I couldn’t get a copy of Andrew Sorkin’s Too Big to Fail from my local library. But hungry for tales of hubris, greed, and corporate drama, I picked up The Smartest Guys in the Room by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, a book about one of the biggest corporate scandals in the past decade—Enron. The book starts off with a suicide. It quickly descends into the machinations and cover-ups of a company that started off in the sleepy business of piping natural gas and revolutionized the industry for big opportunities and big risks.
Readers will learn quite a few things about accounting abuses and the workings of the natural gas industry, but they’ll also recognize familiar human failings like avarice and arrogance that led to Enron’s collapse. McLean and Elkind’s choice of quotations ratchet up the drama. The chief operating officer at the time, sick of the backbiting, power plays, and politicking that was paralyzing Enron, yelled during an executive meeting, “Enough of this!” Comparing the company’s problems to alligators he growled, “There are alligators in the swamp. We’re going to get in that fucking swamp, and we’re going to kick out all the fucking alligators, on by one, and we’re going to kill them, one by one.”
Bio: David Xia is an intern at Guernica. Read his last recommendation of the book Random Family here.