Elizabeth Holmes Theranos Doc: Silicon Valley Books on Fraud - Rolling Stone
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Books to Read If You’re Obsessed With the Elizabeth Holmes Documentary

Calculated or clueless? Savior or shark? The premiere of HBO’s “The Inventor” has sparked new debate over disgraced entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes and her healthcare startup, Theranos.

Elizabeth Holmes theranos books documentaryElizabeth Holmes theranos books documentary

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Calculated or clueless? Savior or shark? The premiere of HBO’s “The Inventor” earlier this month has sparked new debate over disgraced entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes and just how much she knew about the demise of her healthcare technology company, Theranos.

The documentary, which tracks Holmes’ meteoric rise through Silicon Valley and her subsequent fall from grace when her startup is revealed to have defrauded investors with false claims and earnings, has also sparked renewed interest in the under-pinnings of the tech industry, where new ideas and young leaders are put up on a pedestal, only to be vilified when things go wrong. Are we all cynics living in a dog eat dog world? Or have the nefarious actions of others caused us to turn a blind eye to things that matter?

From a national bestseller that explores the shocking collapse of Theranos, to a real-life wolf of Wall Street, we’ve rounded up three books that track tales of white-collar crime on a global scale, while pushing forth questions of accountability, truth and justice.

1. “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup”

bad blood book elizabeth holmes

Courtesy Amazon

Named one of the best books of 2018 by critics from NPR, the New York Times, the Washington Post and others, “Bad Blood” is the definitive look inside the collapse of Theranos. Written by Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou, the journalist who first questioned the company’s findings and claims, “Bad Blood” traces Carreyrou’s efforts to uncover the truth behind the multibillion dollar startup, and provides his thoughts into why — and how — Holmes got caught up in the melee.

With rave reviews from critics and readers alike (including a quote from Bill Gates who calls the story “even crazier than I expected” and says he found himself “unable to put it down”), “Bad Blood” is part-detective story and part-expose into the dark and desperate world of Silicon Valley, where people will do or say anything to prove the worth of their companies – and themselves.

Though the HBO documentary was supported by its own interviews and research, a film version of “Bad Blood” is currently in development, with Jennifer Lawrence set to star as Homes, and “Vice” director, Adam McKay pegged to direct. Purchase: “Bad Blood,” $16.77 on Amazon.com.

2. “Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World”

billion dollar whale book review

Courtesy Amazon

Released to critical acclaim last fall, “Billion Dollar Whale” tracks the story of Malaysian businessman, Jho Low, whose unassuming appearance and mild-mannered demeanor helped him swindle more than $5 billion from an investment fund, pulling off one of the biggest financial heists in Wall Street history.

Low used the money to ascend the social ladder, throwing lavish parties at his luxury mansions and on his yacht that attracted some of Hollywood and fashion’s biggest stars. Low even put his money behind Hollywood films like “The Wolf of Wall Street,” helping to finance part of the film’s large production budget.

Named a Best Book of 2018 by Fortune, this New York Times bestseller exposes Low as a “modern Gatsby,” who went from middling success at business school to become a very real threat to the global financial system. Low went on the run when investigators came looking for him last year. He’s currently considered an international fugitive and while he has left Malaysia, authorities believe he is still in hiding somewhere in Asia. Purchase: “Billion Dollar Whale,” $18.30 on Amazon.com.

3. “Den of Thieves”

den of thieves book review

Courtesy Amazon


One of the definitive books about insider trading and the fallout from financial fraud, “Den of Thieves” tells the tale of four brash Wall Street execs, who managed to nearly pull off the biggest insider trading ring in financial history.

Writing by James B. Stewart,  who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for his reporting on the stock market crash for the Wall Street Journal, “Den of Thieves” hit #1 when it was first released in 1992 and remained on the best-seller charts for months afterwards. Citing investigators on the case, secret grand jury transcripts and insider sources from his personal network, Stewart tracks the ambitious plan the men hatched in a Manhattan board room that promised returns in the billions of dollars, and details the key missteps that eventually put detectives on their trail and lead to their downfall.

As the publishers’ notes state, “Den of Thieves” is “a portrait of human nature, big business, and crime of unparalleled proportions.” Purchase: $13.88 on Amazon.com.

Note: You can stream “The Inventor” for free right now with a 7-day free trial to HBO via Amazon. Click here for details and to get started. The books above are also all available for free on audiobook with a 30-day free trial to Amazon Audible.

This article was republished with the permission of Variety. Editorial products are independently selected. If you buy something through our links, PMC may earn an affiliate commission.


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