerful investigation into Chernobyl and how propaganda, secrecy, and myth have obscured the true story of the worst nuclear catastrophe in history. Drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews conducted over the course of more than ten years, as well as letters, unpublished memoirs, and documents from recently-declassified archives, Higginbotham brings the disaster to life through the eyes of the men and women who witnessed it firsthand. Midnight in Chernobyl was named a New York Times Best Book of the Year, a Time Best Book of the Year, a Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of the Year, and was awarded the 2020 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Non-fiction.

Higginbotham is an in-demand expert on the Chernobyl disaster and frequently speaks at events across the country about this singular historic event and how its legacy has continued to live on, more than 30 years later. He currently lives with his family in New York City.

Suggested Topics

  • Challenger
  • Midnight in Chernobyl 

Raves and Reviews

Praise for Challenger

Superb . . . In the hands of Higginbotham, the narrative comes to life in a fresh telling fueled by meticulous detail and exacting prose. While familiar, the story is rendered dreamlike so that readers can’t help but hope, as it unfolds page by page, that somehow the outcome this time will be different. . . . A compelling and exhaustively researched chronicle of the calamity that traces its full arc—the evolution of the enabling culture that allowed it, the terrible day itself, and its enduring legacy.”

Washington Post

Higginbotham is an intrepid journalist and skillful storyteller who takes care to humanize the dozens of major and minor players involved in NASA’s many successful, and occasionally catastrophic, space missions. . . . For cynical Americans, disaster buffs, and engineers, Challenger will be a quick, devastating read. In Higginbotham’s deft hands, the human element—sometimes heroic, sometimes cloaked in doublespeak and bluster—shines through the many technical aspects of this story, a constant reminder that every decision was made by people weighing risks versus expediency, their minds distorted by power, money, politics, and yes-men. It’s a universal story that transcends time.” 

New York Times

Dramatic . . . Mr. Higginbotham’s prose grows taut as the Challenger liftoff approaches. . . . [A] moving narrative.”

Wall Street Journal

Gripping history . . . Higginbotham’s colorful narrative contrasts the eager idealism of Challenger’s crew, including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, with the arrogance of NASA honchos who dismissed warnings and casually gambled with the astronauts’ lives. His account of the engineering issues is lucid and meticulous, and his evocative prose conveys both the extraordinary achievement of rocket scientists in harnessing colossal energies with delicate mechanisms and the sudden cataclysms that erupt when the machinery fails. The result is a beguiling saga of the peril and promise of spaceflight.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

In clear and accessible language, Higginbotham explains the mechanics of the shuttle and its problems without sacrificing any of the pace that carries readers forward. . . . The book delivers a compelling, comprehensive history of the disaster that exposed, as Higginbotham writes, how ‘the nation’s smartest minds had unwittingly sent seven men and women to their deaths.’”

Associated Press

A deeply researched, fluently written study in miscommunication, hubris, and technological overreach.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“Higginbotham’s comprehensive and affecting recounting and explanation illuminates a tragedy that was entirely preventable.” Booklist (starred review)

An extensive, bolt-by-bolt history . . . Challenger provides readers with plenty to think about, thanks to its author’s wide-ranging, thorough efforts.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Adam Higginbotham has written a gripping, eye-opening, moving, and finely detailed history of not just an infamous disaster but a whole generation of the Space Age. Picking up where Tom Wolfe left off, this book stands as the fascinating sequel to The Right Stuff, mixing together science, politics, and space exploration and providing a unique window into the lives of those Americans who have reached for the stars. Even though you know how the story ends, you’ll eagerly turn the beautifully written pages wondering what comes next. Challenger is one of this generation’s best nonfiction writers working at the top of his game.”

—Garrett M. Graff, author of The Only Plane in the Sky and Watergate

A masterly example of how meticulous research and adherence to factual detail can build a narrative of almost unbearable suspense. At the same time, with the outcome known from the beginning, the story has the implacable power of tragic inevitability.”

Geoff Dyer, author of The Last Days of Roger Federer: And Other Endings

Praise for Midnight in Chernobyl

Adam Higginbotham’s brilliantly well-written Midnight In Chernobyl draws on new sources and original research to illuminate the true story of one of history’s greatest technological failures—and, along with it, the bewildering reality of everyday life during the final years of the Soviet Union.”
— Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gulag: A History and Red Famine: Stalin’s War On Ukraine

A masterpiece of reporting and storytelling that puts us on the ground for one of the most important events of the twentieth century. Adam Higginbotham opens a world nearly impossible to penetrate, then finds truths inside we weren’t supposed to discover. As readers, we could not hope for a more thrilling and visceral adventure. As citizens of the world, we ignore Midnight in Chernobyl at our peril.”
— Robert Kurson, New York Times bestselling author of Shadow Divers and Rocket Men

Here is a triumph of investigative reportage, exquisite science writing, and heart-pounding storytelling. With Midnight in Chernobyl, Adam Higginbotham gives us a glimpse of Armageddon, but carries it off with such narrative verve that he somehow makes it entertaining. One thing is assured: After reading this astonishing, terrifying book, you will never think of nuclear power in quite the same way again.”
— Hampton Sides, author of In the Kingdom of Ice and On Desperate Ground

Superb, enthralling and necessarily terrifying . . . the accident unfurls with a horrible inevitability. Weaving together the experiences of those who were there that night, Higginbotham marshals the details so meticulously that every step feels spring-loaded with tension. . . . Amid so much rich reporting and scrupulous analysis, some major themes emerge. . . . Higginbotham’s extraordinary book is another advance in the long struggle to fill in some of the gaps, bringing much of what was hidden into the light.”
— Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times

An account that reads almost like the script for a movie . . . Mr. Higginbotham has captured the terrible drama.”
— The Wall Street Journal

Midnight in Chernobyl is top-notch historical narrative: a tense, fast-paced, engrossing, and revelatory product of more than a decade of research. . . . A stunningly detailed account . . . For all its wealth of information, the work never becomes overwhelming or difficult to follow. Higginbotham humanizes the tale, maintaining a focus on the people involved and the choices, both heroic and not, they made in unimaginable circumstances. This is an essential human tale with global consequences.”
Booklist, Starred Review

Written with authority, this superb book reads like a classic disaster story and reveals a Soviet empire on the brink. . . . [A] vivid and exhaustive account.”
Kirkus, Starred Review

In fascinating detail, Higginbotham chronicles how the drama played out, showing that Soviet hubris in part led to the accident and Soviet secrecy compounded it.”
— Newsday

Midnight in Chernobyl is wonderful and chilling. . . . Adam Higginbotham tells the story of the disaster and its gruesome aftermath with thriller-like flair. . . . It is a tale of hubris and doomed ambition, featuring Communist party bosses and hapless engineers, victims and villains, confusion and cover-up.”
— The Guardian

Highly readable . . . Higginbotham [is] a skilled science writer. . . . Mr. Higginbotham’s book reflects extensive on-the-scene research. . . . Disaster was inevitable, and Mr. Higginbotham vividly describes the futile attempts of engineers to bring a runaway reactor under control.”
— The Washington Times

Higginbotham’s scrupulously reported book catalogues the chain of events that occasionally reads as stranger than fiction. The book is more than a gripping history that recounts in great detail events at the reactors; it also offers contextual insights into the Soviet era that help to explain how such a failure could occur. . . . As is the case with many great nonfiction books, it has the urgency and intrigue of the very best thrillers.”
— Wired

In the Media


Books by Adam Higginbotham

Midnight in Chernobyl

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