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A Hole at the Bottom of the Sea: The Race to Kill the BP Oil Gusher First American Edition Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1451625349
ISBN-10: 1451625340
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Advance Praise for


A Hole at the Bottom of the Sea

“After all the spilled oil and spilled ink, this book stands as the most enthralling tale of the interminable Gulf drilling disaster of 2010. Achenbach has a rare talent for making the alien world of offshore oil accessible. Telling a harrowing story of humans wrestling with a technological and environmental crisis beyond their control, he gives us an inside perspective on torturous decision-making under the watchful eyes of a nation.”
--Tyler Priest, University of Houston, Senior Policy Analyst, National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling

“A brilliant expose of what occurred behind the scene. The readers will be enthralled. Anyone who is an energy user must read this book. That means everyone since it is hard to live without consuming energy.”
--Greg McCormack- Former Director of the Petroleum Extension service at the University of Texas

“If I want to find out what's just happened, I’ll switch on the radio. If I want to find out why it happened, I’ll read Joel Achenbach. He’s the best explainer alive."
--Gene Weingarten, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for The Washington Post and author of The Fiddler In the Subway

“A high-stakes adventure story, masterfully told.”
--Robert Wright, author of The Evolution of God and Nonzero: The Logic of Human
Destiny


"Here's what really happened at the spill -- a compelling look behind the curtain. Joel Achenbach, one of America's best journalists, digs up thousands of previously undisclosed documents to weave a deeply human story of failure, heroism, and the high price of oil addiction."
--David Von Drehle, author Triangle: The Fire That Changed America

About the Author

Joel Achenbach is a reporter for The Washington Post, and the author of six previous books, including The Grand Idea, Captured by Aliens and Why Things Are. He started the Washington Post's first blog, Achenblog, and has worked on the newspaper's national Style magazine and Outlook staffs. He regularly contributes science articles to National Geographic. A native of Gainesville, Florida and a 1982 graduate of Princeton University, he lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife and three children.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First American Edition edition (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451625340
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451625349
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,501,977 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I read A Hole at the Bottom of the Sea in two days - I hope that neither author minds the comparison, but it reads a lot like a Michael Lewis book. The book skillfully explains a complex issue told through the eyes of the quirky characters who had a front row seat to the disaster, which includes Mr. Achenbach himself. If you are a fan of the Achenblog or of his stories in the Washington Post, you won't be surprised to find yourself laughing out loud at times - which may seem inappropriate given the subject matter, but that is the charm of one of my favorite writers...
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As other reviewers have said, this is as close to a page-turner as a non-fiction book can get, and gives a blow-by-blow and day-by-day account of what happened and why out in the Gulf of Mexico. And there could hardly be a better writer for the job than Achenbach, a self-professed science geek, but also a highly skilled "explainer" who can translate Engineer into English, as a colleague of his says. (Achenbach's writing and story-telling skills are amply demonstrated in his earlier works, "Captured by Aliens," a laugh-out-loud account of his travels among the people on the fringes of the UFO movement, and his serious-but-entertaining "The Grand Idea," the account of George Washington's plans to establish a canal system linking the Potomac River to the frontier America he'd explored and surveyed in his youth. As a science guy, Achenbach can hardly be topped, as his many years as a Washington Post reporter, National Geographic contributor, NPR guest, astronomy dude, and author of the mostly sciencey and often very droll "Why Things Are" series will attest. ("Captured/Aliens" should probably be a must-read for psychologists and behavioral science types, too, for its insights into the mindset of people who march to the sound of drums that are more than just a little different.)

People would dearly love for the Macondo blowout, the explosion aboard and the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon, and the months-long effort to find a way to shut down the Well From Hell to have relatively simple explanations and a handful of clear-cut villains (how many of us were denied the pleasure of blaming it all on Dick Cheney, ex-CEO of Halliburton?) BP greed? Sloppy work and cutting corners? Hubris? Crass stupidity? Government bumbling? Alas, no.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I guess that is the modern equilivant of a page burner on Kindle! This was a great read and my kindle could hardly keep up with my reading... It described a very complex and protracted series of events in a way that was both entertaining and enlightening. I hope the author has already started reporting on the Japanese nuclear reactors.
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This book deserves a lot more attention. Achenbach obtained 19,000 White House emails that tell the real story of BP, Obama, and the gov't scientist hit squad sent in to ride herd on BP. Achenbach paints a squirming octopus of a disaster, puts us in the middle. Powerful, hilarious, rolls off the page.
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I couldn't put this book down! It reads like a revelation, peppered with researched detail and clever metaphors. As each day of the crisis unfolds, Achenbach makes the reader privy to the science, politics, chaos and confusion that surrounded this unprecedented event. The Macondo itself becomes a looming character in the lives of the BP executives, the government officials and the engineering experts who are charged with trying to kill the horrid oil gush and PR debacle. Although never taking the environmental and personal traumas lightly, particularly when describing the panic on the part of the locals who shoulder the economic impact, Achenbach's unique word choices and images keep the reader focused. "Geology meets epistemology---always a recipe for sleepless nights" he writes. His Epilogue is prophetic when he predicts that there will be more disasters that our current technological knowledge is not prepared to handle.
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Format: Hardcover
I completely agree with the other reviews that emphasize what a page-turner this is. Going into it I didn't think oil rig engineering could be too interesting--but in Achenbach's hands it's fascinating. And that's because he so skillfully intertwines the human, scientific, technological, and political strands--and, wonderfully, the philosophical as well. Achenbach deserved a Pulitzer for his daily reporting of the spill; but in this book he surpasses even that coverage. We live in a dangerous world, and we have less control of it than we comfortably assume. Be prepared for a real roller-coaster ride.

And page 72, alone, is worth the price of the book.
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Format: Hardcover
Joel is a close friend and I will share he is as interesting in conversation as he is in written word. So there was no need for me to spend the weekend reading A Hole At the Bottom of the Sea when I could just as easily drink a beer with Joel on the back porch. But read it I did and I am so glad that I did. What Joel has written is the definitive case study on crisis management -- how to, how not to, and what the right moves and mis-steps will mean to the Gulf, the oil industry, and the Obama Administration. As always, Joel has deciphered the meaning of it all in a narrative that is as engaging as it is enlightening. A Hole at the Bottom of the Sea is required reading for any industry exec or government official responsible for managing risk.
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