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Tangled Webs: How False Statements are Undermining America: From Martha Stewart to Bernie Madoff

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  302 Ratings  ·  66 Reviews
Bestselling author James B. Stewart's newsbreaking investigation of our era's most high-profile perjurers, revealing the alarming extent of this national epidemic.

Our system of justice rests on a simple proposition: that witnesses will raise their hands and tell the truth. In Tangled Webs, James B. Stewart reveals in vivid detail the consequences of the perjury epidemic
Hardcover, 473 pages
Published April 19th 2011 by Penguin Press HC, The (first published March 3rd 2011)
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Jul 13, 2011 Lobstergirl rated it really liked it
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Chicago Public Library book signing
Shelves: law
Oddly enough, James Stewart begins this book on perjury - the very first sentence - with quite a false statement of his own. He writes, "We know how many murders are committed [in the United States] each year — 1,318,398 in 2009." As Sissela Bok noted in her Washington Post review, he's off by a factor of 100, counting all violent crimes, rather than just the murders. Oops! Hopefully that will be corrected in the next printing.

If you can get past that blooper, the book is quite good and engrossi
Mar 13, 2012 Paul rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Actual rating: 2.5 stars.

I heard a five-minute interview with the author on NPR, in which he advanced his central thesis that lying and perjury in civil and criminal trials was damaging our judicial system and society at large. That's what I expected this book to be about.

Al Gore's 2007 book, The Assault on Reason, is about the growing trend of non-scientific, non-critical, irrational thinking in America today, and how the resulting assault on reason is hurting America in the world. Gore uses ex
Michele Weiner
May 22, 2011 Michele Weiner rated it liked it
Tangled Webs has the thesis that the American justice system has been undermined by the tendency of the accused to lie. What a revelation. The American justice system, which is basically a game to see which of the gladiators (lawyers) can fool the jury the best, has always been dysfunctional. It's not a search for the truth and an attempt to find justice, but an exercise in which lawyer is the best con man. And you better have some money.

Martha Stewart, Scooter Libby, Barry Bonds, Marian Jones a
Nov 16, 2014 Jenny rated it it was amazing
The dedication for this book appropriately reads, "To those who seek the truth". In astounding and detailed fashion, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Stewart chronicles the true events of the scandals of Martha Stewart (insider trading), "Scooter" Libby (leaking the name of a CIA agent), Barry Bonds (using steroids), and Bernie Madoff (running a Ponzi scheme). What these individuals have in common, however, is not just that they were involved in criminal investigations, but that each of them ...more
Examination of what perjury is, why it’s difficult to prove, and whether it’s becoming more widespread. The author looks at four recent cases: Martha Stewart, “Scooter” Libby, Barry Bonds, and Bernard Madoff.

I didn’t think I would care about the Stewart case, but this account was riveting. The papers mostly portrayed it as two rich people (Stewart and her broker) believing they could do whatever they wanted. And it was about that, but it was also about Stewart’s assistant and the broker’s assist
Jun 04, 2012 Sarah rated it it was ok
I found this book to be tedious and lacking much concise argument to back up the title. It is basically 4 case studies with a brief few-page summary to try and tie them together at the end (which fails). I wish the author would have summarized the examples and spent more time on his core thesis: what it means about our culture (does this happen in other countries, since his very title implies it is just us?), shown an example or two from the past (is this really a new and expanding phenomenon?), ...more
John Kues
Jun 03, 2011 John Kues rated it really liked it
A very interesting read. Shows how difficult it is to lie well, and some results of telling lies and trying to maintain them. Covers the cases of Martha Stewart, Scooter Libby, Barry Bonds, and Bernard Madoff. The amazing parts to me were the oversights, laziness, ineptitude of some of the investigators. Madoff lied for over 20 years, and when investigated he simply avoided answering and talked about all of his experience. They had letters, tips, saying that he was running a Ponzi scheme, but ...more
May 24, 2011 Laura rated it really liked it
It has been in the news repeatedly for the last decade, famous or in some cases, infamous members of our society lying under oath to protect themselves. Perjury has become an epidemic in this country and James B. Stewart writes about four case studies of this phenomenon in his powerful new book, Tangled Webs. These case studies include Martha Stewart, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Barry Bonds, and Bernie Madoff. All of these cases shaped us as a nation over the past decade.

Each of these famous peopl
Jan 02, 2015 Book rated it really liked it
Tangled Webs: How False Statements Are Undermining America: From Martha Stewart to Bernie Madoff by James B. Stewart

“Tangled Webs” is an interesting look at how lies undermine the judicial process and hence America. Pulitzer Prize-winning and bestselling author, James B. Stewart showcases four cases: Martha Stewart, “Scooter” Libby, Barry Bonds, and Bernie Madoff. With a luxury of details and skilled writing Stewart does in fact untangle the webs of deception. This insightful 496-page book inclu
Jun 27, 2016 Jared rated it really liked it
The essence of a good novel, fiction or non-fiction, is the story. Is it a good one? Is it compelling? Do the words that you read across the page interest you enough that you wish to continue to the next word and the next word or are you so disinterested that you just skim whole pages until you stumble across an interesting passage? Sure, you can have beautiful language that is intelligent and thought provoking, but without a strong story component, you might as well be reading poetry.

