Bad Blood Book Review
by Tyler Smith
Bad Blood is a 2018 book written by John Carreyrou about Theranos, Silicon Valley’s prized startup turned devastating scam and its now disgraced founder: Elizabeth Holmes. Theranos was a company that produced machines that could analyze and find a host of diseases and health problems from just a few drops of blood. Here's the kicker- it couldn’t. It couldn’t actually do any of those things because the machines never worked.
Its summary of the events are only a loose timeline, this book doesn’t spend a whole lot of time with the specifics. The focus of this book is on the human impact Elizabeth and Theranos had on everyone involved in the startup. I think this is especially important, as a lot of the media coverage I saw on this event tended to skip over how this affected the employees, investors, the families involved, and the nearly immeasurable impact the Edison blood testing machines had on the patients that did use them.
One thing I really enjoyed about this book is how it broke down all the terminology for the reader. As you can imagine, medical, chemical and technical terms can be difficult to understand for the average person (I, for one, struggle with all three). Carreyrou does a great job explaining them as they come up so you don’t feel lost when he has to explain why the machines were failing, or how inaccurate the machines are. He even uses direct quotes from the employees themselves to make these terms easier to get. Carreyrou is also really good at keeping common threads throughout the book. He often talks about the same events from different points of views to help you get the full story of one situation, or will go back to a previously mentioned person and tie it to another situation later on in the book. Towards the last few chapters, the book takes a dramatic turn and enters a first person point of view, which I think is really cool. It goes on to offer a behind the scenes look at investigative journalism which in this case includes intimation tactics, deep background, surveillance and a lot of lawyers. It is surprisingly harrowing to read.
One little thing I found to be a bit repetitive was the amount of times the author mentioned that the machines did not work. I feel it was very important information at the beginning of the book and it was worth repeating at the end when he spoke on the human impact, but it got tiring to read in the middle points of the book.
All in all, this is a fantastic read that I recommend. It doesn’t get too bogged down in mechanical/chemical/medical jargon so you can enjoy it without exhausting your brain. It also has an in-depth look at investigative journalism and the story of the people who made it possible. The people- former employees, doctors, patients and families- that John Carreyrou wrote about put themselves at great personal risk telling these stories. They were followed, harassed by Theranos’ lawyers, and under threat of financial ruin. If nothing else, their bravery and endurance serves as reason enough to read Bad Blood.