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American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  17,115 ratings  ·  1,456 reviews
The unbelievable true story of the man who built a billion-dollar online drug empire from his bedroom--and almost got away with it
In 2011, a twenty-six-year-old libertarian programmer named Ross Ulbricht launched the ultimate free market: the Silk Road, a clandestine Web site hosted on the Dark Web where anyone could trade anything--drugs, hacking software, forged passp
Hardcover, 328 pages
Published May 2nd 2017 by Portfolio
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Average rating 4.31  · 
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 ·  17,115 ratings  ·  1,456 reviews

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Ryan Shaw
May 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't have the energy or will to write an actual review but I will say this: I started the book and then I finished the book. There may have been a bathroom break in there but this book had me from beginning to end.
Olivier Schreiber
May 04, 2017 rated it did not like it
Ross's mother wrote the following:
A book called American Kingpin by Nick Bilton claims to be the “unbelievable true story” of my son, Ross Ulbricht. After reading an online adaptation, I agree: It’s unbelievable.
Just the headline and subhead demonstrate the hyperbole, sensationalism and inaccuracy of this coverage:
It calls the case a “murder mystery,” yet no murders occurred.
The Silk Road was not a “billion-dollar enterprise.” The government says the site’s total revenue
Andrew Smith
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Ross Ulbricht, born in Texas in 1984, is a libertarian and one of his staple beliefs is that people should be able to put into their bodies whatever they wish, including any type of drug they choose. To this end, he believes that the sale of drugs should be decriminalised. So it’s probably not that surprising that this highly educated individual (bachelor’s degree in physics and masters degree in materials science and engineering) would be attracted to the idea of building an online site to prov ...more
Jason Pettus
DECLINED TO REVIEW. Generally speaking, it's a pretty typical phenomenon that when we get interested in a nonfiction book because of the subject it's covering, most of us are willing to put up with pretty lousy actual writing in order to read more about that subject, with me being no exception. But man, I just reached my limit when it came to Nick Bilton's American Kingpin, which takes on an utterly fascinating subject (it chronicles the rise and fall of "dark web" location Silk Road, one of the first-e ...more
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book that reads like a thriller is pure joy and information. The author did a great job creating all the events based on primary documents and interviews with the people who took down The Silk Road.

An adventure into the dark web, Tor, drugs, murders, an all you can buy from illegal bazaar.

Ross Ulbricht the mastermind behind this massive network of drugs and other activities is hunted down by an array of government services and agents.

His libertarian ideas that nothing should b
Sep 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelve this in the category of truth is often stranger than fiction…

This is a fast-paced, well-researched and documented account of the man who built the Silk Road--the infamous marketplace for selling drugs and weapons on the dark web--and it reads like a suspense thriller. Written in a narrative nonfiction style, Bilton delivers one of the most compelling true crime books I’ve listened to replete with characters tailor made for a Quentin Tarantino movie.

Ross Ulrich, the self-title
Dino-Jess ✮ The Book Eating Dinosaur ✮
I have a confession to make.....

I had never heard of the black market website Silk Road until sometime last year.

When an interpretation of the site was featured on Mr Robot's second season, my friend sent me a message that said "DPR!" with no other explanation. When I mentioned that I didn't know what he was referring to, he sent me to this wonderful article that helped bring me up to speed. And from then on, I was fascinated with this story.

When I found out that American Kingpin was yet to be released, I was so eage""
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: good-true-crime, 2017
"The Silk Road, after all, was just the platform - no different from Facebook or Twitter or Ebay - on which users communicated and exchanged ideas and currency. So who was DPR to err on the side of anything but yes? It wasn't as if twitter dictated what kind of opinions people could and could not write in the little box at the top of the screen. If you wanted to spew brilliance or idiocy in 140 characters, then so be it. It was your God-given right to say what you wanted on the Internet, in th ...more
Jun 12, 2017 rated it did not like it
It reads like it was written by a 16 year old who had to come up with something quickly for their English homework. So cliche and plays into so many stereotypes! I really wanted to get on with this book and had expectations due to the other reviews on here but ended up very disappointed.
Jan 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A thrilling tale of the modern crime world that is so insane you couldn't make any of it up!
Following the steps of Ross Ulbricht, the mastermind behind The Silk Road, and the law enforcement agents out to stop him, you get an incredible insight into the cyber criminal world and how it's evolving. You also get to see how law enforcement departments both help and hinder each other as well as how easy it is to blur the line between what is legal or not. Good guys become bad guys and bad guys beco
Matthew Murray
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is another reason why I don't read fiction anymore. Crazy story.
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Wow! This one really pisses me off, but it’s a marvelous read. What a shame that more nonfiction isn’t written in this style. This is the can't-miss book of the year, for sure. Guaranteed.
Jillian Doherty
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Holy awesome read batman!!
If you like literary story telling that just happens to be a roller coaster of legit events~ you'll love this too! It has every element of a good narrative, while being able to google all the characters and timelines = story happiness!
American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road

Incredible. This was just a few years ago, folks! It's clear there will be more of this type of chicanery ahead, and we are certainly stepping in the middle of it right now. Deep and dark and full of nasty consequences. This is not my usual topic, but this tale had me high-fiving strangers at the end when Ross and all his buddies were caught up in their consequences. (You gotta love Target! Earbuds and al
Alex Givant
May 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: crime, best-of-2019, audio
Excellent account on hunt for Silk Road owner, read absolutely like a fiction.
Review of the audiobook narrated by Will Damron.

