Book Report - April 2019

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

April was a slower book month. It was hit-and-miss with the Hoopla app this month — I just couldn't find anything that really grabbed my interest. In fact, I didn't even finish a few I put on this list, so apologies in advance for the sad reviews this month. The book that really pulled me in was Bad Blood and I tore through it and the podcast.

The Only Woman In The Room by Marie Benedict — I read this as an e-book on Hoopla, but struggled to get into it. I even started skipping chunks towards the end to get through it quicker. The premise is good (a Jewish actress marries a notorious arms dealer at the start of WW2 and is privy to many conversations between Axis leaders) but it falls flat, I thought.

The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin — This is another book that I was intrigued by but couldn't get into. I started listening to it as an audiobook, but it was simply too slow moving for me. Maybe I'll pick it back up one of these days.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou — This book brought out all the thoughts. If you've been living under a rock, Bad Blood is a true story about CEO Elizabeth Holmes, written by investigative reporter John Carreyrou. The story dives into Holmes' company, Theranos, and its rapid rise to one of the highest valued companies in Silicon Valley with investors like Larry Ellison and Tim Draper and contracts with big names like Walgreens. The problem was the technology didn't work. Today, Holmes is facing years in prison for fraud. One of the most intriguing things to me about the Theranos story is how quickly investors dropped millions of dollars into the project based simply on an idea and good marketing pitch. (By all accounts, Elizabeth was a master saleswoman). What's remarkable to me is there was no functioning Theranos product when they put their money down. They were simply investing in a concept they believed in. I fully support the capitalistic nature of this — come up with an idea, get others on board, manufacture that idea, and become a billionaire. (The American dream, right?) But what happens when the idea is just an idea, the product doesn't work, and the marketing messages are essentially fraud? Can you have it both ways? Can you believe in a capitalist society and still be outraged when things like Theranos happen? At the end of the day, I think it boils down to informed consent. Pharmaceutical and medical product companies can do a lot of good in this world and often sell themselves on the notion of changing the world, but at the end of the day, they're still making a (rather large) profit off of you. And, sometimes, there's a dark side to that.

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