James B. S
Aug 03, 2013 Jonah rated it really liked it
This book presents 4 case studies of major scandals of the past 10-12 years where the main legal consequence was the prosecution of perjury charges. The penalty of being a slow reader is that many of the outstanding issues with these cases are still pending, but it was still fascinating. The 4 cases are the Martha Stewart insider trading deal, the Scooter Libby "yellow cake" Joe Wilson scandal, the Barry Bonds steroids case, and, finally the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. First of all, it was both ...more
What may seem as a philosophical study on the effect of false statements is actually a detailed
account of four separate public stories which involves lies. At least two of them will be mostly known: Martha Stewart's sales of Imclone stock, and Bernard "Bernie" Madoff. The other two are about Barry Bonds drug enhancements and Scooter Libby's role in "outing" a CIA operative.

JBS provides detailed accounts of what actually transpired (as can be mostly known) regarding this separate instances. I wil
Holly Morrow
“Tangled Webs” is a sort of random but really interesting look at perjury in the US justice system – seen through the lens of four cases: Martha Stewart, Scooter Libby, Barry Bonds, and Bernie Madoff. All lied extensively while under investigation (actually, as the author admits, that is least convincing for Scooter Libby). If you’re a vengeful law-and-order type of personality, like me, then you’ll find yourself fuming as you read this book – reading about the SEC concluding multiple ...more
Nov 28, 2012 Scarlet11 rated it really liked it
I have not finished reading this book as of yet, but have been rather fascinated with trying to understand the mindset of personalities such as Bernie Madoff and other Ponzi scheme operators. I had personal contact with such people and they were quite personable but would stab you in the back in a heartbeat. And thus far, their personalities seem to be congruent with the characters in this book.

This seems to be a rampant "disease" that is plaguing our society. Those who have fiduciary duties to
Aug 01, 2011 Bruce rated it really liked it
Very much lives up to its subtitle. A fascinating portrait of both privileged liars--those, like Martha Stewart and her broker, or many Bush adminstration officials, who think the rules shouldn't apply to them--and chronic liars, such as Bernie Madoff and countless athletes who used steroids and try to convince themselves (and everyone else) they're not cheating.

A perfect companion volume to "The Sociopath Next Door," which Stewart actually cites in his epilogue. "Sociopath" describes the mindse
Katherine Clark
Aug 04, 2011 Katherine Clark rated it liked it
I am reading this for the Lies and Betrayal class that I'm teaching in the fall. Stewart is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. He examines the issue of perjury and other lies in four major cases beginning with the Martha Stewart insider trading debacle. Stewart might actually be providing too much information, but it is interesting. What is most amazing to me is how innocent lives are rocked by lies of the rich and powerful. Ripples beyond ripples. (I have to say that I'm really angered at the ...more
May 16, 2013 Caleb rated it it was ok
A book that lost steam as it went along, it covers the perjury issues in four cases- Martha Stewart, Scooter Libby, Barry Bonds, and Bernie Madoff. It gets off to a good start- the Stewart section is engaging and interesting. The Libby section was good but muddled- when the issue is lies, it helps to point out to the reader when the stories get crossed. The Bonds section begins with several horrendous typos and errors (Arizona State is the Sun Devils not Sun Rays) and then ends up on a whimper ...more
Jul 25, 2011 Tad rated it really liked it
James B. Stewart is another of our best nonfiction writers today. This book is broken into four parts, and the first, the section on Martha Stewart's lies, is the best. In fact, it is fantastic. I read much of it out loud to Ronde, who was as riveted as I. I had a great deal of interest in the next two sections, on Scooter Libby and Barry Bonds, but if found them a bit uneven and less compelling, probably because it didn't seem like he chose one person to tell the stories around like he did with ...more
Gil Bradshaw
Aug 08, 2013 Gil Bradshaw rated it it was amazing
...James B. Stewart is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors of all time. This highly readable book examines perjury by taking a hard look at Martha Stewart, Bernie Madoff, Barry Bonds, and Scooter Libby (though the Scooter Libby analysis implicates DIck Cheney quite forcefully in the whole affair).

Stewart shows the absurd incentives we have to lie in our society and highlights the fact that so many people in so many areas tell so many lies--even under oath. Stewart discusses the fact that
Matt Heimer
Aug 31, 2011 Matt Heimer rated it liked it

Journos and true-crime fans tend to think of perjury (and its close cousin, obstruction of justice) as penny-ante charges -- the crimes the prosecutors pursue when they can't prove something more serious -- but Jim Stewart makes a persuasive case that they're very serious in their own right.

