New And Notable: Oil On The Brain, Transport Geographies & Early Downtown Los Angeles

Oil On The Brain: Petroleum’s Long, Strange Trip To Your Tank is a smart, surprisingly funny account of the oil industry — the people, economies, and pipelines that bring us petroleum, brilliantly illuminating a world we encounter every day.

Americans buy ten thousand gallons of gasoline a second, without giving it much of a thought. Where does all this gas come from?

Author Lisa Margonelli’s desire to learn took her on a one-hundred thousand mile journey from her local gas station to oil fields half a world away.

In search of the truth behind the myths, she wriggled her way into some of the most off-limits places on earth: the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the New York Mercantile Exchange’s crude oil market, oil fields from Venezuela, to Texas, to Chad, and even an Iranian oil platform where the United States fought a forgotten one-day battle.

In a story by turns surreal and alarming, Margonelli meets lonely workers on a Texas drilling rig, an oil analyst who almost gave birth on the NYMEX trading floor, Chadian villagers who are said to wander the oil fields in the guise of lions, a Nigerian warlord who changed the world price of oil with a single cell phone call, and Shanghai bureaucrats who dream of creating a new Detroit.

Deftly piecing together the mammoth economy of oil, Margonelli finds a series of stark warning signs for American drivers. Rave reviews for Oil On The Brain include:

“If you drive a car, you must read this book.” —Mary Roach, author of Stiff

“By giving voice to the people who are the links in the global oil chain, Margonelli invites us to leapfrog all the rhetoric, dry statistics, and dire pronouncements about oil in order to truly understand it.” —Fast Company

“Hugely enjoyable, compulsively readable, and brilliantly reported.” —Po Bronson, author of What Should I Do with My Life?

The PBS Newshour conducted an extensive interview with the author, which can be found here.

Transport Geographies: Mobilities, Flows And Spaces brings together a formidable range of expert insight to introduce the key ideas, concepts and themes of transport geography.

Using an issues-based, qualitative approach, the contributors feature a wide range of case-study material.

This work explores the relationship between transport geography and wider geographical concerns, as well as connections to other areas of study — economics, engineering, environmental studies, political science, psychology, spatial planning, sociology and transport studies.

The book highlights the role of transport geography in globalization, and its interplay with economic, social and environmental geographies at a range of spatial scales. It reviews contemporary policy and the role transport geographers can play in policy debates.

Both empirically informed and theoretically robust, this compelling text shows the significance of transport in terms of the needs and demands of future travel.

Growing south from the plaza where the city of Los Angeles was founded as a tiny pueblo in 1781, the area now known as downtown L.A. was first developed in the late 1800s as a residential neighborhood, complete with churches and schools.

As the population surged at the turn of the 20th century, the downtown area was transformed into a busy business and entertainment center of shops, banks, hotels, and theaters.

The explosion of the postcard craze in the early 1900s coincided with this period of downtown’s tremendous growth toward a formidable metropolis.

Early Downtown Los Angeles
is a collection of vintage postcard images offers a glimpse into the changing city through the 1940s. Transportation is afforded its own chapter.

It includes rarely seen images of La Grande Station, the passenger terminal constructed by the Santa Fe Railroad in 1893. Santa Fe and Southern Pacific’s competitive rail pricing fueled the real estate boom and unprecedented population growth throughout the region in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Early interior images of Union Station, Angels Flight, and other rail lines are of particular topical interest.