Tarball Chronicles
Tarball Chronicles (back cover)

The Tarball Chronicles

A Journey Beyond the Oiled Pelican and Into the Heart of the Gulf Oil Spill
Winner of the Phillip D. Reed Memorial Award
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Winner of the Phillip D. Reed Memorial Award for Outstanding Writing on the Southern Environment

Beyond the oil-soaked pelican, beyond the oil-soaked beach, beyond the Deepwater Horizon oil spill entirely, there is a deeper story of sacrifice unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico. Reporters and government officials focused on the smallest part of it: oil gushed into the water for 153 days, then, on September 19, 2010, the well was capped. The story was over. But for David Gessner the unimaginable amount of oil spilled into the ocean was only the beginning.

In The Tarball Chronicles, Gessner eats, drinks, and talks his way into the heart of Gulf country—exploring the region’s birds, sea life, and ecosystems with the oceanographers, activists, and subsistence fishermen who call it home. Just how much, he asks, are we willing to sacrifice to keep living the way we do? Part absurdist travelogue, part manifesto, The Tarball Chronicles is a love song for the Gulf from an author who has “redefined what it means to write about the natural world” (Washington Post).

Publish Date
5.5 × 8.5 × 0.75 in
14 oz

Praise and Prizes

  • “Plenty of people are writing about the BP oil disaster, but few indeed will be able to make us feel the reality of it like David Gessner can. The likelihood that his account will also be action-filled and darkly funny is pure bonus.”

    John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead
  • “For those interested in putting the Gulf crisis in perspective, there can be no better guide than this funny, often uncertain, frank, opinionated, always curious, informed and awestruck, accounting of how we’ve gone wrong and could go right, a full-strength antidote to the Kryptonite of corporate greed and human ignorance.”

    Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • “In this highly readable, firsthand account of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, David Gessner considers the catastrophe in the Gulf as a symptom of even bigger economic and cultural challenges that loom in our future. This excellent book is not judgmental, but thought provoking and well worth reading.”

    David Allen Sibley, author of The Sibley Guide to Birds
  • “Brilliant, thoughtful … Anyone who wanted a first-hand look at the Gulf after the news cycle ended will find it here.”

    Publishers Weekly
    (starred review)
  • “If you read only one book about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill this year, it should be this one. If you plan not to read any books about it, make an exception for this blunt, funny, eye-opening quest to find the real stories behind the Gulf crisis.”

    Shelf Awareness
  • “David Gessner’s account of his journey blazes out with a fiery, pugilistic style… . His journey around the Gulf of Mexico offers us a powerful and sobering reminder that whether or not we feel the direct effects of the oil spill in our backyards, we are all implicated, all compromised, and—most important for Gessner—all connected.”

  • “An eye-opening, jaw-dropping account … Entertaining and rousing … Gessner crafts a powerfully informative but also immensely relatable narrative. He shows that while the national media has moved on to other stories and the oil has sunk to the ocean floor, the full impact of the gulf oil spill remains to be seen and the questions it raised must still be answered.”

    Mother Nature Network
  • “Expressive and adventurous. A profoundly personal inquiry into the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe unique in its hands-on immediacy and far-ranging ruminations.”