Whistleblower Must-Reads: Eleven Essential Books about Whistleblowers and the Whistleblowing Experience
, Elizabeth “Liz” Soltan
Being a whistleblower can be an isolating experience. If you are a whistleblower or are considering blowing the whistle, you may feel like a lone truth-teller. That loneliness is real. Sometimes it can help to hear the stories of other whistleblowers, both as a reminder that there is a community of whistleblowers out there and to glean more insight into the whistleblowing process. To help with that, we are compiling a list of books by and about whistleblowers and have included the following ten books to kick things off (listed alphabetically by author’s last name, not in order of importance).
Rather than a comprehensive and definitive list, the books below are but a first installment – an effort to prime the pump and encourage you, our readers, to tell us what other books you think we should add. We will use your suggestions to expand our list and later create a real top 10 list of the best whistleblower books. Because we’re lawyers, we have to make this disclaimer: We don’t endorse the contents of these books. They simply provide a variety of windows into the multifaceted world of whistleblowing. That said, here is the start of a comprehensive whistleblower reading list – and, in honor of Spinal Tap, this one goes to 11:
Whistleblowing for Change: Exposing Systems of Power and Injustice edited by Tatiana Bazzichelli
This book is a multidisciplinary look at the transformative power of whistleblowing from Berlin-based Network Disruption Lab. The book opens with chapters on the whistleblower experience and the impact of whistleblowing, including contributions from Billie Jean Winner-Davis, the mother of Reality Winner, Constantine Cannon’s 2021 Whistleblower of the Year, and CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou. The compilation has a special focus on whistleblowing for social justice and the relationship between art and whistleblowing. It is available as a free e-book on the Network Disruption Lab’s website.
Extraordinary Circumstances: The Journey of a Corporate Whistleblower by Cynthia Cooper
Cynthia Cooper was the Worldcom Chief Audit Executive who blew the whistle on Worldcom for what was then the largest corporate accounting fraud case ever uncovered. Her work earned her, along with Sherron Watkins of Enron and Coleen Rowley of the FBI, Time Magazine’s Person of the Year honor in 2002 as “The Whistleblowers.” (Yes, being a whistleblower is hard – but it may also help you become a person of the year, as you can see from this list.) Ms. Cooper’s revelation of the Worldcom scandal is part of what inspired Congress to pass the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which protects whistleblowers against employment retaliation.
Whistleblower: My Journey to Silicon Valley and Fight for Justice at Uber by Susan Fowler
She had us at the title! At age 25, Fowler wrote a blog post about sexual harassment at Uber that led to major changes at the company. Time Magazine honored her as one of the “Silence Breakers” of the Me Too Movement who were collectively named 2017’s Person of the Year. Fowler’s memoir describes her journey from growing up in poverty to getting a prestigious job at Uber, as well as the fallout from her revelations about the company.
The Ocean’s Whistleblower: The Life and Work of Daniel Pauly by David Gremillet (translated from the French by Georgia Froman)
This one is for our environmental whistleblowers. Pauly is a ground-breaking marine biologist and fisheries scientist who researches and writes about the damaging effects of overfishing. He may not be a whistleblower in the strictest sense of the word, but we’re here to recommend books, not split hairs. Pauly no doubt would approve of the mechanism within the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) that provides financial rewards to whistleblowers who expose illegal ocean dumping by U.S. commercial vessels or non-U.S. commercial vessels operating in U.S. waters or a port of a U.S. jurisdiction. We’re open to your suggestions of other books on environmental whistleblowers to include on this list!
What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City by Mona Hanna-Attisha
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is a pediatrician whose testing of residents’ blood proved that Flint, Michigan’s water had dangerously high lead levels. She held a press conference to publicize these results and challenge the cover-up of Flint’s health and safety crisis. Her outrage shines through in the fast-paced book, along with humor and personal details that make for an engaging read.
Targeted by Brittany Kaiser
Targeted is Kaiser’s inside story of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Kaiser, who has a background in international human rights law, is a former consultant for Cambridge Analytica who blew the whistle on the company’s unethical practices, including exploiting huge amounts of Facebook data, and election interference around the world. She testified before the U.K. Parliament and assisted the Robert Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Crisis of Conscience: Whistleblowing in an Age of Fraud by Tom Mueller
Unlike many of the other entries on the list, Crisis of Conscience is an examination of broad whistleblower trends, rather than a memoir. It gives a bird’s eye view of many different whistleblowers’ stories, from the famous to the obscure, within both the government and corporate spheres. Weighing in at over 600 pages, this one is a commitment but well worth the time spent.
Undercover: How I Went from Company Man to FBI Spy by John Schilling
Here’s another pick for those in the mood for a thriller. Our own Mary Inman was one of the lawyers who represented Schilling, an accountant at a healthcare company who blew the whistle on a huge Medicare fraud scheme. Schilling’s whistleblowing led to a government recovery of $1.7 billion. Schilling became a federal informant and wore a wire to assist in the federal investigation of his employer, health care giant Columbia HCA. Beyond the cloak and dagger nature of the story, the book is also a sobering account of the personal hardships Mr. Schilling faced over the many years the case lasted. For a short introduction to his story, you can check out The New Yorker’s article on the topic. You can also learn more about the many types of healthcare fraud here.
Whistleblowers: Honesty in America from Washington to Trump by Allison Stanger
Stanger’s book, like Mueller’s, is a survey of the history of whistleblowing in America. It’s much shorter – Jill Lepore called it “a brisk and interesting history.” Stanger is a professor of International Politics and Economics at Middlebury, and her book takes a decidedly more academic tone than Mueller’s. A book for those ready to roll up their sleeves and get serious!
Mindf*ck by Christopher Wylie
Wylie, like Kaiser, was a Cambridge Analytica whistleblower. Like hers, his memoir is an important exploration of the perils of big data. He describes Cambridge Analytica’s work to suppress the Black vote in the U.S., a project ominously called “voter disengagement.” Wylie and Kaiser are not pals, to put it mildly, but reading their books side-by-side shows how much the whistleblower experience can vary, even within the same company.
Exposure by Michael Woodford
Exposure is Michael Woodford’s memoir of exposing fraud at the Japanese medical device company Olympus. British-born Woodford became president of Olympus in 2011 after working for the company for 30 years. It didn’t take him long to realize Olympus had been hiding over one billion dollars in losses and shady transactions, including some deals linked to organized crime in Japan. He was pushed out of the company and worked with British investigators to bring the fraud to light. As Woodford put it, “I had walked into a John Grisham novel.” Corporate fraud beach read, anyone?
* * *
In addition to our efforts to curate a list of the definitive books by and about whistleblowers and their experiences, like the ones listed above, the team at Constantine Cannon’s Whistleblower Insider also regularly reviews books about notable scandals as part of its Whistleblower’s Bookshelf series. For those interested in reading about the major scandals of our times that have been exposed by whistleblowers, check out our reviews of books like Patrick Radden Keefe’s Empire of Pain: the Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty and Jennifer Taub’s Big Dirty Money: the shocking injustice and unseen cost of White Collar Crime.
- The Constantine Cannon Whistleblower Team
- Whistleblower Reward Laws
- Think you have a whistleblower case?
- Contact us for a confidential consultation