by John Hersey

Hardcover, 1946




Alfred A. Knopf (1946)


Classic account of the dropping of the bomb, first published 1946.

User reviews

LibraryThing member ksmyth
I reread this book after many years and found it just as powerful as I did the first time

Hersey wrote his book in 1946, focusing on six survivors of the August 6th bombing. The survivors came from various walks of life and their degree of injury from the bombing also varied. Hersey walks the reader through the experience from the flash of the bomb, through the survivors observations and experiences in the hours that came after, and through their exposure to radiation sickness. Finally, this being a much later version of the book than the original, Hersey included an afterward that shares with the reader the experiences of each of the six through the mid-1980's. Many continued to suffer affects throughout their lives.

Hersey's accounts/observations originally filled an entire issue of the The New Yorker. His lucid and frank prose, the observations of the witnesses were intended to humanize the experiences of the dead and the living, and perhaps create another dimension to the decision American leaders made to end the war with this new and terrible weapon.
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LibraryThing member Schmerguls
On Feb 3, 1947, I said: "Tonight read John Hersy's Hiroshima: quite a book. Well, though simply written
LibraryThing member dmzach
Found this in an antique shop: $5. Read it while sitting on my patio this evening. It's six eye witness accounts of the days after the bomb dropped. Nothing unexpected here. War is hell and even worse for the innocent bystanders. Always impressed by those who struggle to survive no matter what. Given the news from the current war between Israel and Hebollah in the Middle East - we may have to get used to that notion. Don't expect this to resolve anytime soon. We commit our sins in haste and repent them in leisure. The question is, what sort of God supports the innocent and condemns the aggressors?… (more)
LibraryThing member Raychild
Excellent book. Horrifying. I actually went to John Hersey High School and we had to read it in English class. I'm glad I did.
LibraryThing member nyyankees24
This journalistic masterpiece by John Hersey tells what happened on the day that Hiroshima was destroyed by the first atom bomb ever dropped on a city. This one hundred percent nonfictional book gives the readers the story of six people who were greatly affected by this bomb. This is one of those books that everyone who can read should read it. Nothing can be said about this book that can equal what the book has to say. It speaks for itself, and in an unforgettable way, for humanity.… (more)
LibraryThing member BookAddict
Eyewitness accounts of the horrific effects of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima documented less than a year after the attack. Amongst the expected experiences of the survivors is intertwined the most surprising resiliancy to death, pain, suffering, and loss of every kind. The Japanese distaste for self pity is most commendable and their resignation and strength to endure all for the love of their country inspiring.

This book can be read in one sitting.
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LibraryThing member QuesterofTruth
Hiroshima by John Hersey gives the reader an idea of the results of an atomic bomb explosion in both human and scientific terms, through the stories of those affected and some of the data collected by Japanese scientists. Realizing that this was a relatively small atomic bomb and that we now have hydrogen bombs which have much more power, we need to try to never get in an international confrontation where we might like to (or have to) use an A or H -bomb. Also we should understand the perilous position that we put the world, the US and especially our ally Israel in when we refuse to put enough effort into stopping Iran from getting "the bomb".
I encourage anyone who is thinking about world politics, international relationships etc. to read this book.

I realize that was a little more than a review but it should still be helpful to readers and thinkers alike.
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LibraryThing member Tahlil77
This was a strange and sad read because you're going into it knowing full well of the destruction that is about to follow. As you're reading accounts of the everyday lives of the main protagonists, you can begin to feel unease, especially if you are able to empathize and consider that in any moment, your own life can be turned upside down and dragged into a major global conflict. The accounts of the pain, horror, and trauma experienced by the individuals and those closest to them is epic in scale...and something that we all need to be aware of and strongly consider when we are about to be, or are presently engaged in conflict and destruction of this nature.… (more)
LibraryThing member t1bnotown
While Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes will always be my favorite story related to the atomic bomb, I still remember this from summer reading during high school. I remember stories and images, and feeling empathetic for the characters. The dropping of the atomic bomb isn't just something that happened somewhere else to someone else. It is something that hurt everyone in the world- we are all in danger now, and we must all read this to understand that. We must empathize.… (more)
LibraryThing member nico_macdonald
A journalistic report and reflection on the atom bombing of the city. On those exposed to the initial blast: "The hurt ones were quiet... none of the many who died did so noisily; not even the children cried".
LibraryThing member mwittkids
The true recounting of Hiroshima, first written in 1946 for the New Yorker magazine. The final chapter wasn't written until 1985 when Hersey returned to Hiroshima and revisited 6 of the people he had interviewed almost 40 years before.
LibraryThing member ACGalaga
Read this just after going there. While reading it I would suck my teeth and cringe at a happening in the story and everyone would wonder what's wrong. I'd just show them the title of the book.

