Oh, boy! Do I have a book for you. This book is a true-crime, narrative nonfiction, and it is fabulous. It is Nick Bilton’s 2017 Bestseller American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road. So, here’s the thing, if you don’t like true crime, you still might want to give it a go. If you don’t like nonfiction, you might still want to give it a go. If you read John Carreyrou’s 2018 New York Times bestseller Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup (another fantastic read), then you will like this book. Actually, run to the library or the bookstore and get it. Like, right now.
Weirdly, I had never heard of this book, nor had I heard of the story that it tells, AND I recommend that if you don’t know anything about the story, keep it that way. Go into this book with as little information as possible. It will be worth it to maximize your reading experience.
This book tells the tale of Ross Ulbricht, a twenty-six year old Texan who subscribed to libertarian values and created a website on the deep web (Don’t worry–I knew very little about the deep web going in, and it is not necessary to know anything about it.) that created a virtual free market for the drug (and other illegal items) trade. Think–Amazon.com for drugs and illegal contraband. What is very appealing about this narrative is that we, as readers, get a bird’s eye view of the whole rise and fall of the Silk Road (the name of Ross’s website). Not only do we learn about Ross’s story and his motivations, we also learn about the government agencies involved in the investigation surrounding the Silk Road. And it is quite a tale. I don’t want to give any more of a summary than this because I want you to be as engrossed in this book as I was.
I listened to the audio, and it was fantastic. I do have a paper copy of the book. The bonus to the physical copy of the book is that there are pictures of the key players in the story, but don’t worry–if you want to listen to it–I have you covered. I have compiled a treasure trove of resources for you to look at AFTER you read the book. Seriously, don’t peek until you have read the book. Also, note all of these items are just links I looked at and read through. None of them are intended to make any kind of statement as to what I think about the politics and outcome of this story.
Bottom Line: 5/5 If you like true crime, nonfiction that reads like a thriller—this is the book for you.
FOR FURTHER INFO, CHECK OUT THESE LINKS:
An excellent article from Rolling Stone:
The website Ross’s family runs to urge the government to grant him clemency (Note: The Supreme Court has already denied to hear his appeal.): https://freeross.org/ To see the pictures included in the book: http://www.americankingpin.com/photos.html
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