Monday, March 24, 2008

The Prize by Daniel Yergin

At long last I finished Yergin’s masterpiece! The Prize is a sprawling epic history of the oil industry, from the discovery of the first well outside of Titusville, PA. leading all the way up to the first Gulf War against Saddam Hussein.

Yergin’s opus was recommended to me by the Senator, who makes his living at least in part from the shuffling of international hydrocarbon resources. Weighing in at a dense nine-hundred pages, the book is nothing if not comprehensive. Yergin gives us a month by month accounting of the major incidents, deals, players and follies of almost everyone involved in oil from the mid-nineteenth century to near the present. This book is remarkably informative; I now know vastly more geography, political history, and way more about oil exploration, processing, and sales than I did before. Yergin’s writing is tight but filled with the kind of delightful anecdotes and details that humanize what could otherwise be a dry account of a history of industry.

Oddly, if anything, the book isn’t quite long enough. I’d love to read a revised new edition that dealt with the critical decade since the first gulf war. Oil and the politics and economics that surround it are a critical piece of understanding how the modern world works. It seems that this truism is becoming only more the case as we move towards the middle of the twenty-first century. We are all still Hydrocarbon Man, and look to continue to be for quite some time.

And just to be blunt: I really, really enjoyed reading this book. Found it fascinating, and it significantly changed the way I think about some elements of our world. Great work, Dr. Yergin!

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