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Black Gold: The Story of Oil in Our Lives
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Black Gold: The Story of Oil in Our Lives

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  181 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
Oil is not pretty, but it is a resource that drives the modern world.  It has made fortunes for the lucky few and provided jobs for millions of ordinary folks.

Thick and slippery, crude oil has an evil smell. Yet without it, life as we live it today would be impossible. Oil fuels our engines, heats our homes, and powers the machines that make the everyday things we take for
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published January 10th 2012 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2012)
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May 09, 2013 rated it did not like it
The subject is petroleum, from history to the search for alternative energy sources. Many little-known facts are included. For example, during WWII only the US had developed 100 octane fuel, which gave a decisive advantage to Allied fighter planes.
The book’s errors in science create confusion and misconceptions that students may carry into report writing. Citing no reference, page 131 claims that dispersants used on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill “are 10,000 times deadlier to sea life than crud
Richard Reese
Jul 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Albert Marrin is a history professor who has written dozens books for young readers. In Black Gold, he discussed the geology of fossil energy, emergence of the oil industry, geopolitics, oil wars, environmental impacts, and future challenges. I was intrigued by his perspective on geopolitics.

Before World War One, the British navy scrapped many coal-burning warships and began building modern boats that ran on oil. This gave them a big advantage over the German navy. The era of industrial warfare
Richie Partington
Jan 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Richie's Picks: BLACK GOLD: THE STORY OF OIL IN OUR LIVES by Albert Marrin, Knopf, January 2012, 192p., ISBN: 978-0-375-86673-9

"And with the radio blasting
Goes cruising just as fast as she can now
And she'll have fun, fun fun
'Till her daddy takes the T-Bird away"
-- Brian Wilson & Mike Love, "Fun Fun Fun"

"Asphalt also helped the dead 'live' forever. Ancient Egyptians believed in life after death. But to gain eternal life, a corpse had to be mummified--that is, embalmed and dried to prevent dec
Mar 08, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
Much of the science was incorrect. I'm sure if it was because the author didn't understand the subject, tried and failed to simplify concepts, or intentionally misconstrued the facts to make a point. The book left out important information when it didn't suit the conclusions although this may be from a lack of understanding/research rather than deliberate deceit.

While some of the history was interesting, I was disappointed by most of the book. The facts didn't support the conclusions (even when
Rebecca Sofferman
Aug 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Black Gold: The Story of Oil in Our Lives is a welcome addition to the middle or high school library. The book provides a concise yet thorough summary of both the scientific and political aspects of humans’ relationship with oil. While focused on the US, the book describes the development of oil dependence throughout the world over time, and highlights the contributions of key individuals in the process. Some chapters are more scientific in nature – describing the process of oil creation and ref ...more
Amy Lignor
Feb 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
As we all know, oil has been a benefit to this world, while at the same time being the cause of some of the worst nightmares, wars, and agony that we’ve ever seen. In many ways, most people on this planet wish that oil had never been found; if so, perhaps we would not be in the situation economically or socially that we are in right now.

In this new work of nonfiction, the author has provided everything from the very beginnings of oil to how this substance has saved lives, taken lives, and how th
Apr 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Loved this book! The title and picture on the cover really grabbed my attention from the very beginning: "Black Gold: The Story of Oil in Our Lives". Everything, absolutely everything, we do in this life is affected by energy and everyone could benefit from reading this book.

