As someone from the media industry, when the Enron scandal was among us, I noted with unhinged irony how books, literature and exposés on the failed giant were simply mushrooming as the subject itself was in ruins. I wondered if there would ever be a book we could describe as the complete package. I am positively delighted to observe that this book is it.
The authors Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind read between the lines, probed and told the story with the sort of brevity and authoritative panache that few Enron insiders have managed, let alone mainstream observers. It would be prudent to remember that McLean, as a reporter, first asked the question about what makes Enron tick; something which had been troubling analysts in certain quarters for a while back in 2001.
Her probing mind and objective treatment of the subject is well reflected in this exceptional account following Enron's collapse. The authors promised to chart the "amazing rise and scandalous fall or Enron", and I feel that they have delivered.
This book is not one-dimensional, it is multi-layered. Whistle-blowing, leaked emails, hidden trading fiascos, evoking of the Fifth Amendment by Enron executives, overseas misadventures, deception, a culture of greed and human tragedy have all been treated at length. Fragile egos of its executives, traders' cockiness and even idiosyncrasies of the egregious Jeff Skilling (CEO of Enron) have been described in considerable detail. The brilliance of this work is that authors' insight into the minds of the Enron executives against a backdrop of the company's wider culture helps the reader understand what ultimately triggered its downfall.
I am inclined to think that Smartest Guys in the Room, is the best and the most definitive book on the Enron fiasco till date and it would take some Herculean effort to better it. It's a must read if the Enron scandal interests you, hit you or intrigues you. If you wish to know about the episode for the very first time, look no further than this riveting account.