Best Books on the Oil & Gas Industry

Best Books on the Oil & Gas Industry

Umbrex has developed this list of the best books on the Oil & Gas Industry based on input from the management consultants in our community, our clients, and other professionals.

This list of books is a work in progress, not a final answer, and we invite you to submit your recommendations on our Contact page.

We also invite you to check out our list of the best podcasts on the Oil & Gas Industry.

Blowout in the Gulf: The BP Oil Spill Disaster and the Future of Energy in America

William R. Freudenburg and Robert Gramling
2010

On April 20, 2010, the gigantic drilling rig Deepwater Horizon blew up in the Gulf of Mexico, killing eleven crew members and causing a massive eruption of oil from BP’s Macondo well. For months, oil gushed into the Gulf, spreading death and destruction. Americans watched real-time video of the huge column of oil and gas spewing from the obviously failed “blowout preventer.” What was missing, though, was the larger story of this disaster. In Blowout in the Gulf, energy experts William Freudenburg and Robert Gramling explain both the disaster and the decisions that led up to it.

Blowout in the Gulf weaves a fascinating narrative of failures, missteps, and bad decisions, explaining why this oil spill was a disaster waiting to happen―and how making better energy choices will help prevent others like it.

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Crude Volatility: The History and the Future of Boom-Bust Oil Prices

Robert McNally
2019

As OPEC has loosened its grip over the past ten years, the oil market has been rocked by wild price swings, the likes of which haven’t been seen for eight decades. Crafting an engrossing journey from the gushing Pennsylvania oil fields of the 1860s to today’s fraught and fractious Middle East, Crude Volatility explains how past periods of stability and volatility in oil prices help us understand the new boom-bust era. Oil’s notorious volatility has always been considered a scourge afflicting not only the oil industry but also the broader economy and geopolitical landscape; Robert McNally makes sense of how oil became so central to our world and why it is subject to such extreme price fluctuations.

Tracing a history marked by conflict, intrigue, and extreme uncertainty, McNally shows how―even from the oil industry’s first years―wild and harmful price volatility prompted industry leaders and officials to undertake extraordinary efforts to stabilize oil prices by controlling production. Herculean market interventions―first, by Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, then, by U.S. state regulators in partnership with major international oil companies, and, finally, by OPEC―succeeded to varying degrees in taming the beast. McNally, a veteran oil market and policy expert, explains the consequences of the ebbing of OPEC’s power, debunking myths and offering recommendations―including mistakes to avoid―as we confront the unwelcome return of boom and bust oil prices.

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Fossil Future: Why Global Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas--Not Less

Alex Epstein
2022

The New York Times bestselling author of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels draws on the latest data and new insights to challenge everything you thought you knew about the future of energy.

For over a decade, philosopher and energy expert Alex Epstein has predicted that any negative impacts of fossil fuel use on our climate will be outweighed by the unique benefits of fossil fuels to human flourishing–including their unrivaled ability to provide low-cost, reliable energy to billions of people around the world, especially the world’s poorest people.

And contrary to what we hear from media “experts” about today’s “renewable revolution” and “climate emergency,” reality has proven Epstein right:

  • Fact: Fossil fuels are still the dominant source of energy around the world, and growing fast—while much-hyped renewables are causing skyrocketing electricity prices and increased blackouts.
  • Fact: Fossil-fueled development has brought global poverty to an all-time low.
  • Fact: While fossil fuels have contributed to the 1 degree of warming in the last 170 years, climate-related deaths are at all-time lows thanks to fossil-fueled development.

What does the future hold? In Fossil Future, Epstein, applying his distinctive “human flourishing framework” to the latest evidence, comes to the shocking conclusion that the benefits of fossil fuels will continue to far outweigh their side effects—including climate impacts—for generations to come. The path to global human flourishing, Epstein argues, is a combination of using more fossil fuels, getting better at “climate mastery,” and establishing “energy freedom” policies that allow nuclear and other truly promising alternatives to reach their full long-term potential.

