Great American Outpost: Dreamers, Mavericks, and the Making of an Oil Frontier

Written by:
Maya Rao
Narrated by:
Ellen Archer

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
April 2018
11 hours 6 minutes
A surreal, lyrical work of narrative nonfiction that portrays how the largest domestic oil discovery in half a century transformed a forgotten corner of the American West into a crucible of breakneck capitalism.

As North Dakota became the nation's second-largest oil producer, Maya Rao set out in steel-toe boots to join a wave of drifters, dreamers, entrepreneurs, and criminals. With an eye for the dark, absurd, and humorous, Rao fearlessly immersed herself in their world to chronicle this modern-day gold rush, from its heady beginnings to OPEC's price war against the US oil industry. She rode shotgun with a surfer-turned-truck driver braving toxic fumes and dangerous roads, dined with businessmen disgraced during the financial crisis, and reported on everyone in between -- including an ex-con YouTube celebrity, a trophy wife mired in scandal, and a hard-drinking British Ponzi schemer--in a social scene so rife with intrigue that one investor called the oilfield Peyton Place on steroids.

As the boom receded, a culture of greed and recklessness left troubling consequences for investors and longtime residents. Empty trailers and idle oil equipment littered the fields like abandoned farmsteads, leaving the pioneers who built this unlikely civilization to reckon with their legacy. Part Barbara Ehrenreich, part Upton Sinclair, Great American Outpost is a sobering exploration of twenty-first-century America that reads like a frontier novel.
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A great book, that conveys a lively depression of how unfettered markets and greed create a kind of rich third world with zero quality of life. It is a miniature of the US system: The strive for riches does not translate into a good life, the free market destroys nature and basic human decency, and it corrupts the ones it enriches and leaves them emotionally gutted, dumb and empty. They may earn a lot of money in the Bakken, but that money can't buy you health, happiness or pristine nature to enjoy. The book made it very clear to me, that less is so much more, and that free markets, at best, produce rich increasingly tixic hellholes like the Bakken, but never viable societies. America used to be the major force for good in the world from FDR to LBJ, since Reagan it has become this merciless free market hellhole, for which the Bakken is a good symbol.

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