Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicone Valley Startup by John Carryrou | Book Review

This book was a technically great, insightful read that unfortunately, I didn’t connect with emotionally.

Bad Blood tells the true story of the collapse of a multi-billion dollar healthcare startup, Theranos, which promised to revolutionise the medical industry through the invention of a machine that could carry out blood tests with but a prick of a finger. Its founder, Elizabeth Holmes, was widely viewed as the Steve Jobs of the healthcare industry, but in reality was a fraudster who duped investigators, FDA officials and her own employees into believing that Theranos’ technology worked, when it didn’t. Following a tip from a former Theranos employee, in late 2015, the Wall Street Journal’s John Carryrou exposed Theranos through a series of front-page articles, and this book presents the full story of Theranos as per Carryrou’s investigation.

While acknowledging that this book intelligently digs into the underbelly of Theranos’ history and Holmes’ lack of ethics, I have to admit this book lacks the indefinable quality that makes me love to read. To me, this book felt educational, but not exciting, and no doubt my opinion is shrouded by my inherent bias towards a love of prosaic fiction vs. investigative non-fiction.

Ardent fans of investigative non-fiction will love this story, and I would recommend this book to that audience for its educational value and clear storytelling. Carreyrou explains Theranos’ technological issues concisely, and this book tells a gripping tale filled with white-collar scandal that poses pertinent questions about our society: how is it that one startup could commit such heinous crimes and get away with it for so long? What drove Holmes to these delusions of Theranos’ capabilities, that had the potential to put millions of lives at risk? How did the culture of Silicon Valley contribute to Theranos’ rise?

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