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The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  1,384 Ratings  ·  188 Reviews
"What's not to enjoy about a book full of monstrous egos, unimaginable sums of money, and the punishment of greed and shortsightedness?"

Phenomenal reviews and sales greeted the hardcover publication of The Big Rich, New York Times bestselling author Bryan Burrough's spellbinding chronicle of Texas oil. Weaving together the multigenerational sagas of the industry's four
Paperback, 480 pages
Published March 30th 2010 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 2009)
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Tony Daniel
Feb 24, 2010 Tony Daniel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is a fun tour. It's particularly strong on the early years of H.L. Hunt, Roy Murchison and Sid Richardson (the Bass family founder). The book loses its way a bit with the big detour through the Glenn McCarthy story (which deserves its own book). The main problem with the book is Burrough's strident liberal political correctness. It's "ultra-conservative" this and "ultra-conservative" that over and over again. Burroughs can't fathom why any of these people, whom he otherwise admires, might n ...more
I’ve been on a Texas binge lately. I’ve always found the state, its history, and its people to be intriguing. And the politicians? Is there a state that can compare with Texas when one begins to list the people who have served as governor of that state? Well, maybe next-door neighbor Louisiana comes close.

I read one time (and I would give credit to the source, but I don’t remember who wrote it) that, paraphrasing now, Louisiana governors had three primary responsibilities. Listed in the order of
Jan 22, 2011 Raymond rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this a really interesting telling of the oil fortunes and misfortunes in Texas; however, I would have liked to be provided with some information on the steam (boiler) engines that were used in the drilling! Burrough often tells of the hazards that the boilers were when the gushers came in, but does not detail at all the use of the boilers.
My family enjoyed a stay in the Shamrock Hilton when we moved to that area in 1973, it had an amazing pool! Also, as a software representative for IBM
May 11, 2010 Cynthia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Intriguing stories about the men (unfortunately mainly men) that I grew up hearing about in Texas. These are the backgrounds of the men who made Texas famous for oil and big money. Really enjoyed the gossipy but true life adventures. Sadly,many of these families have devolved into the right-wing politicians and now have brought shame onto Texas. (Actually they were doing this for decades but not as openly.) Very detailed and researched. Now I know who owned some of those houses I used to walk my ...more
Apr 24, 2009 Tripp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are some areas of the country I find particularly interesting. Most I can attribute to a personal connection (VA, NC, CA), because of what happens there (LA, NYC) or some combination (DC). Others are just so peculiar that they make for fascinating reading. These tend to be on the geographical fringe; places like Alaska, Maine and Texas. Bryan Burroughs (co-author of Barbarians at the Gate) tackles some of the key creators of the modern Texas in the Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greate ...more
Oct 08, 2014 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Is it any wonder Texas oilmen inspired soap operas like "Dallas" and "Giant?" Here's a cursory list of their goings-on:

>Old-fashioned Jew-hatin';
>Sidewalk sleepin';
>$290,000 in silver dollars;
>Wrestling matches at the symphony;
>Armed robbery;
>Billion dollar debts;
>One lobotomy;
>Hazard pay just for working in Texas h
Jun 25, 2012 Wanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very compelling and interesting "history" of the big four "wealthy beyond your wildest dreams" Texans. Burroughs discusses Roy Cullen, HL Hunt, Clint Murchison, and Sid Richardson. A few others are thrown in as other illustrations of the swaggering, egotistical, ill educated and small minded men who were lucky, ruthless and tenacious at a time when there was little in Texas beyond some sagebrush and skinny, malnourished cattle grazing on thousands of acres of brush and mesquite trees. A clever ...more
Dec 31, 2012 Cheryl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-ficton
Excellent book about the big four oilmen (aka the Big Rich) and their families in Texas from the 1930s into the 1980s. These were powerful men/families that through their immense wealth influenced Texas and the country both socially and politically.

The Big Four were Roy Cullen (Houston), H. L. Hunt and Clint Murchison, Sr. (Dallas), and Sid Richardson (Fort Worth). Bryan Burrough follows the trials and triumphs of each man and family(ies) with great dedication. Several men were racists and anti
Jul 31, 2014 Kristi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting on the history of oil in Texas. The first part of the book was fascinating: how oil was found using various combinations of money, luck, intelligence, and chutzpah. It's kind of technical, but Burroughs explains this key part of 20th c. Texas history in an engaging & clear way.

The stories of the families of the "big rich" were ok -- it was interesting to find out more about names I've heard of my whole life (as a Texan), but too sensationalistic for my taste.