Today’s pervasive claims of imminent climate catastrophe and imminent renewable energy dominance, Epstein shows, are based on what he calls the “anti-impact framework”—a set of faulty methods, false assumptions, and anti-human values that have caused the media’s designated experts to make wildly wrong predictions about fossil fuels, climate, and renewables for the last fifty years. Deeply researched and wide-ranging, this book will cause you to rethink everything you thought you knew about the future of our energy use, our environment, and our climate.

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Rise of the Cajun Mariners: The Race for Big Oil

Woody Falgoux
2022

The story of four families of Cajun boatmen and their rise from trappers and shrimpers to mega-millionaires.

Rise of the Cajun Mariners documents an untold piece of American history—the beginnings of what is now the global, multibillion-dollar marine oil and gas industry. In addition, it gives an insightful insider account of one of America’s only truly distinctive cultures—the Cajuns.

The book tells the story through the Cajun boatmen who drive the boats that supply and move the men who work the offshore platforms. The book follows four of these French-speaking trailblazers as they scrape to buy and build their first boats and struggle toward success. Their success stories will appeal to any believer in the American dream. But it is also a candid account of a wild time in a rough, vital business.

Most of the characters are as flawed as they are dynamic. While they are master seamen, they lead a lifestyle that, for many of them, is as much about drinking and whoring as it is about seamanship and deal-making. The seedy side of their business adds complexity to their story and makes the tale especially human.

Rise of the Cajun Mariners is a fast-paced tale about the rapid evolution of a worldwide industry, the modernization of a culture, and the deliverance of four fascinating families.

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Saudi America: The Truth About Fracking and How It's Changing the World

Bethany McLean
2018

Bestselling author Bethany McLean reveals the true story of fracking’s impact―on Wall Street, the economy and geopolitics.

The technology of fracking in shale rock―particularly in the Permian Basin in Texas― has transformed America into the world’s top producer of both oil and natural gas. The U.S. is expected to be “energy independent” and a “net exporter” in less than a decade, a move that will upend global politics, destabilize Saudi Arabia, crush Russia’s chokehold over Europe, and finally bolster American power again.

Or will it?

Investigative journalist Bethany McLean digs deep into the cycles of boom and bust that have plagued the American oil industry for the past decade, from the financial wizardry and mysterious death of fracking pioneer Aubrey McClendon, to the investors who are questioning the very economics of shale itself. McLean finds that fracking is a business built on attracting ever-more gigantic amounts of capital investment, while promises of huge returns have yet to bear out. Saudi America tells a remarkable story that will persuade you to think about the power of oil in a new way.

“A sharp portrait of the US shale revolution.” ―Financial Times

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The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes

Bryan Burrough
2010

Phenomenal reviews and sales greeted the hardcover publication of The Big Rich, New York Times bestselling author Bryan Burrough’s spellbinding chronicle of Texas oil. Weaving together the multigenerational sagas of the industry’s four wealthiest families, Burrough brings to life the men known in their day as the Big Four: Roy Cullen, H. L. Hunt, Clint Murchison, and Sid Richardson, all swaggering Texas oil tycoons who owned sprawling ranches and mingled with presidents and Hollywood stars. Seamlessly charting their collective rise and fall, The Big Rich is a hugely entertaining account that only a writer with Burrough’s abilities-and Texas upbringing-could have written.

“Full of schadenfreude and speculation—and solid, timely history too.” —Kirkus Reviews

“This is a portrait of capitalism as white-knuckle risk taking, yielding fruitful discoveries for the fathers, but only sterile speculation for the sons—a story that resonates with today’s economic upheaval.” —Publishers Weekly

What’s not to enjoy about a book full of monstrous egos, unimaginable sums of money, and the punishment of greed and shortsightedness? —The Economist

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The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World

Russell Gold
2015

First invented in 1947, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has not only become a major source of energy, it is changing the way we use energy, and the energy we use. It is both a threat and a godsend for the environment, and it is leading the revival of manufacturing in the United States.

