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The Boom is the 2015-2016 Penn State Reads Book

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The Boom, How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World, by Russell Gold, Senior Energy Reporter for The Wall Street Journal

In a world of growing energy consumption and diminishing resources, hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") has become an increasingly prominent method for extracting energy from the planet we live on. In The Boom, Russell Gold tells the story of the rise of fracking and discusses its implications for society, communities, and how we will find, and pay for, resources to satisfy the world's energy needs. The Boom will challenge your perspective on energy and help you consider the critical questions of powering our future.

Read more about The Boom on the author's website


Lecture by The Boom author Russell Gold

Monday, October 12, at 7:30 p.m. in Alumni Hall, HUB-Robeson Center

Student tickets available on Monday, September 28. Faculty, staff, and community members can pick up tickets (if available) beginning Wednesday, October 7. Tickets available at all Center for Performing Arts ticket outlets.


"Given the exaggerations, distortions and outright lies that pollute so much of the debate over the shale revolution, Mr. Gold performs a valuable service by looking at it from a historical, economic, political, and environmental perspective. For those interested, his clear, thorough treatment of the subject is the starting point for a more informed discussion of energy and environmental policy."
—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"In The Boom, Russell Gold brings new clarity to a subject awash in hype from all sides. The Boomis 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, and that's a good thing.”
—The Associated Press

"Gold delivers an engaging and expansive education on the promise and risks involved with the sudden rise of fracking for oil and natural gas... Worthy of the attention of both fracking's boosters and opponents."
—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

Arguably the most readable and best-researched volume looking at hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking' and its impact."
—Fort Worth Star-Telegram

"Authoritative and fairly balanced...a welcome guide—the best all-around book yet on fracking.”
—San Francisco Chronicle

"Russell Gold’s The Boom is a double quest. He tells the story of the biggest innovation in energy so far in this century—the shale gas revolution. He captures the personalities, and the drama and surprises, and brings clarity to the debate about the environmental impact—and what it means for the U.S. economy and “energy independence.” But it’s also a more personal story – about “The Farm” in rural Pennsylvania where he spent time as a child, and his quest to understand what is happening in this new age of shale gas."
—Daniel Yergin, author of The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World and of The Prize

"Gold delves into the growing conflict between economic development and concerns over environmental damage, and explains why fracking is seen by some as a vital bridge to a sustainable energy future and feared by others as another excuse to postpone addressing the risks of climate change…. The Boom puts a human face on the unfinished story of our struggle to transition to a sustainable world."
—Steven Chu, Former United States Secretary of Energy

"Gold’s book is an early must-read for 2014: it is both a thorough and fascinating examination of the fracking economy and the technological innovations that have made these new riches accessible (including the often catastrophic damage done in the process of obtaining them)."
—Geoff Manaugh,

"An insider’s guide to the most controversial energy-production technique in the United States."
—Kirkus Reviews

Introduction to The Boom from Professor Terry Engelder

Essay contest for first-year students

Penn State Reads invites first-year students to participate in an essay contest in order to further engage with the themes of the 2015 Penn State Reads selection, The Boom by Russell Gold. Responses to one of the prompts will be judged based on connection to the Penn State Values, a demonstrated ability to think critically about the prompt, responsiveness to prompt, literary style and grammar. The top two submissions will be displayed on the Penn State Reads website. Winners will receive a prize of a $100 Amazon gift card as well as the opportunity to meet Gold when he is on campus October 12-14, 2015. Responses should be no longer than 1,000 words and can be submitted as an attachment to by the deadline of September 11. First year-world campus students are also invited to submit an essay to the contest.

Additional guidelines:

  • One-inch margins, Times New Roman, 12 point font, 1,000 word maximum, and double spaced
  • Essays should be entirely original pieces responding to one of the following prompts
  • Cover page: Include name, creative title, prospective major, Penn State email, phone number, and essay prompt number selected

Essay prompts:

  1. In the book, Gold mentions a number of personal stories, anecdotes, and vignettes about people who have had personal contact with fracking and its impacts. What do these stories mean for discussions about the benefits and drawbacks of hydraulic fracturing? To what extent should personal anecdotes and experience influence your thinking about broad social issues? What are the ethical implications of incorporating these stories into your thoughts about social issues?
  2. Energy independence is defined as when "...the US economy and foreign policy could no longer be manipulated by countries that sell us energy (p. 162)." Is the US currently energy independent? Are there other definitions you might use (and if so, what are they)? Why would energy independence be a desirable goal? What evidence would you use to support your position?


Help Choose the 2016/2017 Penn State Reads Book!

Penn State Reads is looking for volunteer readers to help screen books from our shortlist for the 2016/2017 common text selection. Readers close to the University Park campus can pick books up in 417 Old Main or on the 5th floor of Paterno Library. Readers across the commonwealth should contact their local campus' library to help them find the books. After reading any (or all!) of the eight books on the short list, be sure to fill out the survey to let us know what you thought!