The best books on fraud

2 authors have picked their favorite books about fraud and why they recommend each book.

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Bad Blood

By John Carreyrou,

Book cover of Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

This is the other genius book written recently about a corporate scandal. Carreyrou pulls off two great things in his account of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos, her Silicon Valley start-up that purported to revolutionize medical testing but evaporated in a cloud of lies. First, he shows how a charismatic young person with seemingly no scruples could delude dozens of rich, sophisticated, and sometimes famous people. This book uncovers the psychology involved in white-collar crime as well as any story I have read. Second, Carreyrou’s account is absolutely devastating with regard to the conduct of lawyers who not only defended Holmes but attempted to silence and destroy whistleblowers and critics, including Carreyrou himself, who unavoidably becomes an important character in the story. Look out for the trial of this case, which is scheduled to begin in August 2021. And also the Jennifer Lawrence movie…

Who am I?

I teach the law and enforcement of corporate crime as a law professor. At the outset of the course, I tell the students that corporate crime is a problem, not a body of law. You have to start by thinking about the problem. How do these things occur? What is the psychology, both individual and institutional? What are the economic incentives at each level and with each player? What role do lawyers play? When do regulatory arrangements cause rather than prevent this kind of thing?  If the locution were not too awkward, I might call the field “scandalology.” I love every one of these books because they do such a great job of telling the human stories through which we can ask the most interesting and important questions about how corporate crimes happen.

I wrote...

Capital Offenses: Business Crime and Punishment in America's Corporate Age

By Samuel Buell,

Book cover of Capital Offenses: Business Crime and Punishment in America's Corporate Age

What is my book about?

At the heart of the dilemma of corporate crime sits the limited liability corporation and the structure of financial markets, simultaneously the bedrocks of American prosperity and the reason that white-collar crime is difficult to prosecute. The corporation is a brilliant legal innovation that, in modern form, can seem impossible to regulate or even manage. By shielding managers and employees from responsibility, the corporation encourages the risk-taking that drives economic growth. But its special legal status and its ever-expanding scale place daunting barriers in the way of federal and local investigators.

Explaining in a breezy style the complex legal frameworks that govern both corporations and the people who carry out their missions, this book shows both the specialist and general reader how deciphering business crime is rarely black or white. 

A Beautiful Crime

By Christopher Bollen,

Book cover of A Beautiful Crime

In Bollen’s fourth novel, the boyishly handsome, 25-year-old Nick Brink meets the older and more remote Clay Guillory at the funeral of Clay’s boyfriend/benefactor, Freddy Van der Haar. Freddy, whose name is synonymous with American royalty, was one of the few remaining vestiges of the old New York gay scene. House poor, Freddy bequeathed Clay his shambling Venetian palazzo and a collection of counterfeit antiques. Nick falls for Clay, and they escape to Venice. To fund their new Continental lifestyle, they cook up a plan to con Richard West, a wealthy American retiree who has a sentimental affection for the Van der Haar name and fondness for acquiring antiques. Even as their criminal behavior begins to accrue a body count, we’re seduced by that all-too-recognizable outsider’s desire to belong to a place. For these men, Venice isn’t just a city but a way of seeing themselves, of imagining their futures.

Who am I?

I’m a historical mystery writer, English teacher, and book reviewer for Lambda Literary. I love to write and explore buried and forgotten histories, particularly those of the LGBTQ+ community. Equally, I’m fascinated by the ways in which self-understanding eludes us and is a life-long pursuit. For that reason, as a reader, I’m attracted to slow burn psychological suspense in which underlying, even subconscious, motivations play a role. I also love it when I fall for a character who, in life, I’d find corrupt or repulsive.

I wrote...

The Savage Kind

By John Copenhaver,

Book cover of The Savage Kind

What is my book about?

Philippa Watson, a good-natured yet troubled seventeen-year-old, has just moved to Washington, DC. She’s lonely until she meets Judy Peabody, a brilliant and tempestuous classmate. The girls become unlikely friends and fashion themselves as intellectuals, drawing the notice of Christine Martins, their dazzling English teacher, who enthralls them with her passion for literature and her love of noirish detective fiction.

When Philippa returns a novel Miss Martins has lent her, she interrupts a man grappling with her in the shadows. Frightened, Philippa flees, unsure who the man is or what she’s seen. Days later, her teacher returns to school altered: a dark shell of herself. On the heels of her teacher’s transformation, a classmate is found dead in the Anacostia River—murdered—the body stripped and defiled with a mysterious inscription. As the girls follow the clues and wrestle with newfound feelings toward each other, they suspect that the killer is closer to their circle than they imagined—and that the greatest threat they face may not be lurking in the halls at school, or in the city streets, but creeping out from a murderous impulse of their own.

The Grownup

By Gillian Flynn,

Book cover of The Grownup: A Story by the Author of Gone Girl

This is actually a short story rather than a novel, but there’s enough plot and character for a full novel. The story opens with this announcement: ‘I didn’t stop giving hand jobs because I wasn’t good at it. I stopped giving hand jobs because I was the best at it. For three years, I gave the best hand job in the tristate area.’ How can you not read on? The unnamed narrator is damaged, cynical, funny, and extremely unreliable. 