The author, Albert Marin, first started describing how oil is made. He titles chapter one as "a freak of geology"; from there he describes how drilling begin and how people, such as John D. Rockefeller, became wealthy from o
Bethany Miller
Mar 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: royal-march-2012
Black Gold explores the significance of oil in the lives of humans. The author begins by explaining how fossil fuels were formed. He then traces the use of fossil fuels from antiquity to the present showing how humans have become increasingly dependent upon them over time. Marrin places special emphasis on the ways in which oil has played a role in political conflicts and wars throughout history. He goes on to describe the environmental consequences of fossil fuels as well as their increasing sc ...more
Feb 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: informational
Albert Marrin's timely book starts out explaining what oil is and where is comes from, then moves into its impact on the world, particularly how it relates to warfare, both in the sense that more oil reserves make for a better army and in the sense that countries are willing to go to war to get more. The book also discusses the problems with oil--such as natural disasters and the dwindling supply and concludes by discussing some possible alternatives to relying on oil and the pros and cons of ea ...more
Oct 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: any budding scientist
This is the sort of book I've been looking for and a perfect example of the use of YA nonfiction to explain a complex subject clearly even for adults. I learned a lot from this book. It talks about the physical origin of fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, coal), the history of the usage of fossil fuels, how the modern industry started, how the history of the Middle East is all about oil (which I knew but had no idea how much of the history was impacted by oil) and finally, the issues with oil, such ...more
May 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I only hated one thing about this book: that it ended.

I learned so much and understand so much now. When it meandered, one learned so much more because of well-thought out illustration.

Loved the format (fonts, layout, designs, decorations) and various well-placed pictures throughout. My idea of perfect.

I had no idea. We hear bits and pieces but this kind of book, in summarized and illustrated form brings it all together. Good job. Very good read.
Paul Deutschmann
Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wagner-825-ela
I think that this is a very good book because it is the one book that clearly illustrates the worldwide importance of oil in a way that is interesting to all readers. It may not have the best topic, but it is written in such a good way that it is impossible not to enjoy it. 5 stars. And I am going to look for more books to read by this author.
Edward Sullivan
An excellent economic and social history of the imapct impact oil has had and continues to have upon human civilization.
Sam Gaspar
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
A little simplistic at times, but overall a very helpful overview of fossil fuels and why we need to shift towards renewables
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating book about the history of oil. I learned so many things—how oil is processed, how asphalt is made, all the different ways it’s extracted. Highly recommended.
Mar 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
interesting info. too preachy for me. and a bit delusional on 'clean energy' being clean. once you've got your nice solar panel it may be clean, but it's a dirty process to make one. and ammonia isn't only made from oil, i guess he never mucked out a stall before. it's the little things that stick in the craw.
Felecia Mandeville
Oct 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: aces-lms
As a student who was weak in history, this timeline of the oil industry was exactly what I needed to understand all the players and how it affects my life today.
Apr 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 300, nonfiction
This is an extremely readable history of oil, from how it formed over the millenia to the political up heaval and wars it has caused. I am not sure that all of Marrin's facts are straight, but he definitely touches on all the major points and he isn't afraid to show the ugly side of the oil business. I found it interesting and somewhat bothersome that he seemed to mention John D. Rockefeller's religious devotion. I wondered where he was going with this. Was he offering an argument that God meant ...more
Read Ng
Aug 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I really enjoyed reading this, but it comes across to me like a "History" channel telling of Oil and it's role and future in our world. For the target audience it is simply wonderful. Not too in depth in the details, yet it tosses out some interesting tidbits of information new to me, such as the origins of the words mummy and derrick (and my imagination just spun off thinking about the original invention). I never thought much about what actually happens while drilling for oil and you hit that ...more
Caitlin Bennett
Apr 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book hits on many of my questions I've had about how the world became so oil dependent. It begins with the modern discovery of oil & how its use evolved in the 20th & 21st centuries. Marrin was careful to remain unbiased as he explains the political climate surrounding global oil production. As a reader, I was able to make my own conclusions about our world's oil dependence. As a historian, this book was helpful for me to reduce how much I've passed judgment on our ancestors for ado ...more
Crispin Crispian
Jan 13, 2014 rated it did not like it
This book is so filled with both historical and scientific inaccuracies I have a hard time understanding how it is in the non-fiction category. It gets basic facts of Rockefeller's life wrong, makes claims about chemical dispersants that run counter to EPA findings, makes claims about oil's calculated depletion date that are unsubstantiated (and grossly inaccurate based on all other publications) and fails to address known issues with alternatives (industrial ethanol pollutants, solar and wind u ...more
Riley Poston
Nov 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is very descriptive about the history of oil and the leading up to the use of oil. The book describe the times before oil when people had to use horses and that when the horses would die that people would just leave there houses on the side of the road to decay. Witch caused lots of sickness to the community. The book also goes a little into the struggle and the work henry ford went thought while trying to find power for his engine. It also talked about what the invention of the car pr ...more
Mary Stovall
I really enjoyed reading this non-fiction book about oil! I thought the author did a good job not focusing too much on the nitty gritty details and instead making oil matter to the reader. I learned about where oil came from, how it started a new age of technology and industry, and then how it has and still does cause wars and conflict. This is a great book to have kids read to truly understand why the Middle East is the way it is, and why we are so involved over there. This book honestly put it ...more
An interesting and fairly thorough look at how oil has affected our lives and our world. For me, the history of oil was particularly fascinating. Marrin argues, pretty effectively, that all wars sinse World War One have been about control of oil in some way or another.

