Who doesn’t delight in juicy tales of disruption among the ranks of disruptive technologies (see John Carreyrou on Theranos or Nick Bilton on Twitter)? In Isaac’s deeply detailed account, Uber turns out to be the Jamba of corporate chronicles, centered on the charming but difficult founder, Travis Kalanick. The stories of abuse and excess in the upper ranks are abundant, and in places like Brazil the lax screening of passengers led to robberies, carjackings, even murder. Isaac, who covered Uber for The New York Times, is at his very best in the boardroom, where the poor oversight of Kalanick followed by his ill-handled ouster makes you wonder whether your last Uber driver would have been better on the board.
Even those who think American cable news strident and clueless have reason to appreciate Rachel Maddow, the MSNBC host blessed with a gift for humor-inflected, legal-based narrative and an ability to draw out the best from guests like Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren. (Hint to other hosts: Don’t interrupt.) That she also finds the time to write a compelling case against what she calls “Big Oil and Gas” is its own marvel, especially since the book’s mission is nothing less than to connect the dots among energy production, the Russian economy, and Putin’s efforts to mess up the 2016 U.S. elections. Blowoutis that rare combination: entertaining and troubling.