The Making of the Atomic Bomb

  • by Richard Rhodes
  • Narrated by Holter Graham
  • 37 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Here for the first time, in rich human, political, and scientific detail, is the complete story of how the bomb was developed, from the turn-of-the-century discovery of the vast energy locked inside the atom to the dropping of the first bombs on Japan.
Few great discoveries have evolved so swiftly - or have been so misunderstood. From the theoretical discussions of nuclear energy to the bright glare of Trinity, there was a span of hardly more than 25 years. What began as merely an interesting speculative problem in physics grew into the Manhattan Project and then into the bomb with frightening rapidity, while scientists known only to their peers - Szilard, Teller, Oppenheimer, Bohr, Meitner, Fermi, Lawrence, and yon Neumann - stepped from their ivory towers into the limelight.
Richard Rhodes takes us on that journey step by step, minute by minute, and gives us the definitive story of man's most awesome discovery and invention. The Making of the Atomic Bomb has been compared in its sweep and importance to William L. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. It is at once a narrative tour de force and a document as powerful as its subject.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds

“Now we are all sons of bitches.”
― Richard Bainbridge, quoted in Richard Rhodes, Making of the Atomic Bomb

I use the world masterpiece with a certain reservation. It is overused. Abused even. It is a word that can easily lose its power if diffused into too many works by too many authors. However, I can say unabashedly that this book, this history, is a masterpiece of narrative history. It is powerful, inspirational, sad, detailed, thrilling, chilling. It has hundreds of characters. Some like the early physicists almost seem like lucky gods born at the right time. How can you not love Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Ernest Rutherford, Marie Curie? These giants seemed to fall into the right spot in history with all the brain cells needed. But on top of this, they were amazing men and women; kind and nobel. They seem to possess not just the smarts to deal with post-Newtonian physics, but a certain amount of poetry and philosophy. They seem like the Founding Fathers (and mothers) of the 20th century and the modern age.

There are also the smaller gods. The gods of war. Oppenheimer, Fermi, Teller, etc. Richard Rhodes covers them all. He explores the development of nuclear physics without losing the reader, he follows the development of the bomb and the enrichment of uranium and production of plutonium. He details the work and the failures in Japan and German. He provides a fair assessment of the environment and the horror of World War 2. He literally leaves few stones unturned. The bombs when they come seem both anticipated and surprising. I felt a pressure in my shoulders and neck as I read about the Trinity tests and the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But Rhodes doesn't let the reader off the hook. He spend almost 20 pages detailing the oral histories of those who saw the effects of the bombs first hand in Hiroshima. Those who lived to tell the horrible tale.

If there are heroes in this tale, they are always heroes with a dark asterisk, or Quixotic heroes. Bohr trying to convince politicians to take risks with peace, to convince war leaders to think beyond the dropping of a bomb. Szilard trying desperately to convince scientists to remain quiet in the beginning to avoid Germany finding out, and later working to convince England and the US to include the Soviet Union to avoid an arms race. There is Oppenheimer and his struggles with the fate that his gifts provided for him to midwifing this rough beast into existence.

It is a noble and a sad and a horrific and a beautiful book all at once and it deserved all of the awards (Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award) it won.

I have read hundreds of nonfiction books and thousand of books, and only a dozen may be better.
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- Darwin8u "I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^"

Fantastic book, very poor narration

If you could sum up The Making of the Atomic Bomb in three words, what would they be?

Richard Rodes' book is a genuine tour de force, and is an exemplar of detailed popular science. I'm very glad to see it on Audible. I've been waiting for this for a long time.

However... to someone who is even vaguely aware of the story, and the characters and places that are so prominent, the narration is very jarring. The narrator mispronounces about 70-75% of foreign words. It would (indeed should) have been trivially easy to give poor Mr Graham a pronunciation guide.

What other book might you compare The Making of the Atomic Bomb to and why?

Dark Sun, also by Richard Rhodes. It is a continuation of the story told by The Making of the Atomic Bomb.

Would you be willing to try another one of Holter Graham’s performances?

Under duress - for example, if the only unabridged narration of Dark Sun was by him, I would consider it, but PLEASE either educate him on pronunciation or get someone else to narrate it.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

This film will disappoint anyone who has read and enjoyed the book. Don't watch it!

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- J. C. Petts "jpetts"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-09-2016
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio