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The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power
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The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power

4.37 of 5 stars 4.37  ·  rating details  ·  4,448 ratings  ·  416 reviews
The Prize recounts the panoramic history of oil -- and the struggle for wealth and power that has always surrounded oil. This struggle has shaken the world economy, dictated the outcome of wars, and transformed the destiny of men and nations.

The Prize is as much a history of the twentieth century as of the oil industry itself. The canvas of history is enormous -- from the
Paperback, 928 pages
Published 1993 by Free Press (first published 1991)
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Long, but soooooo good. Lots of people write books like How Soccer Explains the World, which you read and think, "That was cute, but soccer doesn't ACTUALLY explain the world." The thing is, to hear Yergin tell it, oil actually DOES explain the world, at least for the last 150 years, and I believe him. 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.

(It won the 1992 Pulitz
I bought Daniel Yergin’s The Prize during one of my semi-regular fits of intellectual hunger, which often strike after I’ve read five straight books about Nazi henchman and zero books about anything relevant to today’s world. After the purchase, I put it on the shelf. 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
Feb 01, 2008 Naeem rated it 4 of 5 stars
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 800 page plus book.

Nevertheless, I consider this a must read (I read it twice). 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
Nick Black
750 pages of pretty dense prose, originating in Pennsylvania, spanning the globe (you'll come out knowing more than you did going in about venezuela, bahrain, and azerbaijan) and ending on the shiite plains of iraq's central euphrates region in 1991 (an epilogue addresses the period ending in the second gulf war, but is cursory at best). characters of all ethnicity and nomenclature enter, live for a few pages, and then exit, sometimes referred to again fifty pages later. switches from backroom i ...more
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. Mr. 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
As a history and energy enthusiast I simply adored this mammoth of a book (warning: this book is both huge and has small print. If this intimidates you stear clear because each page is chock full of fascinating and detailed knowledge and stories). What I particulalry liked about it was the level of detail Yergin went into explaining the dyanmics of the oil market thorughout its existence, the major players that moved those markets, and the reasons behind why they made the decisions they did. It ...more
Neither of the novels I’m currently reading is really going anywhere, so I started reading a history of the oil industry instead. As I’d expected, it was totally riveting. I find the role of oil in economic, political, and environmental development fascinating, so clearly was predisposed to like it. The book sustained my interest, even when recounting the technicalities of oil company mergers, through the use of a high quality journalistic approach. Each chapter began with a character vignette o ...more
Oil is the thread connecting 130 years of global history through such characters as John D. Rockefeller, Harry Sinclair, Winston Churchill, King Faisal, Warren G. Harding, T.E. Lawrence and many more. Our oil addiction stemmed from the discovery of oil "seep fields" (think of teh Beverly Hillbillilies "bubblin' crude") in Western Pa.

The original oil boom sought to exploit kerosene as an improvement over whale oil burning in lamps. Oil fever waxed and waned until the commercialization of interna
Mukesh Kumar
A fantastic account of the history of the world oil industry - and with it it the history of the modern economy, diplomacy and geopolitics. One can't begin to fathom the extensive research that the author has engaged in, to compose this epic of a book.
A must read for anyone remotely related to oil and energy business or anyone interested in understanding modern global politics and energy policy.
Paul Donahue
I would give this six stars if I could. I hate exaggerating but I don't think I am when I say this book has changed the way I think about the past, the present, and the future. It's impossible to retain even all the broad points made in this book, and I fail to comprehend how someone could possess all of that knowledge at the same time. Many of the sub-stories fall into the "I can't believe that actually happened" category.

It is not just a story of the oil industry. It is the story of one of the
I feel that I should write a massive review to do justice to this tome, but I doubt anyone would want to read that. This book could have been either much shorter or much longer; it's current length leaves me rather dissatisfied. Yergin has compiled phenomenal research and applied a creative and fascinating lens to historical events. As various players, countries, and situations enter the sphere of Yergin's history of oil, he then has to provide background on them, struggling to find the balance ...more
Robert Morris
This book is fantastic. I am a bit of a history buff and have read a fair amount of it, but this book added a whole new dimension to my understanding of the past century. Petrochemicals, and the benefits and security issues that they bring have been central to the way the modern world has formed. This may seem to be an obvious statement, but it is not a story that people focus on much. Yergin has filled this gap. Vital reading.