It's riddled with horrid events and can be incredibly disturbing, but you continue to read for the survivors willingness to live as well as their desire help others.… (more)
LibraryThing member VirginiaGill
This book was a book club choice, not a book I would have picked up in a million years. Far too painful a subject. While I wouldn't consider it well written, or even gripping it does make it impossible to ignore the reality of what the human devastation in Hiroshima was. It brings home the impact of that moment in history far more than any textbook could. I sincerely home that one day I can erase the mental pictures I have as a result of reading this book...and yet I think everyone should read it.… (more)
LibraryThing member MMWiseheart
It was hard to get through because it's so intense and full of information. It's definitely worthwhile though, if you can handle it.
LibraryThing member Jamesedel
100,000 died immediately. This book is the account of seven survivors and what they did with their lives. An interesting German priest who became naturalized because he loved Japan so much. Those who were really injured didn't work hard to get money and some didn't even collect for the first few years when they were allowed. Some became nuns and Christians.… (more)
LibraryThing member speedy74
Hershey recounts the memories of six survivors following the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. The last chapter of the book, "The Aftermath," details Hershey's work four decades later when he went back to Hiroshima to see the survivors again. Some of the details are chilling and force the reader to see the event through the eyes of the Japanese citizens.

This would be a good addition to any classroom studying the end to WW II and the controversy surrounding whether or not Americans should have used atomic weapons. Very interesting!
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LibraryThing member eleanor_eader
Hiroshima follows the movements and reactions of six survivors of the world’s first nuclear attack on the fateful morning of August 6th, 1945, and how they coped in its aftermath. Told in a straightforward, unsentimental manner that is absolutely devastating to the reader, one of the most destructive acts of war ever perpetrated is laid out piece by piece from the point of view of ordinary people. Hershey explains their terror and confusion – nothing like this had ever been seen before - and odd sense of admiration at the American ingenuity; their culturally appropriate politeness and collective, sometimes silent suffering. Amidst the deaths and the fire, the radiation burns, the overwhelming flood of injured into hospitals with few remaining staff, the sickness and even the impact of the landscape changing utterly in a single instant, even a regular reader on war history feels chilled and horrified and reminded of the sheer unconscionable power of nuclear warfare.

It’s the focus on ordinary people, who awoke that morning expecting to go about ordinary things, that makes Hiroshima so … harrowing. It’s an overused word, I know, but absolutely appropriate. The surviving victims were overwhelmed, most lost everything including family members, they became sick, they struggled with debilitating after-effects and illnesses to regain a foothold on life, to find work or lost loved ones, and to come to terms mentally with what had happened to them. The long-term effects were only slowly calculated, most people fixating on the number 100,000 – those killed outright or quickly thereafter.

I can’t say that I enjoyed this book. It makes the reader watch the sky and imagine what sudden death from above would be like (in a way that tales of the blitz or other bombing runs simply do not), to consider hard points of morality, whether retaliation with such a weapon – or an even larger one – would be a reasonable response, even to a first strike; defending other people’s countries can seem as important as the defence of one’s own. That makes it an important, powerful book, but there are some periods in history that will never make ‘enjoyable’ reading, and this is one of them. I would recommend it to anyone who finds they gain insight from war history that is put into civilian context, or who are curious enough to want to understand what it was like for survivors and non-instant victims of the first ever nuclear attack.
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LibraryThing member bookczuk
The thing that strikes me most when reading this is how completely unknown this kind of horror was at the time. I have grown up in the atomic age, and have vivid memories of "duck and cover" and backyard bomb shelters. When the bomb fell on Hiroshima, it was something the world had never experienced. I pray we never experience it again.

This book, together with the Hiroshima Maidens (I can't remember who wrote it, but Norman Cousins played a big piece in it, though I don't think he wrote it) put this event in perspective as to what happens to people when acts of history occur.
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LibraryThing member 19vatermit64
Hiroshima: With a Final Chapter Written Forty Years After the Explosion

John Hersey

Yesterday marks the sixty-seventh anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. It seemed to pass unnoticed in the media.

I first read John Hersey's Hiroshima in 1976, and at the time I was not really impressed with the destruction caused by the bomb. I recall writing a book report about it, and that was the end of it. I was disappointed to find that it was not a book about the glories of war, but rather a narrative about civilians coping with the aftermath of an explosion which destroyed most of the city's infrastructure. It was boring.

In 2008, I got a copy of this book from Easton Press. Below the title was the phrase "With a final chapter written forty years after the explosion." In the extra chapter, Hersey reports on what happened to the men and women afterwards. The book was a far more interesting read the second time around.

A few things struck me while reading this book. One was that the people of Hiroshima had a feeling that their city was due for a bombing. It turns out this was correct, as the American forces had decided to spare it so that they could see the effects of the bomb on an undisturbed city. While cities all around them were getting bombed, Hiroshima was left alone. It was near a staging area for bombers heading to other cities in Japan, so the people were used to hearing air raid sirens. Hersey seems to imply that the populace had grown complacent, and were not prepared for a bombing. On the morning of August 6, the alarms had gone off twice; once for a B-29 which was performing weather reconnaissance, and then later when the Enola Gay and the two bombers which accompanied it flew over the city.

