Book Review

BAD BLOOD: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

Rating: 4 / 5

BAD BLOOD by John Carreyrou came up as a recommendation for the BookRiot book about business prompt for this year’s Read Harder reading challenge. More recently, I have seen a few posts on Bookstagram as well talking about how good it was, so I decided to give it a try.

BAD BLOOD tells a true, very scary story, of Elizabeth Holmes, the CEO and founder of Theranos, a multi-billion dollar medical equipment startup in the Silicon Valley. Elizabeth built up her company from nothing with a goal of changing the face of medicine by creating a device that could perofrorm life saving blood tests on a small, credit card sized device in homes around the world. It sounded great, but as she continued to raise billions in funds for the company and grow her own personal finances as a multi-billionaire, the reality was that the tests did not work.

In a company shrouded behind intimidation and non-disclosure agreements limiting staff’s ability to share the truth about their own misgivings, a former employee was brave enough to give a tip to The Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou. Carreyrou and his employers stood up to this multi-billion dollar bully to expose the fraud being perpetrated, exposing Elizabeth Holmes as a fraud.

This book was a fascinating read and the story it delivers packs a punch. Due to the fraud committed, people were subjected to blood tests that were inaccurate and potentially dangerous. These were tests used to determine if patients had cancer or not. Doctors used these tests to send patients to the emergency room given results that were off the charts. In other cases, it is likely that test results came back normal as a great relief to a patient when the reality is that there were things that needed to be addressed that the tests completely failed to pick up. It is scary how little independent testing these devices were subject to!

Having very recently read THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS by Rebecca Skloot, I couldn’t help but compare the books. BAD BLOOD was equally intriguing to me in terms of how the whole process worked, how testing was avoided and the history behind how this company and its faulty product put Elizabeth Holmes on the map as an example of female empowerment in the technology field. This book is much more of a reporter’s cut and dried story, though, and it lacks the extra human interest piece of Henrietta’s tale. While there are real people behind this story and the author does an excellent job of making that clear, for myself I was more drawn in by the Lacks’ family struggle.

Absolutely this is a book I would recommend. It took the science of what it was doing and delivered it in a very approachable format. I will definitely check out the HBO documentary as well!

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