• Uranium

  • War, Energy, and the Rock That Shaped the World
  • By: Tom Zoellner
  • Narrated by: Patrick Lawlor
  • Length: 12 hrs and 58 mins
  • 4.0 out of 5 stars (358 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Uranium is a common element in the earth's crust and the only naturally occurring mineral with the power to end all life on the planet. After World War II, it reshaped the global order---whoever could master uranium could master the world. Marie Curie gave us hope that uranium would be a miracle panacea, but the Manhattan Project gave us reason to believe that civilization would end with apocalypse.

Slave labor camps in Africa and Eastern Europe were built around mine shafts, and America would knowingly send more than 600 uranium miners to their graves in the name of national security. Fortunes have been made from this yellow dirt; massive energy grids have been run from it. Fear of it panicked the American people into supporting a questionable war with Iraq, and its specter threatens to create another conflict in Iran. Now, some are hoping it can help avoid a global warming catastrophe.

In Uranium, Tom Zoellner takes readers around the globe in this intriguing look at the mineral that can sustain life or destroy it.

©2008 Tom Zoellner (P)2009 Tantor Media, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"A rich journalistic account." ( Kirkus)

What listeners say about Uranium

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

GREAT book, awful narration

The narrator of this book should really have stuck to reading it straight. His appalling accents would be funny if they weren't so insulting, and his pronunciation, particularly of German words, is poor and clearly not researched. The book itself is excellent and will please many listeners, especially anyone who (like me) enjoys specific histories in line with books like "Cod," "Salt," and "The 13th Element." In the end, the reader could be worse and if you are willing to put up with his accent hash, you will enjoy this book tremendously.

33 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

4-star book with 2-star narration

This book is informative and pretty well-written, but the narrator makes the baffling choice to read every quote (and there are several throughout the book) in a different voice, most of which sound absolutely ridiculous. Totally out of place in a serious non-fiction book, and I have no clue why somebody...the producer, for one...didn't stop him from narrating in this way.

Seriously. His accented voices are truly terrible...along the lines of "Vee haff veys to make you talk".

It's not quite bad enough to make me stop listening to the book (which is quite interesting), but it's enough to irritate me every single time he does it.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Scientific and historical errors, good miner tales

I am unimpressed with it, but I did like the human stories of the prospectors and miners. I had to laugh when the author described the nucleus of the atom being held together with electrical force. Besides the errors in comparison to the information in the Oppenheimer biography (American Prometheus audio book), there are glaring deficiencies, such as the almost complete avoidance of the subject of disposing of uranium waste. It is a industry book seemingly written by a scientifically illiterate journalist.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Great for What It Is

In what I would loosely call a postmodern way, Tom Zoeliner deconstructs Uranium. He deals with the mineral historically calling up characters from the past with vivid description. Prospectors, researchers, political figures, international intrigue, smuggling, --- its all here. If you are looking for science, per se, you'll not find it here. If you want a broader understanding of the basic science and the socio/political/economic context in which Uranium resides, then you are in luck. This is a journalistic rather than an academic tome. If you don't have a knowledge of Uranium AND you have even a passing interest in the subject OR you are willing to engage yourself in an unfamiliar toic, this book might just be for you. The writing is very good and Patrick Lawlor is a great narrator as well.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Energetic

America's cold war nuclear program cost us $10 trillion over the 50 years that this war was waged. Growing up I remember watching the TV movie "The Day After" - nuclear war did not seem like an abstract possibility. Today we worry about Pakistan having (and selling) nuclear capabilities. North Korea conducts another underground test (and fires rockets the same day), threatening to go to war if any efforts are made to halt their program. And Iran continues to develop their nuclear capabilities, an eventuality that will most likely not be acceptable to Israel.

Zoellner brings all these events and developments down to their source, to the rock that when processed (on an industrial scale) is capable of releasing enormous amounts of energy. We learn about the physics of a nuclear reaction, how these physics were harnessed by the scientists in the Manhattan Project to create the terrible weapons that the U.S. dropped on Japan to end World War 2 We learn the extreme steps that the Soviet Union took to mine uranium and start their own crash nuclear program. And we follow uranium speculators and get-rich quick dreamers as they rode the uranium mining bubble. An excellent work of both reporting and history.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great Subject, Tepid Narration

I'm of much the same opinion as others that the subject matter is immensely interesting and well written. The narrator needed to have not added his stupid accents, they detracted throughout.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Probably have a reason to read this

I worked in militray and civilian nuclear power for 13 years and now live in Wyoming so this book was very interesting to me. My wife thinks I'm wierd but I throughly enjoyed it. Good history lessons.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Most fascinating documentary, learned a lot

I bought this book for my brother, a science guy, then I thought I’d read it too. It was amazing! The author truly gave his all into this work. He shares his knowledge as if we were friends and sipping coffee together. I learned so very much about the history of not only America, but of Germany, Africa, Russia and Austria as well. His interweaving of peoples personal lives was intriguing. My rating lacked getting a five star because it did move fast for me.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating History

Great research makes this book hum! While some people might think the details are too much, I found it make the history that much better. You feel like you are there!

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

disappointing

the book follows a narrative that uranium is bad and is the cause of great misfortune for humanity. I was hoping for a more nuanced story. I came here after reading Richard Rhodes' the making of the atom bomb, which is a far better book. I was also very annoyed by the narrator's use of fake accents. It was unnecessary and distracting.