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Crude: The Story of Oil Hardcover – September 7, 2004


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A brilliant book...Shah writes beautifully, with dispassionate, elegant clarity--and it is all the more powerful for it." -- The Guardian, February 26, 2005

"Couldn’t be more relevant." -- USA Today, October 17, 2004

"Particularly eloquent on the despoliation of the Delta region of southern Nigeria. -- The Nation, November 8, 2004

"Shah could have easily written a laundry list...This volume is more than that." -- Clamor magazine

"Surely one of the most important books of the year." -- Dingbat magazine

About the Author

SONIA SHAH edited both the critically acclaimed Dragon Ladies: Asian American Feminists Breathe Fire and Between Fear and Hope: A Decade of Peace Activism. A former editor at South End Press and Nuclear Times Magazine, Shah is an independent journalist whose writing appears in The Nation, The Progressive, Salon, and elsewhere.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Seven Stories Press; A Seven Stories Press 1st Ed edition (September 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583226257
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583226254
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,668,157 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sonia Shah is a science writer and critically acclaimed author whose writing has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, New Scientist and elsewhere. Her latest book is "The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years" from Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux (July 2010).

Her prize-winning 2006 drug industry exposé, The Body Hunters: Testing New Drugs on the World's Poorest Patients (New Press), has been hailed by Publishers Weekly as "a tautly argued study...a trenchant exposé...meticulously researched and packed with documentary evidence," and as "important [and] powerful" by The New England Journal of Medicine. The book, which international bestselling novelist and The Constant Gardener author John Le Carré called "an act of courage," has enjoyed wide international distribution, including French, Japanese, and Italian editions. The Library Journal named it one of the best consumer health books of 2006.

Her 2004 book, Crude: The Story of Oil (Seven Stories), was acclaimed as "brilliant" and "beautifully written" by The Guardian and "required reading" by The Nation, and has been widely translated, from Japanese, Greek, and Italian to Bahasa Indonesia. Her "raw and powerful" (Amazon.com) 1997 collection, Dragon Ladies: Asian American Feminists Breathe Fire, still in print after 10 years, continues to be required reading at colleges and universities across the country.

Shah's writing, based on original reportage from around the world, from India and South Africa to Panama, Malawi, Cameroon, and Australia, has been featured on current affairs shows around the United States, as well as on the BBC and Australia's Radio National. A frequent keynote speaker at political conferences, Shah has lectured at universities and colleges across the country, including Columbia's Earth Institute, MIT, Harvard, Brown, Georgetown and elsewhere. Her writing on human rights, medicine, and politics have appeared in a range of magazines from Playboy, Salon, and Orion to The Progressive and Knight-Ridder. Her television appearances include A&E and the BBC, and she's consulted on many documentary film projects, from the ABC to Channel 4 in the UK. Shah is a former writing fellow of The Nation Institute and the Puffin Foundation.

Shah was born in 1969 in New York City to Indian immigrants. Growing up, she shuttled between the northeastern United States where her parents practiced medicine and Mumbai and Bangalore, India, where her extended working-class family lived, developing a life-long interest in inequality between and within societies. She holds a BA in journalism, philosophy, and neuroscience from Oberlin College, and lives with molecular ecologist Mark Bulmer and their two sons Zakir and Kush.

Photo by Joyce Ravid.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Crude - The Story of Oil" is a disappointing book that did not live up to its promise. It came across to me as a polemic against the oil industry; dressed up as scholarship with more source references than I have ever seen in a non-specialist, popular book.

Virtually every paragraph has several notes. Even the two-and-a-half page concluding chapter has 10 references. But a profusion of notes does not imply objectivity or even completeness.

Shah has certainly been a diligent researcher of her topic, but unfortunately she has not translated her mass of material into an objective account of the issues surrounding oil. Maybe that was not her intent.

Shah is a journalist according to the cover blurb, and it shows. The book uses the clichés and tricks of reportage that are commonplace in newspapers. Rather than enhancing the arguments, such a style comes across as partisan and off-putting.

This book will appeal to those who share similar views to Shah, but it will disappoint thoughtful readers who want a balanced account of how crude oil has both enhanced and diminished our lives.
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21 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Melanie Gilbert VINE VOICE on April 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For such a slim volume - only 175 pages with generous margins - author Sonia Shah attempts too much in trying to explain the vast story of oil. She starts with the geological story of how oil is formed and the incredible energy-efficient punch it delivers. In her preface, Shah writes that in oil, we encountered "one of the most versatile, energy-intense substances ever known."

It's hard not to respect how harvesting this fossil fuel has transformed the world and literally powered global advancements including higher standards of living in industrialized nations uniquely positioned to capitalize on its enormous benefits. This "black gold" is primitive in nature and it spawned a brutal survival of the fittest contest in extracting and utilizing its resources.

But trying to explain the geopolitical story of oil is where Shah attempts too much in too short a format when describing the forces driving supply and demand on the world oil stage. On Pg. 154, she states that the United States' invasion of Iraq was originally going to be called Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL) but was quickly renamed Operation Iraqi Freedom so that its "oily ramifications" wouldn't be discerned. Regrettably, this explosive "fact" isn't sourced despite her otherwise extensive footnotes. The "Blood for Oil" argument is a compelling and troubling one that demands a fuller and more rigorous vetting.

The important geopolitical story of oil deserves to be told, but isn't in this abbreviated format.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kimme on August 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anyone interested in, or hoping to get a job in the oil, natural gas, or coal industry should read this book. I recently graduated from college and have taken a job with an oil and natural gas exploration company and found this book fascinating! I wish I would have read this as a freshman geology major instead of a senior! This is not some "oil is evil" biased book, nor is it pro-drilling, it simply presents many facts in a fairly unbiased way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rish Sanghvi on September 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
I highly recommend this book to everyone.

First Ms. Shah's extensive research and cross-referencing is impressive and adds a lot of credibility to the work.

Second, for someone tackling an issue as polarizing and sensitive as oil, Ms. Shah presents a remarkably cool tone through the book, although I think her opinions are clear. The book does not antagonize anyone, as some activisty books tend to do.

What I also loved about this book was that it gave comprehensive treatment to the story of oil, focusing not just on the environment, or on geopolitics, or on capitalism, rather addressing each in turn, which made it tremendously educational and multi-dimensional.

Ultimately I would judge the book by its impact on me. And I can safely say that ever since I read "Crude" I've been looking at the world a little differently - and that for an author is a remarkable achievement.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D. L. Rambhia on January 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I must say Sonia Shah has done a masterful job of covering the history and geography of oil very succinctly and brilliantly in such a slim volume. This is a good book on oil for those beginners who want to understand the politics and the economics of oil. As Daniel Yergin has said: oil has brought out both the best and the worst of our civilization over almost a century and a half and it has been both boon and burden. This is very well captured by her in her book. Those who want to or need to know something about oil in a hurry should find this book very helpful.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author Shah has done her research and come up with a comprehensive background story of "Big Oil" greed and utter disregard for anything other than to increase shareholder value.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Another superb book by Sonia Shah. I love the fact that she does not take the simple or cliché view always and portrays the fuller and more honest complex picture. The story of the politics and industry of Oil illustrated with many specific incidents. An engaging and illuminating book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is an excellent introduction to the oil industry, without being textbook dry. The author's humanity and opinion breaks through the fact-based prose simply because the subject matter readily lends itself to condemnation. If you are looking for an unbiased book about oil, you'll never find it. This one is as good a read as any, and probably better than most. It really is a narrative of the story of oil.
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