3 Nonfiction Books About Scams, Schemes, And Heists That Prove "Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction"
Let me be the first to say that fiction is wonderful. Studies have shown that reading literary fiction improves empathy and can improve your vocabulary and language skills. There is nothing I enjoy more than getting wrapped up in a tale spun by someone else's big, beautiful imagination. But sometimes, the whole "real life is stranger than fiction" idiom proves itself to be hilariously and unbelievably true — and the three books recommend below are proof.
If you're looking for truly bonkers tales about schemes, scams, and heists, you don't necessarily need to look to made-up stories to get your fill, because real life is just as bizarre, wild, and strange as fiction. So much so, in fact, that sometimes people steal 299 rare bird skins from a high-security British museum in order to raise money to buy a golden flute. Other times, people create an alter-ego as a French psychic to scam hundreds of millions of dollars out of people. Honestly, who could make that up?
All three books recommended below are written by esteemed journalists who dove deep into the subject matter bring you the exhaustive histories of the crimes — and the stories of the perpetrators and the victims:
'Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup' By John Carreyrou
Pulitzer Prize winner John Carreyrou reports on the rise-and-fall of Theranos, a tech startup that promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a device that could diagnose a multitude of disorders by drawing a single drop of blood. The only problem? The technology didn't work — and Theranos's enigmatic CEO Elizabeth Holmes knew it. This is a "stay up all night to read" book that is just as propulsive, shocking, and riveting as the best thriller novels.
'The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century' by Kirk W. Johnson
You probably do not think that a book about a heist involving dead birds is interesting. You are wrong. In The Feather Thief, Kirk Wallace Johnson reports on one of the most baffling and fascinating heists in modern history: The theft of 299 rare bird skins from the British Museum of Natural History at the hands of a 20-year-old American flautist and champion salmon fly-tyer named Edwin Rist, who planned to sell the skins and use the profits to buy a golden flute.
'A Deal With The Devil: The Dark & Twisted True Story Of One Of The Biggest Cons In History' by Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken
Elaborate Silicon Valley scams! Rare bird skin thefts! Could things get any weirder? Please be advised that they most certainly can, because this next book involves a psychic. In their new book, CNN investigative journalists Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken report on a mail-in scheme in which elderly Americans paid thousands of dollars in exchange for personalized letters and fortunes from an elusive French psychic named Maria Duval. In total, Maria Duval scammed $200 million out of people.