This Just In: First Look at the Trapped Miners and the BP Oil Spill

33 Men, One New Book
No one who’s followed world news lately could doubt the subject of 33 Men (ISBN 9780399157776. $NA), a book just signed with understandable fanfare by G.P. Putnam’s Sons and due out in February 2011. Jonathan Franklin, an American reporter who has lived in Chile for 15 years, working for the last 12 years as the Guardian‘s correspondent for South America, started following the fate of the 33 Chilean miners from the moment they were trapped on August 5‚ long before the August 22 discovery that they were still alive, when most of us heard the news. Awarded a Rescue Team pass, he had access not given other journalists, who were restricted behind police lines. He interviewed the trapped miners via makeshift telephone and was their first media contact when they finally surfaced, also speaking with friends, family, and rescue workers‚ the drill operator was an American from Colorado.
As if that weren’t enough, Franklin also functioned as cameraman, filming exclusive footage for ABC News, CNN International, Univision and the Discovery Channel while at the mine. In short, this is a true insider’s story, covered from the first, and everything I’ve read about Franklin suggests that he’ll deliver a book that’s itself newsworthy. Aside from chronicling the case, I sense that Franklin wants to go deeper into human response to duress. To quote him, This book will bring readers into the miners’ world ‚ at once a dark, dank cavern with fistfights, drugs, and fears of cannibalism; and a world where men prayed together, made decisions by communal vote and survived via a fierce determination to live.

BP Oil Spill: Expect Lots of Titles
In recent columns, I’ve cited Carl Safina’s Blowout (Crown. Apr. 2011. ISBN 9780307887351. $23.99) and subsequently Joel Achenbach’s A Hole at the Bottom of the Sea: The Race To Stop the BP Oil Gusher (S. & S. Apr. 2011. ISBN 9781451625349. $27) and Tom Shroder and John Konrad’s Fire on the Horizon (Harper: HarperCollins. Mar. 2011. ISBN 9780062063007. $27.99) as books leading the charge in coverage of the BP oil spill. Actually, I lied. Those are certainly big books from big publishers coming out for the one-year anniversary. But a few books on the spill are just arriving in LJ‘s offices now, two hurried into print and already available. Readers are going to have a lot of choices.
In Drowning in Oil: BP & the Reckless Pursuit of Profit (McGraw. Dec. 2010. ISBN 9780071760812. $27), Loren Steffy, the Houston Chronicle‘s business columnist, aims to expose corporate fecklessness‚ and a lack of government oversight‚ by covering 100 years of BP corporate history. A calm, businesslike tone here, and it’s billed as objective. Formerly president and CEO of Milagro Exploration, a large, privately held oil and gas exploration firm based in Houston, Bob Cavnar alleges collusion between the BP and the government in Disaster on the Horizon: High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout (Chelsea Green Publishing. ISBN 9781603583169. pap. $14.95). Having once been burned in a gas well fire, he cares about safety issues.
Peter Lehner, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, joins with Bob Deans to consider cause and consequences in their In Deep Water: The Anatomy of a Disaster, the Fate of the Gulf, and Ending Our Oil Addiction (The Experiment. ISBN 9781615190355. pap. $13.95). Some statistics: 2.8 million gallons of dispersants were used in the Gulf postspill, with 74 waivers granted even after the EPA restricted use, and 20,000 brown pelicans are estimated to have died. Extra benefit: the Robert Redford blurb. Finally, in Blowout in the Gulf: The BP Oil Spill Disaster and the Future of Energy in America (MIT. Nov. 2010. ISBN 9780262015837. $18.95), William R. Freudenburg, Dehlsen Professor of Environmental Studies, University of California, and Robert Grambling, sociology professor at University of Louisiana, Lafayette, show that deepwater drilling has become increasingly risky over the decades. Since there’s really no such thing as a successful oil-spill cleanup, we need to make prevention ironclad.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.