A definitive narrative history, The Boom follows the twists and turns in the development and adoption of this radical technology. It is a thrilling journey filled with colorful characters: the green-minded Texas oilman who created the first modern frack; a bare-knuckled Oklahoman natural gas empire-builder who gave the world an enormous new supply of energy and was brought down by his own success and excesses; an environmental leader whose embrace of fracking brought an end to his public career; and an aging fracking pioneer who is now trying to save the industry from itself.

A fascinating and exciting exploration of one of the most controversial and promising sources of energy, The Boom “brings new clarity to a subject awash in hype from all sides…a thoughtful, well-written, and carefully researched book that provides the best overview yet of the pros and cons of fracking. Gold quietly leads both supporters and critics of drilling to consider other views” (Associated Press).

The “best all-around book yet on fracking” (San Francisco Chronicle) from a Pulitzer Prize finalist: “Gold’s work is a tour de force of contemporary journalism” (Booklist).

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The Economics of Oil and Gas

Xiaoyi Mu
2019

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The Extraction State: A History of Natural Gas in America

Charles Blanchard
2021

The history of the United States of America is also the history of the energy sector. Natural gas provides the fuel that allows us to heat our homes in winter and cool them in summer with the touch of a button or turn of a dial—when the industry runs smoothly. From the oil crisis of the 1970s to the fall of Enron and the California electricity crisis at the turn of the century to contemporary issues of hydraulic fracking, poorly conceived government policies have sometimes left us shivering, stranded, or with significantly lighter wallets. In this expansive narrative, Charles Blanchard traces the rise of natural gas and the regulatory missteps that nearly ruined the market. Beginning in the 1880s, The Extraction State explains how the New Deal regulatory compact came together in the 1920s, even before the Great Depression, and how it fell apart in the 1970s. From there, the book dissects the policies that affect us today, and explores where we might be headed in the near future.

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The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters

Gregory Zuckerman
2014

Things looked grim for American energy in 2006, but a handful of wildcatters were determined to tap massive deposits of oil and gas that giants like Exxon and Chevron had ignored. They risked everything on a new process called fracking. Within a few years, they solved America’s dependence on imported energy, triggered a global environmental controversy, and made and lost astonishing fortunes.

No one understands the frackers—their ambitions, personalities, and foibles—better than Wall Street Journal reporter Gregory Zuckerman. His exclusive access drives this dramatic narrative, which stretches from North Dakota to Texas to Wall Street.

“A lively, exciting, and definitely thought-provoking book.” —Booklist

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The Oil and the Glory: The Pursuit of Empire and Fortune on the Caspian Sea

Steve LeVine
2007

Remote, forbidding, and volatile, the Caspian Sea long tantalized the world with its vast oil reserves. But outsiders, blocked by the closed Soviet system, couldn’t get to it. Then the Soviet Union collapsed, and a wholesale rush into the region erupted. Along with oilmen, representatives of the world’s leading nations flocked to the Caspian for a share of the thirty billion barrels of proven oil reserves at stake, and a tense geopolitical struggle began. The main players were Moscow and Washington–the former seeking to retain control of its satellite states, and the latter intent on dislodging Russia to the benefit of the West.

The Oil and the Glory is the gripping account of this latest phase in the epochal struggle for control of the earth’s “black gold.” Steve LeVine, who was based in the region for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Newsweek, weaves an astonishing tale of high-stakes political gamesmanship, greed, and scandal, set in one of the most opaque corners of the world. In LeVine’s telling, the world’s energy giants jockey for position in the rich Kazakh and Azeri oilfields, while superpowers seek to gain a strategic foothold in the region and to keep each other in check. At the heart of the story is the contest to build and operate energy pipelines out of the landlocked region, the key to controlling the Caspian and its oil. The oil pipeline that resulted, the longest in the world, is among Washington’s greatest foreign policy triumphs in at least a decade and a half.