I can't recall if it was in this book, but there is a story that some people saw the bombers turn away violently after dropping the bomb, and they thought that the aircraft had been shot out of the sky. Actually, the Enola Gay was turning away to escape from the anticipated blast. The other two aircraft were along to take recordings and photographs of the explosion and its aftermath.

The other thing which impressed me was how all of the people in the book kept on despite the effects of the atomic bomb on their bodies and souls. While I would not agree with how all of them lived after the war, they still are examples of how one can overcome setbacks as large as a nuclear explosion. I recommend this book for anyone who is considering military service; I encourage readers to get the version of the book with the follow-up chapter.
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LibraryThing member matthew254
Hiroshima is, as the book's bold front critique claims, a book that "everyone able to read should read it". One of the most unforgettable reading experiences ever, Hershey tells the stories of six diverse survivors of the 1945 Hiroshima bombings not only before, during and after the event but even followed up on their fates forty years after the original publication date. As soon as I finished it, I knew I would revisit it again some day. This is one of the best books I have ever read.… (more)
LibraryThing member Stbalbach
Just as immediate today as it was nearly 70 years ago. The writing is timeless. The technique flawless. A true classic of narrative non-fiction and journalism. The chapter added in 1985 is not as strong and drags somewhat but helps with closure.
LibraryThing member dareone32988
The citizens of Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945, experienced possibly the most devasting, horrendous event in history. It was on this day that the first Atomic bomb was used as a means of warfare, and it was dropped by the United States. Although it is an event our nation has tried to forget, it is one that should always be remembered as one of the darkest days in history.

John Hersey's book titled Hiroshima presents the horrific stories of survivors of this event. Hersey takes on a journalistic perspective--staying objective throughout the book--and simply lets the first-hand accounts speak for themselves.

Readers can only imagine what it must have been like to experience such a Hell, but these accounts are so descriptive in nature that they make it possible to get a glimpse of the travesty as it unfolded. The stories will evoke intense sympathy for the survivors, and an eventual wonder of how anyone could commit such a terrible crime against humanity.

Herey's book is a must read for those searching for the TRUE history of the U.S. It is a grim reality that must be remembered and never forgotten.

This is a book that I first read in high school, and it has never left my mind as one that had an immense impact on my view of the world. With that said, I would not hesitate to present this book to my class and explain that although it is disturbing, it is an undeniable truth of American history.
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LibraryThing member Kreho
This Non-fiction young adult book is a classic. Although it is not a true biography is touches upon the experiences of many people after the bomb was dropped. As a reader you are able to learn more about each person and their own personal experiences.
LibraryThing member PickledOnion42
The printed word, I am sure, could never adequately convey the sheer horror of a nuclear attack, but Hiroshima by John Hersey comes close. By relating that dreadful morning through the experiences of just a few survivors, one is able to experience something of the human misery in a way one doesn't when reading the phrase 'between 90,000 and 166,000 people died'; such facts are almost meaningless to most people. I found the survivors' confusion as to what had happened most upsetting – had the Americans rained gasoline down onto the city? Although obvious in retrospect, it had never ocurred to me before that they would be so dumbfounded.

For this new insight I am most grateful, yet I do have some slight criticism: the constant switching between stories, for example, I found to be unnecessarily confusing in places – I would rather have preferred to read them split into separate chapters, or even as distinct volumes; I don't think anything would have been lost by reading each in isolation. Then again, Hersey's style has been much praised by reviewers so I know I hold the minority view on this point. I also felt the book ended somewhat abruptly (here I refer to the 2009 Penguin edition which contains the additional chapter). But these criticisms are superficial; the insight gleaned from these pages is priceless, making this an important book which should be read by everyone. No exceptions.
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LibraryThing member econnick
Hiroshima is a detailed and horrifying account of 6 survivors of the atomic bomb. The last lines of the book - "His memory, like the world's, was getting spotty" (p. 152) make Hersey's words and the words of the six survivors even more memorable. This book takes on the perspective from the inside of the bomb with gruesome details and stories of heroes. It is hard to imagine the setting, the almost unbelievable stories, and the pain, both physical and emotional, that these men and women went through. Often reminding me of scenes on television from after Hurricane Katrina, I had to remind myself that this disaster was not natural, leaving a bitter pain in my heart as I turned the last page. This book would fit in a history or ELA unit on war. In an ELA class, this would work especially well when discussing perspective. How does your view of war, or what they call "total war," change after hearing these stories? This book can definitely be used as a mentor text in a high school setting because of the unique perspective, strong emotional stories, and well written prose.… (more)




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Hiroshima by John Hersey (Paperback)
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