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The New Wild West: Black Gold, Fracking, and Life in a North Dakota Boomtown
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The New Wild West: Black Gold, Fracking, and Life in a North Dakota Boomtown

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  127 ratings  ·  30 reviews
Williston, North Dakota was a sleepy farm town for generations—until the frackers arrived. The oil companies moved into Williston, overtaking the town and setting off a boom that America hadn’t seen since the Gold Rush. Workers from all over the country descended, chasing jobs that promised them six-figure salaries and demanded no prior experience.

But for every person
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published September 26th 2017 by St. Martin's Press
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Mikey B.
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Mikey B. by: Louise
This book examines the environmental and human consequences of the onslaught of fracking for oil and gas in North Dakota. It is a harsh land – hot in summer and cold in the winter – and there is always the wind.

The author presents us with interesting people profiles of those who live in North Dakota and those who came for jobs and money. There are “men camps” for the workers (predominantly male). There behavior towards any women – and even towards other males - is decidedly juvenile, sexist, and
Dec 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business, sociology
Fracking made it possible to retrieve the oil reserves of the Bakkan Ridge. Blaire Briody shows the effect of the resulting oil boom on the town of Williston, ND. There are chapters on how fracking works, the environmental problems and the inability of state and/or federal regulators do anything about them and the legal and political issues for Native American tribes, but the story is primarily about the sociology of this modern day gold rush. It is told through people.

Workers, hoping for 6
Randal White
Sep 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley, midwest
Briody's book documents the rise (and fall) of America's latest "gold rush", fracking. The newfound ability to unlock formerly unattainable (financially and technically) oil reserves. She does this through telling the story of the Bakken oil field in North Dakota. The perfect place to explore this new technology, a relatively poor, unpopulated, and somewhat isolated area of the country. A place that really needed the financial gains that would be provided by the business. A place that wouldn't ...more
A really fascinating look at the stories behind the folks who moved to Williston, North Dakota, during the big boom and how they survived in a town that wasn't ready for the population explosion. Having been to Williston -- a college roommate and good friend of mine grew up in Sidney, Montana, and Williston was at the time "the biggest town around" and hardly a blip on the map -- it was hard to wrap my mind around what a place that literally only had an Applebee's and a WalMart would be like ...more
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read Janesville: An American Story, Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, and this book *somewhat* one after the other, and I realized halfway through The New Wild West that they could easily be sold as a trilogy on personal stories from dark side of the modern American economy. More specifically, Janesville reports from what's left behind in a town that lost its source of blue-collar security; Nomadland uncovers what happens when illusory freedom of being the road, where ...more
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Incredible storytelling!
Oct 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received a free copy of this book from Goodreads Giveaways.

This book broke my heart in a lot of ways. It's not so much the story of the boom as it is the story of the people drawn to this current boom, and through them you can see the spirit that has brought so many others to all the booms before this. It lays bare the greed that pushes American capitalism, and the hope that pushes its workers, often leading them to be complicit in their own downfall. We care so little for the resources we
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
The New Wild West by Blaire Briody is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late September.

In the summer of 2015, Williston, North Dakota was a stop-off during a road trip to Yellowstone and I wasn't yet able to put a name to the tension, occluded fear, and economic disrepair that I felt while I was there. Somewhat fortunately, Briody had already spent a lot of time with both the residents and oil-field employees during the boomtown days of Williston's population increase of 200% in 2013, then
Jan 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non
More of a snapshot of a year or two of peak boom time... enough info about area's history and how fracking works to frame it, but mostly follows a few people's experiences during their time working the Bakkan shale.
Chris Jaffe
Dec 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Author Blaire Briody is a journalist and junior college professor in California who was interested in learning about life in America's latest boom town: Williston, North Dakota, heart of fracking country. It resides on the Bakken Formation of shale-based oil in the western part of the state. Briody moved out there for a stretch and made several returns afterwards to see how things were progressing.

