The story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos, was first brought to my attention when the Bad Blood review was released for the New York Times. I didn’t read the full review, I don’t like to read reviews before I read the book, but the first few lines caught my attention that I immediately added the book to my TBR (to be read) list and couldn’t stop thinking about it. The story sounded so interesting and totally in my wheel-house, a start-up fraud of epic proportions.
If you’ve not heard of Theranos or Bad Blood here is a little background for you.
In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup “unicorn” promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood testing significantly faster and easier. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at more than $9 billion, putting Holmes’s worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn’t work.
A riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, a tale of ambition and hubris set amid the bold promises of Silicon Valley.
I really loved this book. It is a wild story whose veracity baffled me. If it was a movie, it would be written off as too unbelievable, but the fact that it is true makes it utterly consumable. The writing is quick, deliberate, and to the point. John Carreyrou, the author and the journalist who brought the Theranos fraud to light for The Wall Street Journal, does a phenomenal job of presenting the characters without interpretation. He allows Elizabeth Holmes’ behavior to speak for itself. I appreciate Carreyrou trusting that his reader is smart enough to draw their own conclusions.
The thing about this book is that it should be boring. Its a book about medical equipment and lab testing procedures that never worked. Its about science and business and startups, and normally that kind of stuff would bore me, except that the scam was so big and those involved so powerful, the story is fascinating. It is written like a true crime book with riveting characters, threats, intimidation, billionaires, blackmail, and more. You’re immersed in the story of Theranos and I couldn’t put the book down, I needed to know how this all could happen and then how it all fell apart.
There is one strange moment in the book, when the story goes from a third person recounting of the rise of Theranos (the first 2/3 of the book), to introducing Carreyrou himself as a player in the story of Theranos. Its a total revelation and it feels very staged. I don’t know if I have a solution for how Carreyrou could announce himself as a player in the fall of Theranos, but how its pulled off feels a little melodramatic.
I highly recommend this book, especially if you enjoy non-fiction. This is top of its class non-fiction. This is an insane story broken down and detailed. There is a commitment to truth telling and it explaining what happened and what went wrong. You leave this book feeling like you understand Theranos so much better, but then again, I have a ton more questions. I plan to follow this story as it continues to develop in the news.
- Hard Cover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (May 21, 2018)
- 5/5 stars
- BuyBad Blood on Amazon
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