American Consequences - February 2019

She pulls the digital wool over the eyes of everybody from Stanford’s top chemical engineer Channing Robertson to former Secretary of State George Shultz. She raises enough money to fund a Jeff Bezos divorce. And she will – if there’s any justice – spend the rest of her life in jail. The technological advances in blood testing didn’t exist, the postulated break-through defied common sense, and the Theranos machines were million-dollar paperweights. Bad Blood isn’t an advice book, but it teaches business lessons – mostly about how business, like salvation, is vulnerable to the Seven Deadly Sins. (Except, maybe, sloth – Elizabeth Holmes was very, very busy.) But the biggest lesson is that when technology becomes so advanced that it seems like magic, magical thinking begins to prevail. As Penn and Teller can attest, nothing requires as much rational thought and careful analysis as magic. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead andWin , by former SEALs Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, is an advice book. The advice can be boiled down to one

The Book Grump’s mission is to provide an “Annoyance Index” for the New York Times Business Book best-seller list. How annoyed will you be by books full of “MEGO,” “MOTO,” and “FATSO”? (“My Eyes Glaze Over,” “Master of the Obvious,” and tomes with one good insight worthy of a brief magazine article padded out to a size where you’re supposed to pay $30 for them.) Last month, the Grump covered the Top 3 business best-sellers. Click here to see them picked or panned. They remain pretty much in place atop the NYT list (at No. 1, No. 2, and No.4), so the Grump will work his way down. And work it is... Business-book prose is pedestrian at best and, at worst, the kind of pedestrian that requires all the Grump’s self-control to not run over in the crosswalk. There are exceptions. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou, the Wall Street Journal reporter who broke the Theranos scam story, is a keep-you-up-at-night, read-while-shaving, miss-your-stop-on-the-bus-to-work business book. Silicon Valley enchantress Elizabeth Holmes conjures up a blood-testing machine with sky-high, high-tech so e-lightful, so e-licious, so e-lovely that, with one prick of your finger, it will diagnose everything from high blood sugar to Ebola.

Business- book prose is pedestrian at best and, at worst, the kind of pedestrian that requires all the Grump’s self- control to not run over in the crosswalk.


February 2019

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