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More filters. Sort order. Jul 05, Matt rated it really liked it Shelves: history. After the purchase, I put it on the shelf.

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And there it sat, for a long, long time. It is, after all, a tremendously big tome about oil; it does not scream out to be consumed or embraced or loved. For a long time it just sat there, on my shelf, laughing at me. Finally, one day, I picked it up, and started to read it. Then I quit. Because it was about oil. This meme consisted of a picture of a gas pump with a Post-It note stuck next to the digital price-per-gallon screen.

The content of the note, summarized, is that gas prices now are higher than when Obama was inaugurated. Thus had I reached that crucial moment when a sudden, fleeting interest intersected with exactly the right book to satisfy that interest. That answer has something to do with oil being a global commodity.

And also there are Oil Elves. Instead, The Prize positions itself as the history of the world from to , told from the point of view of black gold, Texas tea, etc. He jumps quickly from one place to the next, one person to the next, so that it all becomes something of a blur a chronology in the back does help. Moreover, The Prize has a sort of subject-myopia. Yergin never really explains how oil is discovered or recovered; how it evolved from a lighting source to a propulsion source; or the actual mechanics of how an oil company operates.

To be sure, some of these topics are mentioned, but none are explored in a truly satisfactory way. Yergin is sure to tell you every time OPEC did something that shook up world oil markets. That is, how and why OPEC was able to accomplish what they accomplished and still accomplish. In other words, The Prize is about tell, not show.

There were many times I sought a deeper, fuller understanding of this subject; instead, there was often only a recitation of facts. The story does pick up pace further on. Yergin devotes four chapters to World War II, the epochal event that ushered in this sea-change. These shortages are mentioned — in passing — in every history of World War II.

Fleeting references, however, fail to do the situation justice. Japan literally began the war with a timetable based on fuel stocks.

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It forced Japan into numerous desperate measures that appeared fanatical, but which were dictated by oil logic. Chief among these measures were the kamikaze attacks.

These suicide missions were exceedingly effective in terms of resource conservation, since planes only needed enough fuel for a one-way trip. Furthermore, fuel did not have to be expended to train these pilots, since all they needed to know was enough to get them off the ground and headed in the right direction.

The post-World War II years was the time when oil took its mantle as the leading natural resource. Not only are these international crises more interesting reading than earlier tales of wildcatting in Pennsylvania, but Yergin does a better job finding the human drama to accompany the inanimate central character. Paul Getty, at one time the richest man in America: As a young man, Getty was already launched on a life of wild romance and sexual adventure, with a special predilection for teenage girls.

He married five times. Yet the only true love of his life may have been a French woman, the wife of a Russian consul general in Asia Minor, with whom he had a passionate affair in Constantinople in He bade what he hoped was a temporary farewell to her on the dock at Istanbul, but then lost contact with her forever in the turmoil of war and revolution that followed.

Even sixty years later, whereas he would discuss his five marriages almost technically, as if they were lawsuits, a mere mention of this lady, Madame Marguerite Tallasou, was enough to bring tears to his eyes. That presence has included rampantly exploiting natural resources and propping up certain leaders — often to the detriment of their people — in order to create advantageous geopolitical stability.

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That stability is necessary to the uninterrupted flow of a very precious commodity. The Prize , despite what I found to be shortcomings, does a masterful job of explaining just how that happened. In that way, it succeeds in doing what all history books aspire to do: to show the direct link between the past and the present. Even though The Prize ends in with a short update chapter , it clearly proves its thesis that oil — and all the struggles surrounding its discovery, acquisition, and distribution — created our modern world.

For better and for worse. View all 4 comments. Jul 15, Ryan rated it it was amazing. Long, but soooooo good. Extremely well researched and written, but also surprisingly lively and imbued with humor as well. Kudoes to Yergin for doing so well with a topic that's potentially so dry.


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  7. It won the Pulitz Long, but soooooo good. It won the Pulitzer Prize, btw If you can carve out the time over a month or so to make your way all the way through the pages, it's well worth it. View 1 comment. Jul 25, Naeem rated it really liked it Recommends it for: all people who can read. Shelves: mustreads. Be warned that Yergin is an apologist for Oil companies and doesn't have a critical word to say about capitalism in this page plus book. Nevertheless, I consider this a must read I read it twice.

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    First, Yergin writes like a journalist -- so the reading goes quickly and well. More important, this is a comprehensive and thorough history of the commodity oil. When you review the history of the 20th century from the lens of oil, many things change and everything deepens. The chapters on WWII ar Be warned that Yergin is an apologist for Oil companies and doesn't have a critical word to say about capitalism in this page plus book.


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    The chapters on WWII are spectacular. Yergin shows that much of the strategy of all sides was getting access to oil fields.

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    In addition this is the book that got me to take global warming seriously. Not that this was Yergin's intent. Finally, there some good theoretical material here as well. The particularities of the commodity are grounded on the fact that right from the start of oil's history, the problem for capitalists is that there is too much oil! Yergin thus confirms over and over what Timothy Mitchell argues in his article "McJihad" -- that a glut of oil necessitates the creation of cartels that can reduce the quantity of oil on the world market.

    Only reduced quantities can sustain profits. This can be a mind blowing read if you can filter out Yergin's glorification of oil capitalists -- as individuals and as a collectivity. Ironically, Yergin does not argue for free markets because this would mean an oil glut, low oil prices, and limited profits for oil companies. What this teaches us is that corporations and their spokespersons are too smart to promote free market ideology in their plans and actions but smart enough to spout that as their rhetoric. Corporate socialism that is what a cartel is, no?

    In this sense, Yergin is the honest voice of oil corporations. He argues for the all the good oil companies create even if that means that they have to violate free market ideology. View all 14 comments. Jan 19, Alec rated it it was amazing. Aaaand time. Take that, Prize. After a mere 2 full months, about 8 flights, and at least 2 pounds of lean muscle mass added from lifting this tome, I have finally taken down The Prize. Yergin, you are the definition of a worthy adversary, akin to the man in the black pajamas or the value menu at Jack in the Box.

    The Prize is a book that, upon completion, made me feel completely ridiculous for ever having an opinion on anything literally, anything without this base collection of knowledge. W Aaaand time.