I think by now most of us have heard at least the outline of the story told in Bad Blood: Elizabeth Holmes, the youngest self-made female billionaire (and founder of Theranos) who somehow misled and deceived investors and board members into believing she had revolutionized blood testing and was able to test for literally hundreds of conditions using a single drop of blood. If it were true, it would have changed the world, but, of course, it wasn’t true. Holmes is set to go on trial for fraud next year.
This wasn’t a story I’d been following closely, so even though I put Bad Blood on my TBR list, I didn’t really have any plans to actually read it anytime soon. Enter, again, my library’s Lucky Day program (this was my 4th Lucky Day book in recent months), where you can skip the line for ebooks in high demand, but you only get them for 7 days. When Bad Blood showed up on that list, I checked it out, reasoning that even if I didn’t love it, it was fairly short so I knew I could finish it before my 7 days were up.
You can probably see where this is going–I finished it in about 2 days. Bad Blood is fascinating! The story, obviously, is incredible. How on earth did Holmes dupe so many intelligent people? Her entire production was smoke and mirrors. While her ideas had merit and her concepts were interesting, she focused all her energy on a distant endpoint–Theranos’ small, Apple-esque looking blood testers available in every home–and had no patience for the work that would have been required to get there. She built a prototype and then demanded that science catch up with aesthetics on her timeline–that’s not how science works. Theranos’ testers really would have been revolutionary, and if Holmes had had the patience for the drudgery and hard work that is actual research, things may have worked out differently. Instead, she used charisma, flash and style to generate more money, more buzz, more grand plans–but set up her scientists to fail, demanded blind loyalty from her employees, and didn’t follow through on anything she promised her investors. It’s a fascinating story, and Bad Blood is so readable, it seems more like a piece of long-form journalism than a whole book (this is a good thing).
Bad Blood is my half-Cannonball, which was my goal for this year, but it was actually the 66th book I read this year. I intend to finish at least 3 more by New Year’s, and it’ll probably be more like 5 or 6. While my energy for reviewing has diminished, at least I’m still reading as much or more than I have in past years. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about next year’s CBR. I enjoyed the reviews I did write, and when I looked back at what I’d read this year there were some books I wished I’d reviewed so I’d remember them more (I read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda? Huh). Maybe I’ll set a personal goal of reviewing every new book I read (and skip reviewing the rereads), regardless of whether that ends up being 10 books or 50. Anyway–happy to have met my goal for the 4th year in a row, even if it was a more modest goal than in years past, and I’ll be back in January.