Black Gold (Knopf, 2012)

Black Gold: The Story of Oil in Our Lives

Albert Marrin

 Thick, foul, and slippery, oil is not pretty—but it drives our world.  Without it, life as we live it today would be impossible.  Oil fuels our engines, heats our homes, and powers our machines.  Nationals have gone to war, lives have been lost and fortunes have been made—all in the quest for oil.  Indeed, oil influences every aspect of modern life.  And what of oil’s impact on our future?  Its abundance shrinks while our dependence on it continues to grow.  Many possible paths lie before us, but none is perfect, and each will require sacrifice, if we are to maintain an existence that will be sustainable for generations to come.  Albert Marrin tells the gripping story of oil, an indispensable resource that has shaped the history, society, politics and economy of every country on earth.



Adolescents who view the gas pump with dismay, wondering how they will ever afford to drive, are a prime audience for Marrin’s cogent overview of the meteoric rise of fossil fuel as a catalyst for economic growth and geopolitical turmoil. Opening chapters discuss the geological aspects of oil formation and its early historical uses for just about everything except fuel. The focus then shifts to the recent past with the discovery of major oil fields and the advancing technology for capturing the crude, and onto the fraught political relationships that have formed between Western nations and the Middle East over oil concessions and control. While not stridently alarmist, Marrin nonetheless takes a firm stand for the urgent need to diversify our energy sources under a real threat of depleted fossil fuel reserves.

Although student researchers will appreciate the short, easily navigable chapters, sources notes, and index, the clear organization and smooth, confident narration will make this equally satisfying to teens who simply want to get up to speed on current events. Libraries that shelve YA nonfiction among adult titles can expect to see the over-eighteen set glom onto this succinct selection as well.

—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

. . . the urgency of his [Albert Marrin’s] message comes through clearly.  Required reading on a topic that can only grow in importance to readers who will be living that “social, political, and military history.” (endnotes, index, black-and-white photos) (Nonfiction. 11-14).