Required Reading

Dragon Sea:

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Dragon Sea

A True Tale of Treasure, Archeology, and Greed Off the Coast of Vietnam
By Frank Pope

SOMETIME IN THE 15th century, off the coast of Hoi An, Vietnam, a junk packed to the gunwales with porcelain sank 230 feet to the bottom of the South China Sea. In 1998, when penny-pinching Malaysian financier Ong Soo Hin and swashbuckling Oxford marine archaeologist Mensun Bound—the "Indiana Jones of the Deep"—teamed up to salvage the cargo, a wreck of a different sort took place. First-time author Frank Pope, who spent three years as the expedition's manager, narrates this fast-paced high-seas drama, where mercenary divers risk their lives and typhoons threaten the "deepest, most expensive excavation ever attempted." But Dragon Sea is ultimately the tale of a clash of ideologies, as the quest for cash and the quest for knowledge vie for dominance on the seafloor. "With the Hoi An wreck beginning to show itself to be more significant in terms of archeology and art history than Mensun had dreamed, and of greater financial potential than Ong had dared hope," Pope writes, "neither man wanted to meet the other halfway." From there, the relationship only gets stormier.—JASON DALEY

Oil on the Brain:
Adventures from the Pump to the Pipeline
By Lisa Margonelli

THE STORY OF OIL IS, in many respects, the story of America, defining both corporate and consumer culture. Yet we tend to think about it only when it's expensive—or an impetus for war. Oil on the Brain is a timely and surprisingly readable, even funny account of one woman's journey along the crude-petroleum supply chain, from the pumps at her San Francisco convenience store back to the oil fields in Chad and Iran. Along the way, she explores the maddening volatility of gas prices, concluding that it's as much about psychology as supply. The bluster of one megalomaniac African warlord with a cell phone can send a ripple worth millions through global markets; ditto the posturing of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. Oil, she writes, is "Exhibit A in his theater of balls and revenge." Margonelli's journey is a lesson in Oil 101—with some fine vinegar thrown in.—FLORENCE WILLIAMS<

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