Along the way, LeVine introduces such players as James Giffen, an American moneyman who was also the political “fixer” for oil companies eager to do business on the Caspian and the broker for Kazakhstan’s president and ministers; John Deuss, the flamboyant Dutch oil trader who won big but lost even bigger; Heydar Aliyev, the oft-misunderstood Azeri president who transcended his past as a Soviet Politburo member and masterminded a scheme to loosen Russian control over its former colonies in the Caspian region; and all manner of rogues, adventurers, and others drawn by the irresistible pull of untold riches and the possible “final frontier” of the fossil-fuel era. The broader story is of the geopolitical questions of the Caspian oil bonanza, such as whether Russia can be a trusted ally and trading partner with the West, and what Washington’s entry into this important but chaotic region will mean for its long-term stability.

In an intense and suspenseful narrative, The Oil and the Glory is the definitive chronicle of events that are understood by few, but whose political and economic impact will be both profound and lasting.

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The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power

Daniel Yergin
2008

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and hailed as “the best history of oil ever written” by Business Week, Daniel Yergin’s “spellbinding…irresistible” (The New York Times) account of the global pursuit of oil, money, and power addresses the ongoing energy crisis.

Now with an epilogue that speaks directly to the current energy crisis, The Prize recounts the panoramic history of the world’s most important resource—oil. Daniel Yergin’s timeless book chronicles the struggle for wealth and power that has surrounded oil for decades and that continues to fuel global rivalries, shake the world economy, and transform the destiny of men and nations. This updated edition categorically proves the unwavering significance of oil throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first by tracing economic and political clashes over precious “black gold.”

With his far-reaching insight and in-depth research, Yergin is uniquely positioned to address the present battle over energy which undoubtedly ranks as one of the most vital issues of our time. The canvas of his narrative history is enormous—from the drilling of the first well in Pennsylvania through two great world wars to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Operation Desert Storm, and both the Iraq War and current climate change. The definitive work on the subject of oil, The Prize is a book of extraordinary breadth, riveting excitement, and great value—crucial to our understanding of world politics and the economy today—and tomorrow.

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The Rise and Fall of OPEC in the Twentieth Century

Giuliano Garavini
2019

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is one of the most recognizable acronyms among international organizations. It is mainly associated with the ‘oil shock’ of 1973 when prices of petroleum quadrupled and industrialized countries and consumers were forced to face the limits of their development model.

This is the first history of OPEC and of its members written by a professional historian. It carries the reader from the formation of the first petrostate in the world, Venezuela in the late 1920s, to the global ascent of petrostates and OPEC during the 1970s, to their crisis in the late-1980s and early- 1990s.

Formed in 1960, OPEC was the first international organization of the Global South. It was perceived as acting as the economic ‘spearhead’ of the Global South and acquired a role that went far beyond the realm of oil politics. Petrostates such as Venezuela, Nigeria, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran were (and continue to be) key regional actors, and their enduring cooperation, defying wide political and cultural differences and even wars, speaks to the centrality of natural resources in the history of the twentieth century, and to the underlying conflict between producers and consumers of these natural resources.

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Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.

Ron Chernow
2007

From the acclaimed, award-winning author of Alexander Hamilton: here is the essential, endlessly engrossing biography of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.—the Jekyll-and-Hyde of American capitalism. In the course of his nearly 98 years, Rockefeller was known as both a rapacious robber baron, whose Standard Oil Company rode roughshod over an industry, and a philanthropist who donated money lavishly to universities and medical centers. He was the terror of his competitors, the bogeyman of reformers, the delight of caricaturists—and an utter enigma.

Drawing on unprecedented access to Rockefeller’s private papers, Chernow reconstructs his subjects’ troubled origins (his father was a swindler and a bigamist) and his single-minded pursuit of wealth. But he also uncovers the profound religiosity that drove him “to give all I could”; his devotion to his father; and the wry sense of humor that made him the country’s most colorful codger. Titan is a magnificent biography—balanced, revelatory, elegantly written.

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