Oil By Tom Bower Book Review

There’s no getting away from oil and with the spill in the Gulf of Mexico still fresh in our minds, we received a book all about the black gold.

Oil: Money, Politics, and Power in the 21st Century by Tom Bower was written before the latest disaster but nonetheless aims to tell the story of oil over the last 20 years. Oil follows the stories of BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, the traders, Russian oligarchs and environmentalists.

When I picked up the book I was a little apprehensive, thinking it would be a serious tome, but Bower is an old hand and has written it in an easy-going style that makes it a compelling read.

Oil by Tom Bower

Saying that, it’s a hugely complex issue with many different players across businesses and countries, so it takes a certain concentration to read. Again, Bower has helped by giving these people personalities from his extensive interviews (more than 250 people) and research. You start to think you know the head of BP or Shell as you go through your book.

It’s a fascinating read, and the amounts of money involved, shady deals and disasters all make an intriguing book. I found myself compelled to read more and learn about the world of oil and while Bower tends to shy away from making judgments, he does offer facts that lead you to certain conclusions. Especially on the environment issue, calling BP’s rebranding greenwash and showing how reality and perception aren’t the same thing.

Oil: Money, Politics, and Power in the 21st Century by Tom Bower is available from bookshops and online at the Hachette Book Group priced $26.99.


Book Of Green Has Eco Living Covered

Life Goggles is in the 2009/10 Book of Green – the “eco living directory”.

It’s a printed and online directory of eco businesses from fashion to building, from green electricity suppliers to earth-friendly nappies. So if you want to find something green, this should have it covered.

As I said, it’s available online but also in independent organic and green shops. We’re on page 74 by the way.

Wild Swimming Eco Book Review

You might think it’s a bit chilly in the UK to go swimming outdoors, especially in the ‘wild’, but as the introduction to Wild Swimming by Daniel Start says, it’s actually good for you. Swimming in cold water leads to ‘cold adaptation’, which: “brings down blood pressure and cholesterol, reduces fat disposition” and has a lot of other benefits.

So now you know it’s good for you then this book aims to help you find the best places in the UK to go for an outdoors swim. Sent to me by Natural Collection, its subtitle is “150 hidden dips in the rivers, lakes and waterfalls of Britain” and that’s exactly what the book does. Split up into sections of the UK, the author describes a personal trip to many of the places in a particular area and then picks out a few more swims nearby. If there’s one criticism it’s that some of the areas are quite large, central and east covers everywhere from Suffolk to Yorkshire and Merseyside. But that’s really because some places are better than others and have more hidden gems so the author can’t really be blamed for that.

Wild Swimming

The descriptions of each place benefit greatly from the author’s personal experience of visiting them, including a bit of history about the area and hints and tips about where exactly to go or park and who to speak to around the area.

What’s also impressive is the number of beautiful photographs. Some of the pictures are truly stunning and others are enhanced by having people enjoying the lakes or rivers, giving you a real sense of what to expect.

It’s essentially a reference book but done in a way suitable for the coffee table. You could easily spend an hour just casually flicking through it. Using it as intended to find a place to swim is also easy. Ordnance Survey references of two letters and six numbers are given for each location and also a postcode. Both can be used online to plan your trip and with the postcode the book also gives extra detail, like 400m north of the postcode, to help you get the right place.

I was pleasantly surprised reading this book as it wasn’t really a subject that interested me but it is now and I want to get out there and explore. The author’s done his job well.

Wild Swimming is available from Natural Collection for £13.95.

Green Goes With Everything By Sloan Barnett – Green Book Review

Green Goes With Everything by Sloan Barnett – Simple Steps to a Healthier Life and a Cleaner Planet is another great green household book if you don’t have one already.

Green Goes With Everything Book

Sloan is the Green Editor for KNTV in San Francisco, and wife of the CEO of Shaklee (prepare for lost of endorsements!), and the book is very interesting, from when her son was diagnosed with chemically induced asthma and what steps she took to remove the toxins from her home.

