61. Bad Blood

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This was on my wish list for a long time. There was a remotely personal element to it: one of my friends was approached to be on Theranos’ board and turned them down, as he had some suspicions about the company (and had heard rumors).  Then the book was a Kindle Daily Deal on my birthday; a few days after starting it, I realized that I was compulsively stealing time away from other activities to read more and more about Elizabeth Holmes and her deep voice and piercing stare and pathological lies.  

Holmes patterned herself on Steve Jobs.  One of the frustrations that I had with the Walter Isaacson biography of Jobs was the repetitiveness of it – the reader is repeatedly reminded of his hypnotic gaze, his odd dietary habits, the fact that he didn’t bathe much or wear shoes.  The first two or three times helped reinforce the message, but after the eighth or ninth time that you read about apples and carrots…well, it got a bit annoying, and I found myself wondering how the editor had let it slide.  This story suffered a bit from the same issue – the reader keeps hearing about her unblinking stare and deep voice, and after a while it becomes a bit predictable – “oh, it has been eight pages, I bet he mentions her voice soon.”  However, that was probably the only issue I had with this book, and it is a minor one – otherwise, the story is incredibly told, and the fact that the author had a role to play in Theranos’ downfall gave him incredible insight and credibility.  The pacing, too, was perfect – as it was on Kindle, I could see how much of it I had left to read, and about a third of the way through, I wasn’t sure how the rest of the book could be stretched out, as it always seemed as if the truth would come out any second.  At the end, though, I felt like it may have been truncated – Theranos was still a going entity, and Holmes and her ex-boyfriend Sunny were not yet indicted.  An updated version, after the trials are done and the business is wrapped up, may provide the closure that the story could have used.

But Bad Blood is definitely a good read.  If you’re looking to learn how an empire is built and then crumbles, this and Brazillionaires would be a great place to start.

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