Marrin also clearly shows how our existing relationship with oil is unsustainable. He explores the pros and cons of alternative energy sources briefly, but effectively.

An all round good read for anyone interested in the environme
ultimate reader
Jun 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I usually think that nonfiction books are a bore, but this one was pretty good. I didn't realize that we depended on oil so much. I also didn't realize that people used to wast so much oil either. It really gets you thinking. "what will happen when oil runs out? How will we power our homes, our cars, our lives, our computers? What will happen to all the technology, machines, and robots that we have made and have dreamt about? how will they run? A must read for anyone looking to find out more abo ...more
Oct 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
I did not enjoy this book as much as I would have hoped to. The beginning of the book until aboutthe last 50 or so pages, because at that point the author bias becomes prominent and some of the information is almost pointless, unless having a longer book counts. Up until the modern parts of the book, it is enjoyable while still factual (but considering I know about the 20th century, I could be completely incorrect), but when it comes to modern times I know alot of information is incorrect/stretc ...more
Aug 22, 2014 rated it liked it
Despite some inexcusable errors (Istanbul is NOT the capital of Turkey, the photo of the Hoover Dam is NOT the Hoover Dam, melting icecaps will NEVER totally submerge Hawaii and Indonesia), this is a good history of oil and other fossil fuels and its impact on the planet. The oil wars of the 20th and 21st centuries are described in detail. The author clearly explains our dependence on fossil fuels, for better or worse, and why finding alternatives will be difficult but also necessary. NOTE: This ...more
Aug 26, 2012 rated it liked it
7th, 8th, HS I anticipated a better read when I picked this book up at the library. I was quickly let down. Overall the book was too heavy on names and histories of the Middle East that wouldn't stick in my memory. I did learn some very interesting tid bits though! Like how horses created as much or more pollution/health issues than cars do. Plus a few more that I thought worthy of repeating to The Fiance, whether he liked it or not...Would be good for research.
Mar 12, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned, nonfiction
I didn't realize it is a kid's book because I got it from the library on Kindle. I was getting frustrated at the juvenile tone and then realized it is probably for 6th graders.
It doesn't come across as very reliable. it simplifies a lot of concepts and feels like it is leaving out important nuances or other sides of the story.
Apr 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
What is the role of oil today? Have students heard that oil is a root of war? Yes, they have, but have they heard that oil affected WWI, WWII, and even Pearl Harbor? Many students have not. This novel explains how different fossil fuels are produced and how this impacts the world. It is also curious that automobiles seemed cleaner compared to horses, but the wastes are described in the novel.
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Albert Marrin is a historian and the author of more than twenty nonfiction books for young people. He has won various awards for his writing, including the 2005 James Madison Book Award and the 2008 National Endowment for Humanities Medal. In 2011, his book Flesh and Blood So Cheap was a National Book Award Finalist. Marrin is the Chairman of the History Department at New York's Yeshiva University ...more
More about Albert Marrin
“By the fall of 1918, it was clear that a nation's prosperity, even its very survival, depended on securing a safe, abundant supply of cheap oil.” 4 likes
More quotes…