The book is well researched, and has a great comprehensive directory in the back that I will be using to help stock up and decorate my new house. It is a little wordy, sometimes just wishing she would get to the point, and when she does, not hammer it home quite so much. It’s similar to many other green lifestyle/household books I’ve read, but if you don’t have one and are looking for one single book to use as a resource for greening your household then this is excellent. Each chapter (such as Clean Body, Clean Baby, Clean Food) has Five Green-Hot Tips at the end that makes dipping in and out easy. Also ideas to make going green cheaper and save money are also useful.

You can watch a 6 minute video about Green Goes With Everything below, where Sloan explains the principles behind her book and what made her to discover what she discovered. It’s actually a pretty good short video that will explain what the book is about and quick tips for you to get started.

Overall it’s useful, I would imagine eye-opening to the average consumer, has great short tips and a very useful resources section. It costs around $13.57 in hardback from Amazon, or $9.59 for the Kindle version.

ACME Climate Action Book Review

I’ve briefly written about the ACME Climate Action book before and have included the video again at the end of this post. The book is available to buy from today (1 September 2008) and costs £15. As there’s the video and the website to explain what the book is about, I thought I’d write down my thoughts in bullet points for a change. Here we go:

  • Written by a guy called Joshua Blackburn and designed by his strategic communications agency, Provokateur, the book is a little different from the ordinary. Designed to be ripped up, pulled apart and given to friends it makes a big change in not only book design but also the way of getting an environmental message across.
  • It really is a change to read a book like this. The inside cover not only welcomes you to the book but encourages you to rip off the front and back covers, get the scissors out and make the covers into a photo frame. This book is going to be something different…
ACME Climate Action
  • The next page is actually about eight pages put together in a little booklet for you to rip out. Brilliantly designed, retro and modern at the same time, it’s easy to see it as a gimmick. But if you actually read this booklet you’ll realise while it’s still lighthearted, there’s a serious message and there are serious points it’s trying to get across.
  • Then the next pages are made up of stickers, games, postcards, things to go in your wallet, posters and much more. It’s hard to review this as a normal book, it’s not. It’s a call to action. You can’t really read it without doing something. It draws you in and gets you involved, even if it is only to put a sticker on the kettle to remind the missus not to overfill it.
  • I find myself showing friends the book when they come round and give them a part of it to take home with them. It’s almost a shame to rip it apart as I like the book so much, but it’s actually quite fun once you start.
  • Getting everyone involved is part of the theory behind this book and it works wonderfully. I really am in love with this book, it makes some great points along the way too. Grab a copy online at places like Amazon and Play, or it will be available in most bookshops in the UK after today.

ACME Climate Action Video – Helping You Be Green

While I was working on the review of a lovely book sent to me called ACME Climate Action, in an email the publishers (HarperCollins if you’re interested) also included this video which features the book and has a bit of information on why the book exists. I almost didn’t bother with the rest of the review as this does the job quite nicely and saves me doing a video of it. It’s quite a remarkable book and the video is cool too. It certainly makes a change from traditional environmentalism.

The Ethics Of Climate Change Eco Book Review

The Ethics Of Climate Change (right and wrong in a warming world) by James Garvey argues that climate change is actually a moral problem, one that can be informed by economics, politics, science and society, but what we do is actually down to us.

The Ethics Of Climate Change

It’s a very interesting read, though a little heavy-weight for those not 100% interested in the topic. Serious, but never patronizing, Garvey presents his views in a series of nicely structured chapters and sub-chapters. Discussing the science and the facts and then moving quickly onto moral beliefs and ethics, the book is a detailed examination of what the options available to us are, who’s responsible, and ways of thinking about them. A lot of it I had never really thought about much before and it’s enlightening that a “green” book can provide something new and thought provoking.

I liked the author’s style, and the way the book was structured and presented. One of the reviewers on Amazon summed it up for me when I was looking for some final thoughts: “Witty without being frivolous, explanatory but never condescending, it is engaging and challenging in equal measure.”

Here you can read a good interview with the author, James Garvey (Secretary of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, and you can buy the book from Amazon.