One thing that I found particularly illuminating is the perpetual bo
I cannot say enough good things about this book. I plead with you, nay, beg you: read it.

This is, truly, a "must read." It is a history book, but a vibrant, stunning, at times almost unbelievable one.

If you haven't figured it out already, the world runs on oil, and has for a while now. And will continue to do so. It influences everything, and has played what was to me a surprisingly pivotal role in World War 2.

How can you claim to care about current events, issues, the war in Iraq, terrorism, et
Shashwat Sharma
Okay, so this is not your conventional easy read, but one that's extremely invigorating if you're interested in history. For The Prize underlines the entire history of the past one and a half centuries revolving around the one ultimate Prize - oil. There would hardly be another single book whose pages discuss people from Rockefeller to Kennedy, Roosevelt to George Bush, Stalin to Hitler to Saddam Hussein. Oh, and there's even a line about Moses and Noah's Ark! The sheer scale of the oil industry ...more
A well-written essay on the history of oil. The book reads on many levels. One could use it as just a history of oil, in which the reader, on top of that, gets some biographies of famous oil barons (Rockefeller, Deterding, George Bush sr.) for free. Oil proves also to be a textbook example of applied micro- and industrial economics: cartels, free market with lots of suppliers and customers, import quota, impact of taxes,... Last but not least, the book offers a good insight in the geopolitical i ...more
Feb 20, 2009 Blake rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: History junkies
Recommended to Blake by:
A most excellent work of history which explores every facet of the history of oil. The scope and research is truly amazing, ranging from biography of individual oil tycoons and entrepreneurs to political, economic, social, and military history. Surprisingly, despite the topic, "The Prize" is very readable and, despite its over 800 page length, is concise as it moves through events. I would rank this as one of the most informative works of history I have read. Everyone knows oil is important, but ...more
William Dearth
This book is for those who know it all as well as for those that think they know it all. I rank it right up there with Paul Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers as essential reading.

The level of detail is immense throughout the book, but the last 1/3 is truly scary.

For political aficionados, it is indispensable.

This should be deserving of a five star rating. I rated it at four stars only because I read it intermittently throughout the year. That takes away from the continuity of the
Kai Palchikoff
Now with a new epilogue that speaks directly to the current energy crisis, The Prize recounts the panoramic history of the world's most important resource: oil. Daniel Yergin's timeless book chronicles the struggle for wealth and power that has surrounded oil for decades and that continues to fuel global rivalries, shake the world economy, and transform the destiny of men and nations. This updated edition categorically proves the unwavering significance of oil throughout the twentieth century an ...more
Nitya Sivasubramanian
I desperately want to read this book cover to cover. Unfortunately, being reading nonfiction that requires actual fact retention to proceed from chapter to chapter and taking care of an 8-month old full-time don't exactly go hand in hand. So unfortunately, I had to take this book back to the library half-read. I do have this to say though, any book that has me laughing out loud and waking my husband up to spout facts about the name of a certain oil company, definitely a must-read in my opinion!
FINALLY finished this lonnnnng book after 4 months of reading on-and-off. I consider 'The Quest' by Yergin to be one of the best i have ever read but this one had some problems.
The book is quite interesting for the first 200 pages or so but then, as the novelty fades off, it becomes repetitive and tedious. The same description of finds, barons, deals etc etc keep repeating. And the topic is Oil. Lots of it on each page.
I suggest staying away even if u are a Yergin fan.
James Anderson
The first half is incredible, starting out with the oil boom in the US and how it shaped both world wars. It reaches fever pitch with World War II as every major power on both sides is motivated largely by oil in their scramble for strategic targets.

