Goodreads Review: BOOM: Oil, Money, Cowboys, Strippers, and the Energy Rush That Could Change America Forever. A Long, Strange Journey Along the Keystone XL Pipeline by Tony Horwitz

Five Star review, originally posted here on November 14, 2014.

Wow.

This is only my second book by Tony Horowitz, but he is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. He has an amazing ability to capture people’s essence to tell a story, allowing the “characters” to speak for themselves. I knew very little about the Keystone XL Pipeline before reading this, but Horowitz does a great job explaining it from an often-overlooked yet important viewpoint: that of the people who actually have to live with it in their own backyard. I think he did a particularly good job of being respectful in his depiction of every single person interviewed, regardless of their opinion or attitude. To me one of the most striking aspects uncovered by Horowitz is the fact that many of the most vocal opponent are not what you expect. I don’t recall him speaking to a single liberal or environmentalist, or to any “big city folks” coming in and telling “country folk” what to do with their land. Instead, people speaking out tend to be conservative farmers or ranchers who for whatever reason started doing their own research, and then realizing the Pipeline is not something they believe in, despite the wrath that this opinion may bring from neighbors. The most powerful example of this phenomenon was when Horowitz visited a high school club that was practicing for a presentation on the pipeline and thus were some of the most-informed and most-rational thinkers from Horowitz’s entire journey.

The one thing I felt was missing was an explanation of the government’s role in the Pipeline. Perhaps Horowitz assumes that we’ve all been following along in the news, and is just providing this human element as supplement to what we all already know from being informed members of society, but I still could have used a bit more background. The House passed a piece of Keystone Pipeline legislation on the very day that I finished reading, and I realized that I had no clue how the federal government figures into all this. But, again, I can figure that part out by reading a newspaper, I guess, so it wasn’t too big a deal.

Sidenotes:
– I’m still not sure why Horowitz visited so many strip clubs on this trip. I guess just to show that they were the only entertainment in some towns? Hmm…
-This book was eerily similar to Wingfield, a fiction/comedy about a small town of misfits living in an environmental disaster zone. Complete with strip club references. Kinda scary stuff…

Well worth a read, especially because it is so short/quick and so very relevant to current events. I was trying to decide whether it will hold up down the road when this issue is no longer in the spotlight, and I think it will because it is a solid reminder to consider all the people involved in any major debate, and how our actions and our legislators’ decisions can affect others so directly. It is a reminder to us all to think through and make informed decisions on our own instead of feeding every line told to us. These lessons are timeless and worthwhile no matter who we are and no matter what issue we are considering.

Kudos to Tony Horowitz. He’s kinda my new idol.


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