Energy in Print and Film

compiled by Andrew Mahlstedt, June 2010

During the course of the 2010 CHE Place-Based Workshop, CHE grad Andrew Mahlstedt led participants in brainstorming a set of books and films that could be used to teach and talk about energy from a historical perspective. What follows is what they came up with. Like the rest of this site, we hope that this is a useful resource – please let us know what we're missing.


Alfred W. Crosby, Children of the Sun: A History of Humanity's Unappeasable Appetite for Energy, 2006.

David E. Nye, Consuming Power: A Social History of American Energies, 1999.

Martin V. Melosi, Coping With Abundance: Energy and Environment in Industrial America, 1985.

Energy Production

Hydropower: Nonfiction

Martin Cherniack,The Hawk's Nest Incident: America's Worst Industrial Disaster, 1986.

Patricia Spangler, The Hawks Nest Tunnel, 2008.

Richard White, The Organic Machine: The Remaking of the Columbia River, 1996.

Blaine Harden, A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia, 1997.

“At the Dam," in Joan Didion, The White Album, 1979.

Arundhati Roy, “The Greater Common Good," in The Cost of Living, 1999.

John D'Agata, "Round Trip," in Halls of Fame, 2003.

Edward Grumbine, Where the Dragon Meets the Angry River: Nature and Power in the People's Republic of China, 2010.

Hydropower: Fiction

Muriel Rukeyser, “The Book of the Dead,” 1938.

Edward Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang, 1975.

Anthony Doerr, “Village 113,” in Memory Wall, 2008.

Hydropower: Films

Wild River, 1960.

Up the Yangtze, 2008.

Still Life, 2008.

Coal: Nonfiction

Michael Shnayerson, Coal River, 2008.

Jeff Goodell, Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future, 2007.

Shirley Stewart Burns, Bringing Down the Mountains: The Impact of Mountaintop Removal on Southern West Virginia Communities, 2007.

Barbara Freese, Coal: A Human History, 2004.

Henry Adams, "The Dynamo and the Virgin," in The Education of Henry Adams, 1900.

Aldo Leopold, "Marshland Elegy," in A Sand County Almanac, 1948.

Harry Caudill, Night Comes to the Cumberlands: A Biography of a Depressed Area, 1962.

Mark Nowak, Coal Mountain Elementary, 2009.

Coal: Fiction

Annie Carey, "Autobiography of a Lump of Coal,” 1870.

Edward Bulwer Lyton, Vril: The Power of the Coming Race, 1871.

Emile Zola, Germinal, 1885.

Denis Giardina Storming Heaven, 1988.

Denise Giardina, Unquiet Earth, 1994.

Richard Llewellyn, How Green Was My Valley, 1939.

Coal: Films

Blind Shaft, 2004.

Coal Country, 2009.

Black Fury, 1935.

Harlan County, USA, 1977.

October Sky, 1999.

Wind/Solar: Nonfiction

Amory B. Lovins, Soft Energy Paths: Towards a Durable Peace, 1979.

Robert Whitcomb & Wendy Williams, Cape Wind: Money, Celebrity, Energy, Class, Politics, and the Battle for Our Energy Future, 2008.

Wind/Solar: Fiction

Ernst Callenbach, Ecotopia, 1975.

Wind/Solar: Films

Wind Over Water: The Cape Wind Story, 2003.

Nuclear: Nonfiction

Gwyneth Cravens, Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy, 2008.

Daniel Ford, The Cult of the Atom: The Secret Papers of the Atomic Energy Commission, 1984.

J. Samuel Walker, Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective, 2006.

John McPhee, The Curve of Binding Energy, 1994.

Nuclear: Fiction

LM Silko, Ceremony, 1977.

Nuclear: Films

Silkwood, 1998

The China Syndrome, 1979.

The Return of Navajo Boy, 2000.

Petroleum: Nonfiction

Paul Roberts, The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World, 2005.

David Goodstein, Out of Gas: The End of the Age Of Oil, 2005.

Kenneth S. Deffeyes, Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage, 2001.

Amory B. Lovins, Winning the Oil Endgame, 2004.

Upton Sinclair, Oil!, 1927.

Abdelrahman Munif, Cities of Salt, 1984.

Amitav Ghosh, “Petrofiction: The Oil Encounter and the Novel”, in The Imam and the Indian, 1992.

Petroleum: Fiction

Petroleum: Film

Syriana, 2005.

There Will be Blood, 2007.

Gasland, 2010.

Energy Consumption


Richard Wright, Native Son 1940. (Chapters about the furnace)

Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man, 1952. (Narrator’s electricity fetish)

Jack Kerouc, On the Road, 1957. (Celebration of petroleum)

Patrick Chamoiseau, Texaco, 1992.


Henry David Thoreau, “Economy,” in Walden, 1854.

David E. Nye, Consuming Power: A Social History of American Energies, 1999.


Unintended Consequences


William Wordsworth, “Tintern Abbey,” 1798.

Charles Dickens, Hard Times, 1853.

Lydia Millet, Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, 2006.

Alan Weisman, The World Without Us, 2007.


Elizabeth Kolbert, Field notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change, 2006.


Have we missed one? Let us know by e-mailing