I almost gave
Heather Mize
Interesting, entertaining, but the authors apparent disdain for the Big Rich is at times to apparent. I tend to appreciate more unbiased approaches when reading books like his. For all his trying Burrough doesn't have the same fluidity to his chronicle as Cornelius Ryan in The Longest Day which makes epic stories that cross generations such as these accessible and readable. Overall, a good history of a sad turn of events in Texas oil history.
Michael Linton
This book had great stories but the book as a whole was hard to finish. It felt very disjointed and the flow was horrible. It felt like it was various stories (in great detail) that had no arch. Also, the book dove into stories of people that wasn't part of the Big Four. I would have preferred it so much more if it was presented as a collection of stories.
May 18, 2009 Jenny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well-written and eye opening history of 20th-Century Texas. Did you know that Big Oil was behind McCarthyism, two Presidents Bush, and a million other hypocrisies? You did? Well, I think there's still new stuff to be discovered in here. You can be entertained and horrified at the same time...
Chris Phillips
Mar 04, 2012 Chris Phillips rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Got this book as a gift from my in-laws. Couldn't put it down! Fascinating story that follows four Texas oil families from early days on through to (most of) their demise. Highly recommend!
Karl Schaeffer
Dec 19, 2016 Karl Schaeffer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Back in the day, when I ventured to far off Trenton to work a job while in college, I actually met people who were NY Yankees fans. To this born and bred Philly boy, nobody rooted for the Yankees. Everybody I knew hated the Yankees. I had to adjust my world view, because these guys were OK. Again, my world view was shattered when I moved to Alaska and actually had to work with Texans who were Dallas Cowboy fans and proud to be Texans. Most had "Texas Rooms" where they proudly displayed mementos ...more
John Walker
Jan 08, 2017 John Walker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The joys, sorrows and collapse of the Big Rich or the Big Four families of Texas oil. My wife's cousin, a petroleum engineer in Texas, convinced me to read this book. Usually I would say 'I'll check it out' then forget about it. It was his passion about this book that made me want to read it.

There are times you'll shake your head on how foolish some of these people were and there are some times where you burst out laughing at some of the antics. From the 1920's with wildcatters till the Hunt bro
Alberto Lopez
Feb 23, 2017 Alberto Lopez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-favorites
An extensive and entertaining report of the "rise and fall" of the Texas oil money. Having lived in Texas and as an enthusiast of business history, this book served to close various gaps. It also made much sense of what I had observed first hand while a Texas resident. All I have to say is that, when reading this book, you will be surprised of the depth of influence that a few risk takers have had in the world that we know.
Mike Finegan
Dec 09, 2016 Mike Finegan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read on how the big oil fortunes of Texas were made, as well as how they were lost. Along the way, stories about the larger-than-life families involved. And some insights into the roots of some of the political movements of today.
Apr 14, 2009 Andy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A native Texan once told me that, per-capita, downtown Dallas has more square-feet of glass than any other city in the world, ensuring that on the mirrored surfaces, residents have countless opportunities to glimpse their own captivating image. I cannot confirm the statistic but Texans certainly do love to reflect on their identity and unique cultural heritage. This 175-year tradition is dutifully maintained by Bryan Burrough in his multi-generational history of Texas oil, The Big Rich.

After the
Oct 22, 2010 Kenn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Big Rich is a fascinating story about four Texas families who became fabulously wealthy by striking oil.
Of these four, perhaps the most interesting was that of the Hunts. H.L. Hunt the family patriarch, was the real scoundrel of the bunch. He was a philanderer who had three wives! He made his fortune by, among other actions, taking advantage of inside information.

Sid Richardson and Clint Murchison were boyhood friends. Richardson parlayed a modest loan from Murchison's banker father into hu
Dec 06, 2010 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Much meatier than Texas Big Rich: Exploits, Eccentricities, and Fabulous Fortunes Won and Lost. Thorough/satisfying description the four Big Rich families and their significant business deals. (So, we have Roy Cullen to thank for Houston's lax zoning). Burrough also describes Big Rich influence and maturation in national politics. He stops short, however, of drawing conclusions, unlike Sandy Sheehy in Texas Big Rich. (For example, what does he think of Houston's zoning - or lack thereof??) And t ...more
Jan 26, 2010 SA rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: texas, non-fiction
Loved this book. However, in thinking about how I would rate it, I confronted whether I was more in love with the content or the actual work of the author. so with that said...

