Oil is topical again–for all the wrong reasons. The change for the worse inspires reviewing some of the classics in the library of energy books. The genre is extensive and so the following list hardly scratches the surface. But these titles deserve to be on everyone’s short list. There are more recent books on the topic, of course, but here are five standards in the niche that will stand the test of time.
● The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power
By Daniel Yergin
An ambitious review of how the oil industry became so powerful. From the politics to the economics to the personalities, this comprehensive volume is now the standard work on the subject. If you could only read one book about the history of this business, this is it. Well written, comprehensive, and engaging. Quite simply, a magnificent tome.
● Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
By Ron Chernow
This is a biography of a man and not an industry, but John D. Rockefeller virtually invented the oil industry as we know it and so the two are inseparable. Ron Chernow’s considerable talents with a pen only sweeten the deal. You can’t really understand the oil business unless you understand John D.
● Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil
By David Goodstein
A Caltech professor muses on life after the fossil fuels run out. A short book, but a powerful one that considers what comes after cheap gasoline.
● Hubbert’s Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage (New Edition)
By Kenneth Deffeyes
An oil geologist explains and interprets Hubbert’s Peak, a reference to the peaking in oil production. It’s already happened in U.S. production, and the worry is that a global peak is near. An amazingly insightful little book; it’s also well-written and even humorous. Deffeyes has quite a bit of flair with the written word, and he knows energy geology inside and out to boot. Educational and entertaining.
● The Seven Sisters: The Great Oil Companies and the World They Shaped
By Anthony Sampson
Although this best seller of the 1970s is dated, it’s a well-written account of the business that’s still worthy for understanding how the big oil firms became BIG OIL. One of the genre’s timeless classics. A tour de force for describing the power and the drama of oil companies during the zenith of their influence on the world stage.