Who am I?

I’m a writer, and an enthusiastic reader, of crime fiction. And although I love dark fiction, I’ve realised that subtle humour is the spice that takes a book to the next level for me. Whether it’s a turn of phrase that makes me guiltily cheer along or an interaction with a partner or colleague that makes me wince with recognition, I love dark books that make me smile! These are some of my favourites – I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

I wrote...

The Devil's Dice

By Roz Watkins,

Book cover of The Devil's Dice

What is my book about?

Detective Inspector Meg Dalton is on a mission to reinvent herself in her new job in Derbyshire. When she's assigned a suspicious death, it's her chance to prove she's fully sane and functional again. But it's a sinister case – a poisoned corpse has been found in a cave under a centuries-old carving that seems to predict the man's death.

With talk of a curse extending to the times of the witch trials and a labyrinth where teenagers go to hang themselves, Meg's struggling to tell what's real or right. Is death always bad or can it be a gift, as her mother claims? Meg finds her own life at risk as she's torn between solving the case and keeping her family's darkest secrets.


By Richard Russo,

Book cover of Elsewhere: A Memoir

A memoir of his mother and his life in Glovershville, New York from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist. It is utterly unfair that such a singular writer of fiction can be this deft at non-fiction. The best piece of advice I ever got as a writer was “Make your characters complicated…” Some characters, like Jean Russo, come complicated out of the factory. (By the way, Russo is a friend, and once told me at a book event in his honor that he felt like a fraud. So, I am in fine company). 

Who am I?

Why do I use the word “fraud?” The answer is agonizingly simple. My whole life, and I mean since I was ten, I wanted to be “a real writer.” Whatever that was. And now here we are, 55 years later. Despite my great good fortune to spend 24 years coming up with jokes for Dave Letterman, three years as a columnist at Sports Illustrated, and to have my name on four novels, if you asked me, “Are you a real writer?” I would tell you, “not yet….” Here are five real writers.

I wrote...

Shrink Thyself

By Bill Scheft,

Book cover of Shrink Thyself

What is my book about?

In Shrink Thyself, Charlie Traub decides to leave psychotherapy and live the unexamined life. A noble goal, which would be even more noble if his former therapist (now his friend) didn’t turn out to be beyond inappropriate and his mother didn’t die in a way that would have made Freud transfer to dental school. Despite all unexamined evidence to the contrary, Charlie just might be unable to accept that wherever he goes, there he is.

Bill Scheft has created a sad-sack hero with the exuberant narrative verve of a character out of Philip Roth or Saul Bellow…”  The AtlanticA laugh-out-loud commentary on life, love, and loneliness.” – Foreword Reviews


By Kelly Paxton,

Book cover of Embezzlement: How to Detect, Prevent, and Investigate Pink-Collar Crime

Google nonprofit fraud and you will see the sad scenarios that many nonprofits fall prey to. While large flashy frauds are interesting to read about, it is often the people closest to the organization that you wouldn’t expect that impact many nonprofit frauds. Pink collar crime is perpetrated by someone with limited power (bookkeepers, office managers) as opposed to white collar crime (CFOs and CEOs). Embezzlement breaks down the fraud triangle and provides excellent examples of various fraud schemes with a chapter dedicated to nonprofit and governments. It’s filled with prevention tips to help nonprofits stop being a victim. One of the reasons I wrote my book was to empower board members to be able to ask the right questions of management so that fraud schemes would be more easily identifiable. 

Who am I?

I’m a CPA with nearly 20 years of experience in the accounting profession and I provide continuing education to CPA firms in the area of accounting and auditing. One of my areas of specialization is government and nonprofit accounting. I serve on the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB’s) Not-for-Profit Advisory Committee and the AICPA’s Governing Council. I am passionate about the standard setting process and ensuring financial reporting is accurate and presented in a way to help the user make financial decisions. I have a BSBA from Georgetown University with a concentration in Accounting and International Business. 

I wrote...

Money Matters for Nonprofits: How Board Members Can Harness the Power of Financial Statements by Understanding Basic Accounting

By Melisa F. Galasso,

Book cover of Money Matters for Nonprofits: How Board Members Can Harness the Power of Financial Statements by Understanding Basic Accounting

What is my book about?

People serve on nonprofit boards to make a big impact and if a nonprofit is financially unstable it can’t make that impact. However, if you’re not a numbers person, or it’s been a while since you’ve worked with numbers, you may find financial statements hard to decipher. Money Matters for Nonprofits demystifies financial statements to empower nonprofit board members. It makes complex topics easy to understand with lots of examples and stories. The book also provides readers with methods to evaluate the nonprofit including ratios and KPIs. It also provides a list of questions to discuss with the independent public accountant. With this resource, board members will feel equipped to better advise a nonprofit and make an even greater difference.

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