Two thoughts that came to my mind as I read:

- If someone had stopped you on the street and asked you what crime Martha Stewart was convicted of, would you have been able to come up with an answer? Perjury se
Gary Meyer
Lots of interesting new facts on four high-profile cases but often gets bogged down with full-transcript, "look what I've got" public records (for example, grand jury testimony), making for a slow read.

In the end, the premise that lying is the root of all these evil deeds, and many more, does not really pan out. Lying is what bad people do when they are caught in the act of breaking laws, and it's the go-to criminal charge for prosecutors in hard-to-prove cases -- it gets the bad guy into court
Aug 07, 2011 Andy rated it it was ok
The stories that make up the book are interesting tales about what one might call pathological liars. Unfortunately the author doesn't manage to tie them together with any important original insight. He talks about an epidemic of lying, but anecdotes of celebrity liars don't prove or illuminate an epidemic. Moreover, I read a book years ago called The Cheating Culture that did a better job of exploring that theme. He does mention the book The Sociopath Next Door, which is a much broader and more ...more
Jul 04, 2012 Tom added it
I can't give this book a star rating because I stopped in the middle of the Scooter Libby chapter. I absolutely loved the chapter on Martha Stewart that opens the book. It was both thrilling like a cheap Grisham knockoff and a thorough account of the truth. That powerful people would throw subordinates under the bus isn't surprising but it is affecting. When that chapter ended I couldn't wait for more but then I hit a thick roadblock of conversations both secret and under oath going over the ...more
Oct 25, 2011 Donna rated it liked it
I have to agree with several other reviewers and say that the first section of the book (on Martha Stewart) was the strongest. That was fast-paced and fascinating. I found the sections on Scooter Libby and Barry Bonds to drag in comparison. The Bonds section really highlights the extent to which perjury can infect an investigation, though, as almost every witness seems to have lied or omitted information. The last section on Bernie Madoff was not as focused on Madoff's crimes or lies as much as ...more
Feb 10, 2014 Stacy rated it really liked it
I really liked this book. I thought all the stories were interesting and told with an easy to understand, yet detailed, narrative. I complained in my first post that people made excuses for liars if they liked them. I had to swallow that sentiment this week as my beloved Coach Tressel (Ohio State football coach) fell prey to the exact problems addressed in this book. He didn’t commit the crime, but he did lie to cover it up. If it can happen to the squeaky clean sweater vest, it can happen to ...more
Barbara Gamble
Jul 11, 2011 Barbara Gamble rated it liked it
It was OK. The more the author tried to convince me that Martha Stewart should have been prosecuted - the more I thought she was being singled out to be set as an example. Really the same with Libby. And I really don't see what the government has to do with baseball. The only one I had no sympathy with was Madoff.

As to the writing. Way too long and truly the whole point got lost in the writing. The point that we, as a society, are being harmed by people who lie to criminal investigators was hin
I only made it about a third of the way through this one and gave up because it wasn't really what I was expecting. I was expecting some discussion of the impact and effects of perjury and general dishonesty in our culture. Instead, it was detailed examples of some high profile perjury cases. I read through the coverage of the Martha Stewart insider trading scandal. The details were interesting but it was straight forward reporting with almost no discussion about the facts. Just not what I was ...more
Jan 22, 2013 Kelly rated it really liked it
This book is why I enjoy non-fiction. Very informative and provoked deep thought into the role of the justice system and what it means to tell the truth. I found the sections on Bernie Madoff and Barry Bonds to be the most shocking. I was also amazed at how little I knew of the Martha Stewert insider trading scandal and this will forever change how I view her. The section on Scooter Libby was the least interesting as there were a number of characters and at times this made hard to follow. ...more
Jun 28, 2011 Brian rated it liked it
I borrowed this book so I could read the part about Martha Stewart given that case interested me. I was wondering what his view would be of someone who commits insider-trading. While I was reading the part about Martha Stewart, I noticed his narrative told the story clearly and involved all of those responsible. I like where he was going with how these people are performing perjury and what it's costing us. James B. Stewart is definitely an intelligent writer who can tell these non-fiction ...more
Jul 19, 2012 Eleanor rated it it was ok
This was an interesting, although at times repetitive, retelling of the specific cases presented as examples of high profile perjury. Unfortunately, there didn't seem to be much insight into the problem of perjury other than the author essentially telling us that perjury is wrong. I was a bit disappointed in the lack of examination of how these high profile cases have undermined the rest of the American justice system.
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James Stewart is a modern-day muckraking journalist, covering everything from malpractice to fraud and law.

While at The Wall Street Journal, Stewart won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for his reporting on the stock market crash and insider trading. Stewart is a graduate of Harvard Law School and DePauw University. He lectures frequently on values and ethics in American business and politics. He is a mem
More about James B. Stewart...

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