content: this book tells the story of the "Mount Rushmore" of Texas oil -- Hunt, Murchison, Richardson & Cullen. the stories of discovery are fascinating. However, the tales of opulence, political involvement and familial evolution over time are just as enthralling. Quite frankly, I can't think of any other subject mat
Annick Rodriguez
Fantastic read about how the Texas Oil industry become as powerful as it is. Fascintating character studies on the Big Four oil dynasties, H.L. Hunt, Clint Murchison, Sid Richardson, Roy Cullen, and all their legacies, triumphs and tragedies. ALso analyzes the great impact these Oilmen had on the economy, global politics, the Middle East, World War II, the Presidency (Lyndon Johnson was one political ally of many). This reads like any episode of Dallas you've ever seen, only MORE over the top. S ...more
Nov 06, 2013 Nichola rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: local, us-history
Living in Houston I wanted to find out what Texas millionaries had done to build up and otherwise influence the city and surroundings and what their continuing influences were today.
This is a very ambitious prying into the lives of the four Texas major guys, Clint Murchison, Sid Richardson, H L Hunt, and Roy Cullen. Mostly they were out to make lots of money, and were lucky to begin with. They also managed to create a body of influence in order to keep things benefitting them, and use their hold
Joe Perrone Jr
Oct 07, 2009 Joe Perrone Jr rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in political and economic history
Recommended to Joe by: Joyce, the librarian at Etowah Branch Library, Etowah, NC
Originally, I went in to the library to find a non-fiction book in large print. Whenever I am engaged in writing a mystery novel (my favorite read, also) I refrain from reading other such books for fear that I might subconsciously purloin an idea or two. Because the librarian is a friend of my wife's, I felt obliged to accept her suggestion of this book. Little did I realize how absorbed in it I would become over the next few weeks. It is a huge book, and since I have difficulty reading (due to ...more
Oct 17, 2013 Derek rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The book recounts the beginning of the Texas oil boom beginning with Spindletop outside of Beaumont, Texas. The discussion of how the Big Four (Roy Cullen, H. L. Hunt—bigamist, Sid Richardson, and Clint Murchison) independently wrestled their fortunes from the ground or from others was the most intriguing aspect of the book. I was surprised with how little I could tolerate the discussion of politics. Bryan Burroughs dropped several notches in my estimation. When reading this book because he seem ...more
May 29, 2012 Amanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This will be the third Burroughs book I've read and I must say his writing is quick, readable and direct. I'm a sucker for good books on Texas personalities given my connection to the place, and I think he was spot on in the introduction when he said that Texas is th only state with a real sense of identity that is hard to describe to those who haven't experienced it. The personalities in the book were foolhardy, brilliant, hard charging, opportunistic and ultimately hubristic - that said, they ...more
Jun 01, 2010 Chad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is no doubt this book is fascinating and filled with some of the biggest characters that have only appeared, for the most part, in the footnotes of history books Anyone who has grown up in Texas will automatically recognize the hundreds of names mentioned throughout the book, whether it is general knowledge or the names on every other building surrounding them. The only issue I had with it was the author's inability to stick to one type of prose. There are times it reads like a text book o ...more
Jul 14, 2011 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating book. I would never have read it were it not for my sister-in-law Claire who had a copy of it for her book club. It's the story of several generations of four Texas families who rose to affluence and influence in Texas and in DC after The Big Four (basically gamblers with oil) discovered oil in Texas. The book follows the four families from the 1920s to the present against the backdrop of 20th century Texas and US history, Presidential politics (Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnso ...more
Bonnie M. Benson
Jun 15, 2012 Bonnie M. Benson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Fascinating read about Texas oil from Spindletop until the 70s.

Was amazed at the incredible persistent of the Big Four to just keep going, in some cases after endless dry wells. No wonder they had a sense of entitlement. It also explains their embrace of conservative, right wing politics. I don't necessarily agree but I feel like I understand where they're coming from.

As someone who recently moved to Texas, I was surprised that the Texans I met were nothing like the stereotypes I grew up with o
Aug 05, 2012 Caleb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thoroughly enjoyable history of the four big early Texas oil fortunes and the varying paths the first generation took and what happened when the second generation came in. Burrough co-wrote Barbarians at the Gate and brought that level of detail and well-paced writing to this book. It bounced between four families (Cullens, Hunts, Murchisons, and the Richardsons/Basses) with ease, though I would have like family trees (especially of the Hunt mess) and a map of Texas listing all the counties. H ...more
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Bryan Burrough joined Vanity Fair in August 1992 and has been a special correspondent for the magazine since January 1995. He has reported on a wide range of topics, including the events that led to the war in Iraq, the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, and the Anthony Pellicano case. His profile subjects have included Sumner Redstone, Larry Ellison, Mike Ovitz, and Ivan Boesky.

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