The second half is a snoozefest concerning the Middle East's rise as the preeminent oil state. I didn't actually read the majority of this part because it just does nothing for me. No intrigue, no drama, just money.
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A book about oil, from the beginning to the end -- and in this case, the end was around the time of the first Gulf War. Yergin wants you to feel the rushing swoosh of history, and at times you do. Oil is at the center of everything. Oil is why the U.S. puts the Allies over the top against oil-starved Germany and Japan. Oil is why Rommel gets stranded in the deserts of North Africa. Oil is why the U.S. topples regimes in the Middle East. Oil is why the U.S. kowtows to the Saudi Royal Family. The ...more
This sweeping history of oil takes us from the first strike in Pennsylvania in 1859 to the Gulf War in 1990. Along the way we encounter personalities from John D. Rockefeller to George H. W. Bush, companies from Standard Oil to T. Boone Pickens’ Mesa Petroleum, booms and panics from Titusville Pa and Spindletop Texas to the global energy crises of the 1970’s and 90’s. If at times the detail is a bit overwhelming, it is highly instructive portraying the dynamics of oil’s impact on global economic ...more
Alexander Mooij
One of the most fantastic history lessons I have ever read. Even though I consider myself an environmentalist, this book has allowed me to develop a much more nuanced image of, and respect for the energy industry.
A must for those interested in energy, politics and entrepreneurship.
Great storytelling too with amazing characters.
Simran Buttar
Very well written and well laid out book, although not explicitly stated but it provides direct insight into US foreign policy and energy matters. My views towards US politics, foreign policy, large energy companies and environment has completely changed.
Looking forward to next book from Mr. Daniel (Sept. 2011)
What a surprisingly good read! Yergin writes like a novelist. He effectively narrates the economic growth of the oil industry in an entertaining and conversational style. Highly recommended for gaining historical insights into today's international political arena.
Sahil Hossain
A comprehensive history of the oil industry – since the first oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859 till the early 1990 middle-east turmoil – presented in a fascinating narration. The book provides an insight at the high-tension dramas and the twist and turns that oil observed at national and international arenas – be it while in exploration, in colossal corporate integration, in determining war outcomes or shaping the foreign policies and international relations of middle-east and wester ...more
This book is about 1000 pages long, carrying it around gave me a bad back - which is why I deducted a star (it should have been 6 stars). If you want to know about oil go no further.
The Prize is a densely packed history of the oil industry beginning in the 1850's and ending in the 1990's. Daniel Yergin gets straight to the point with fact after fact and removes the storytelling approach which as a result makes it slightly more difficult to read. I had no problem reading through this thick book until about page 400. After that I had to force myself to finish it and more often than not, pretended not to notice it on my nightstand and prefer to play on my iPhone before bed ins ...more
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Daniel Yergin is the author of the new bestseller The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World which has been hailed as “a fascinating saga” about the “quest for sustainable resources of energy,” and “the book you must read to understand the future of our economy and our way of life,” not to mention “necessary reading for C.E.O.’s, conservationists, lawmakers, generals, spies, ...more
More about Daniel Yergin...
The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World The Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy Shattered Peace: The Origins of the Cold War and the National Security State Russia 2010: And What It Means for the World The Quest

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“Oil men, like producers of other raw materials, could not continue to sell their products below cost...For prices to be raised, production had to be controlled, and to bring production under control, Ickes began with an all-out campaign against the "hot oiler,"...This bootleg oil was secretly siphoned off from pipelines, hidden in camouflaged tanks that were covered with weeds, moved about both in an intrcate network of secret pipelines and by trucks, and then smuggled across state borders at night.” 2 likes
“The author points to the impact of what he called Dutch disease, where the discovery of found wealth from a particular commodity causes a culture to atrophy with respect to work ethic and broader development. Continuing wealth from the single commodity is taken for granted. The government, flush with wealth, is expected to be generous. When the price of that commodity drops, a government which would remain in power dare not cut back on this generosity.” 2 likes
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