Black Gold: The Story of Oil in Our Lives, by Albert Marrin

The vast majority of the books we receive here at Wordcandy are fiction, but every few weeks the odd nonfiction title turns up. I usually choose to review the ones on subjects I enjoy reading about (read: food preparation and money management, both of which I love... in theory, anyway, if not in practice), but Albert Marrin's informative-yet-totally-readable Black Gold: The Story of Oil In Our Lives is the kind of thing everyone should read, particularly if they—like me—paid insufficient attention to their high school science and history teachers.

Black Gold opens with Marrin's belief that controlling the oil supply, and finding alternatives for oil, "will shape much of the social, political, and military history of the twenty-first century". He then offers a brief, cogent explanation of how oil is created, and embarks on a tour of oil's past, going all the way back to the Stone Age hunters who used asphalt to glue stone points onto the shafts of their spears. (Did you know that the word “mummy” comes from the Arabic word for “asphalt”, a key ingredient in mummification? Because I sure didn't. Also: ew.) The book covers recent history as well, including the current conflict in the Middle East, and concludes with an examination of the huge amounts of oil modern Americans consume, and a quick analysis of the pros and cons of a variety of alternative forms of energy.

Marrin clearly has strong opinions about oil usage, some of which politically conservative readers may find objectionable. (I doubt he's a fan of the “Drill, baby, drill!” philosophy.) But everyone, regardless of their political affiliation, benefits from knowing more about the history of oil, the science of utilizing it, and the dangers of over-dependence upon it, and that's the kind of knowledge Black Gold provides in spades. Marrin crams a wealth of information into well under 200 pages of easy-to-follow text, and I'm sincerely grateful to him for penning such a helpful crash-course on a vital subject.

Review based on a publisher-provided copy.
Posted by: Julianka


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