You get a sense of a small town undergoing massive change. Williston has had a few oil booms in the
Jan 02, 2020 rated it liked it
I thought this book was going to be focused on the ways in which Williston, ND changed during the oil boom of about 10 years ago. My parents both grew up in North Dakota, and, while I never lived there, I spent a couple weeks of every summer in that state, so I was curious as to the way in which the oil boom impacted the state, both good and bad. But this book didn't talk too much about how the cities were impacted. While it touched a bit on the changes to the town, the book focused more on the ...more
John Benson
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Living across the border from North Dakota in Minnesota, technically only about 5 blocks away, I am very aware of North Dakota issues. I visited the Bakken Area when the Oil Boom was in full swing and later as it waned. Blaire Brody takes readers through this same time period through the lives of six people who were very impacted by the North Dakota Oil Boom. Several of the people are long term residents of the area, one is a female oil worker, another is the wife of one, another is a man who ...more
Joe Keefhaver
Oct 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an interesting book about the economic, sociological and environmental issues besetting the North Dakota city of Williston when it became an oil boomtown. Longtime residents are forced to leave when they are priced out of the housing market. The newcomers, some of whom are making six-figure incomes, are living a lifestyle similar to the homeless because of the lack of housing. And damage to the environment as the result of fracking is a real concern. The author focuses on the lives of ...more
WAHS Library
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Oil companies have descended upon Williston, North Dakota in recent years with promises of jobs and wealth. Fracking technology opened previously unavailable supplies of petroleum and natural gas. The resulting economic boom attracted men, and a few women, from all over the country looking for high paying jobs. But the prosperity has come at a cost, with violence and sexual assault skyrocketing, schools overflowing, housing prices soaring, and homelessness rampant. Farmers have seen their land ...more
David Goodrich
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a remarkable look at a boomtown and an industry that has overturned global energy markets, namely the Bakken fracking boom in North Dakota. But rather than look at it from a macroeconomic perspective, the author, at some personal risk, journeyed to Williston, the center of the Bakken, to talk with the people involved in the boom. She paints a picture person by person with some memorable characters. One is a woman who shows what it takes to make a career in the oil patch, and it's ...more
Shawn Lowe
Oct 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a well written book and provide an eye opener for me about what is happening even today in Williston. My ex is an active alcoholic and it caused the end of our relationship. I wanted to know why, when he said he wanted help to stay sober, he did a 180 on me. Now I know. Everybody up there drinks and he hates to be left out. Never date an oil and gas guy, lesson learned. I'm glad she wrote this book, it really needs to be talked about. This is a bad deal up there. Yes, we need oil, and ...more
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
Started out really well and was very interesting. Became increasingly more boring as it went on and followed a few people who were pretty unspectacular and not necessarily all that interesting. I would have like to learn more about fracking and how the workers lived then follow these particular people and their stories. I was also hoping to hear more about the town itself and the effects the frackers had on it while they were there. Again, it started off strong but lost steam about half way ...more
Rachel Kahn
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great book about the people living in a once-a-small-town-now-industrial-power town. Author picked a few peoples' stories to highlight, and I became invested in everybody's lives (including the Pastors whom I initially felt on opposite sides of the aisle with).
Also about: environment, energy (a bit), politics, but mostly---people..

I was honestly surprised by how well this book was researched and written, because I didn't hear much buzz about it. I picked it up randomly from the non-fiction
Ann Pisarello
Dec 13, 2017 rated it liked it
This is the story of Williston, North Dakota, a town that changed dramatically because of oil fracking. In a few years it changed from a dot on the map, to a bustling oil town. Workers came from all over the country in search of jobs that promised huge salaries for those willing to work hard, No experience necessary. But the toll on the town's infrastructure, property values and farmers was very heavy. The author follows the lives of several people who came to seek their fortune, and it is ...more
Paulette Ponte
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this book for my book club. I was amazed to read about the difficulties of living in a place like North Dakota in a mining town. Some people make a lot of money but most don't and the mining town ends up being a town full of trailer parks, homeless men and women who are treated horribly. The writing was excellent and I especially liked reading the individual stories of some of the people who migrated to Williston, North Dakota to look for jobs in the mining and fracking industry.
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Living in ND for most of the boom and having studied how community members feel about the boom, I found this book interesting as it provides the perspective of those who came because of what the boom offered. It also looks at some of the troubling aspects of what the boom has done and continues to do in ND. Not much though is made of any positives that have come from it. The book adds to my understanding of how the boom is/was perceived.
Kathy Cox
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such an interesting perspective, to follow the lives of several very diverse people and their perceptions and experiences during the 2010-2014 Fracking Boom in North Dakota. Surprisingly little was written about this in the news, so it was both sad and shocking to learn of what happened in this beatutiful and rugged northern state.
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book which was very interesting and sheds light on this important issue for our country. The author interwove local characters' stories & made us care about them, while making the town of Williston one of the characters as well. It explains fracking & complex issues in ways the average person can understand plus includes humor & her personal experiences there.
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Love this book! I previously had a hazy understanding of fracking in North Dakota, but Briody does a fantastic job of not only explaining the process, but also humanizing the residents of Williston. I flew through this book, it was a pleasant read as Briody's writing was so engaging.
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
"The average wage in Williston rose to about $80,000 a year, up from $32,000 in 2006. By 2012, more than half of Williston's residents worked in oil-related jobs. The number of taxpayers reporting a $1 million-plus income in North Dakota went from 261 in 2005 to 1,265 in 2012." (38)
Dec 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Williston was a simple town filled with middle class, hard working families. The New Wild West’s version identified what happened to this community when the oil industry controlled with little regulation or oversight.
John Adams
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
A compassionate portrait of the denizens of an isolated small town in the throes of the oil boom, well-written and engagingly told.
Laura Petersen
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Current book. Good book.
Jamie Wickenhagen
Oct 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books
I enjoy the historical storytelling in this remarkably talented book.
Tom Hart
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book about the devastation caused by our addiction to oil.
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Blaire Briody is a freelance journalist who has written for The New York Times, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Fast Company, Glamour, among others. Her first nonfiction book, The New Wild West, about North Dakota’s oil boom will be published in September 2017. The book was the 2016 finalist for the Lukas Work-in-Progress Award from Columbia Journalism School and Harvard University, and she ...more