Insider secrets: the most shocking, inspiring and entertaining real-life stories

From life on an NHS hospital ward to the secrets and lies of Silicon Valley, we've curated our pick of the most revealing real-life stories, insider secrets and exposés.

Some of the most successful books of recent times have exposed the little-known and often shocking realities of the professions, systems and businesses that shape our society. From the hilarious, moving and sometimes gory tales of a junior doctor in Adam Kay's bestselling This is Going to Hurt to the inner workings of a broken justice system in The Secret Barrister, read on for some of our favourite real-life stories, insider secrets and exposés.

Empire of Pain

by Patrick Radden Keefe

A masterpiece of narrative reporting that the Washington Post described as 'one of the most anticipated books of this spring', Empire of Pain is the story of three generations of the Sackler family, and their role in the stories of Valium and Oxycontin . . .

One of the richest families in the world, the Sacklers are known for their lavish donations in the arts and the sciences. The source of the family fortune was vague, however, until it emerged that they were responsible for making and marketing Oxycontin, a blockbuster painkiller that was a catalyst for the opioid crisis – an international epidemic of drug addiction which has killed nearly half a million people.

This is the secret history of the Sackler dynasty.

Permanent Record

by Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden brings us a first-hand account of one of the biggest political exposés to hit the US in recent years. Edward risked everything to reveal confidential information about the US government’s mass surveillance system he discovered during his time in the employ of the CIA. The book spans his life from a suburban childhood to life in exile, revealing how Edward helped build the system, and why he felt he had no choice but to expose it.

Read more about Edward Snowden’s memoir Permanent Record.

The Secret Barrister

by The Secret Barrister

An anonymous lawyer working in the criminal justice system, The Secret Barrister shines a light on the inner workings of the legal system to show how it is broken, who broke it, and why you should care. From cuts to legal aid to the treatment of rape victims during trials, The Secret Barrister is a stark look at a system that is held up as the best in the world, through the eyes of an insider. This is a shocking, funny and moving journey through the legal system, highlighting how often it fails those that it is meant to protect.

Fake Law

by The Secret Barrister

The epidemic of fake news continues, with amateurs spreading ‘fake law’ through our media. Enter the Secret Barrister, to make sure readers are informed on how the British legal system really works. Revealing the truth behind many of the biggest legal stories of recent years, the Secret Barrister debunks the lies and shows us how the law touches every area of our lives.

This Is Going to Hurt

by Adam Kay

This is Going To Hurt began life as a comedy show inspired by the junior doctors’ strike and is Adam Kay’s no-holds-barred account of his life as a junior doctor. Written in secret  between gruelling hospital shifts, the book is by turns shocking, sad and laugh-out-loud funny, while telling you everything you ever need to know - and more - about life on a hospital ward. Highlighting the long hours, poor pay and staffing problems caused by underfunding, this is a must-read for anyone who values the NHS.

Read Adam Kay in conversation with Mark Watson about This is Going to Hurt

Adam Kay dressed in scrubs reading his own book
Adam Kay reading This Is Going to Hurt

Bad Blood

Book cover for Bad Blood

Bad Blood is the incredible story of the rise and fall of Theranos, the multibillion-dollar blood-testing start-up, and its charismatic founder Elizabeth Holmes. John Carreyrou, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, first exposed the false claims of Theranos and his 2015 report sparked the investigations that have since seen Holmes charged with massive fraud. Despite intimidation and repeated threats from Holmes’ lawyers, Carreyrou’s reports drew upon the testimony of former Theranos employees, who  illuminated the truth around the technology’s failings and the culture of secrets and lies at the company. Bad Blood is the  story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron and a compelling insight into a journalist in pursuit of the truth.

Read Everything you need to know about the Theranos scandal

Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos founder
Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos founder

War Doctor

Book cover for War Doctor

War Doctor is the extraordinary story of David Nott, a general and vascular surgeon who, for more than twenty-five years, has taken unpaid leave from his NHS job to volunteer in some of the world’s most dangerous war and disaster zones. From Afghanistan to Yemen, David’s work has made him the most experienced trauma surgeon in the world, treating patients in extreme circumstances - with basic equipment, often untrained staff and with insufficient supplies of blood and medicine. This experience has compelled him to help even further, providing training to other doctors in the art of saving patients injured by bombs and bullets.  This is the story of the reality of life on the front lines of today’s wars and the effect of conflict on the people who are caught in the crossfire.

Listen to an exclusive interview between David Nott and his wife Elly


by Neil Samworth

Neil ‘Sam’ Samworth has spent eleven years working as a prison officer in HMP Manchester, otherwise known as Strangeways. This raw, brutally honest memoir lays bare just what a difficult job this is, a job made more difficult by staffing cuts which saw the prison system descend into crisis. Sam reveals the attacks he has faced, the problems caused by radicalization, and the gangsters, terrorists and psychopaths he has dealt with, in a job so stressful it eventually left him suffering from PTSD.