Mary Burnham's Column

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Many of us are guilty of reading the same type of books over and over again while bypassing the huge variety of material just waiting to be discovered. When I was growing up I’d look for my favourite authors, grab their latest offering and return home extremely happy with myself, not realising I’d ignored the host of new and exciting literature from international writers, lesser known authors, and fascinating non-fiction about which I knew absolutely nothing.

“Anyone who has never made a mistake
has never tried anything new.”
—Albert Einstein

Bad Blood by John CarreyrouBad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou came highly recommended by a fellow reader whose opinion I value. You’ll find this title in the Current Affairs section of your local bookshop with books that cover all aspects of modern politics and generally some of the bigger stories covered in the news of the day. While this book concerns fraud on an almost unbelievable scale, it reminds me of a story I read when I was no more than four years old, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Anderson. So if you’re sitting comfortably, let me begin:

In 2004, Elizabeth Holmes announced a scientific breakthrough that would revolutionize the medical industry. She was a charismatic college dropout who persuaded investors that her company, Theranos, was at the forefront of new technology that would make blood testing faster and easier. The only problem was that it didn’t actually work. As CEO Holmes made sure that none of her employees broke rank; her company was worth more than $9 billion — there was too much to lose. Holmes kept a tight grip for over ten years, hailed as one of Silicon Valley’s best and brightest since her personal hero, Steve Jobs.

Despite threats from powerful lawyers representing the multi-billionaire, journalist John Carreyrou exposed a woman who had fooled wealthy investors with promises based on nothing more than an idea that could never work. Just like “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, Holmes was believed, lauded, and on the front cover of all the financial magazines. For years the rich and powerful believed what they wanted to believe without a shred of evidence, showing the truth of the saying that ‘a fool and his money are soon parted’!

The next time you find yourself short of something decent to read, try to look past old friends and venture into areas hitherto undiscovered where you’ll find a million and one new titles to get your teeth into. Failing that, ask your bookseller who will be only too happy to point you in the right direction.