This book is nonfiction written like fiction, which means the author has to make up dialog and even scenes in many places throughout. This is both the best and worst thing about the book, as there are many gripping sequences, but many times the dialog between characters sounds fake. However, the eventual police takedown of DPR (Dread Pirate Roberts, the moniker taken on by Ross Ulbricht) by itself justifies the fiction-like storytelling
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ross Ulbricht, great man with a vision. libertarian he was.
Sure. he wanted to make money. That was the libertairian way. But he wanted to free poeple too. There were millions of souls crammed into jails across the country because of drugs. mostly inconsequential drugs like weed and magic mushrooms. A vile and putrid prison system kept those people locked away; lives destroyed because the government wanted to tell people what they could and could not do with their own bodies.
This site Silkroad
Paul Ataua
Sep 29, 2017 rated it did not like it
I was really looking forward to finding out more about the whole Silk Road story, but even after a few pages of this I knew I would have to look elsewhere to get a more informed picture. The telltale signs were there from the beginning when the author, telling of minor incidents five or ten years earlier, was able to add the exact moment in the sentence when someone batted her eyelids or when someone scratched his nose, and exactly what he was thinking in the quiet of his room some five years ea ...more
Brendan Monroe
I like Ross Ulbricht. I do. I think he went up against what is, frankly, an unjust system that had to get rid of him for fear that he would bring it crumbling down.

Ulbricht is not that much different in my mind from people like Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, and Daniel Ellsberg. Did those men all undermine U.S. laws? Yes. But the laws they undermined were, for the most part, bad laws.

Ulbricht's case is admittedly different from those of the above men in that he went too far in purs
Ellen Gail

3.5 stars.

Quick side note: if you haven't finished Breaking Bad, this spoils the ending. American Kingpin does I mean, my review doesn't. My review will encourage you to watch Breaking Bad however.

If I can quote another fantastic reviewer for a quick sec, the fantastic Dino-Jess said, "I really think I did myself a disservice in reading extensively about the Silk Road and DPR before embarking on this book - as I knew all the twists and turns in this story ahead of time." And that was 100% true for me as well. I had
Oscar Calva
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks
"Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism." - Carl Jung

"Most of the people on this site are just nerds," he said. "They're not ruthless drug lords." - Jared Der-Yeghiayan, DOHS special agent

I remember when news started to pop some years ago about that dark web site "The Silk Road" a black market for drugs, guns, and all things illegal trade (highly sensationalized news indeed). That was the first time I ever heard of the dark web, it
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Bilton is a Special Correspondent for Vanity Fair where he often writes about technology, and is the author of Hatching Twitter. His experience in being able to present complicated internet technology concepts in a form understandable to the average reader proved to be invaluable in writing about the Silk Road and its founder, Ross Ulbricht. Ulbricht lived on the Dark Web, using the browser Tor that provides anonymity for its users, and the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. All he needed to build his $1.2 ...more
Kimberly Dawn
Nov 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent! Very readable and interesting!
Jamie Canaves
Super Good Nonviolent True Crime! (TW briefly mentions domestic violence and eating disorder)

If you like narrative nonfiction and have enjoyed nonviolent true crime books like The Feather Thief and Bad Blood–and like me hadn’t gotten to this one yet–run to it. It’s pretty bonkers but also “Holy white privilege, Batman!” Basically, this young guy took his libertarian beliefs to the max by building the Silk Road on the Dark Net, essentially allowing people to sell and buy anything. Beg
Sandy Nawrot
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, best-2018
I'll be honest, I'd never even heard of the Silk Road before this book. (I guess I don't have cause to buy guns, drugs, organs or hacker equipment on the dark web.) But this is another one of those true stories that play out like a fascinating movie. In fact, there exists a documentary called "Deep Web" about the Silk Road. It couldn't be more fantastical if you made it up.

Ross Ulbricht is a gifted, free spirit, a shaggy hipster who meditates and doesn't even swear, who has always wa
Sam Soffes
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. A fair amount of it takes place a few minutes from where I live. Imagining the events unfolding in places I pass through everyday put me there as it was happening.

After listening to this book, it makes me want to go build something amazing and change the world. I realize that may not be the proper takeaway.

American Kingpin is fascinating story expertly told. Highly recommend.
Katherine Coble
The first half of the book was intriguing and fast paced. Then it got bogged down. Bilton keeps trying to find ways to make the story interesting but instead mires it in unnecessary detail. I didn't need to read 1500 words describing a run-down house in Utah where some drug dealer had a package delivered.
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
This story is fascinating, but the writing irked me a bit. The author took more liberties than usual in his attempt at narrative nonfiction, and it often pulled me out of the story rather than drawing me in. It does seem to be well researched though.
Sep 27, 2017 rated it did not like it
TL;DR: - Author tries to masquerade old tropes as a pitiful excuse for what happened with the silk road. If this was classed as a fiction, not making reference to the real Silk Road or Ross, then maybe, 2/3 stars? As a mediocre crime drama, idk, I don't really read that type of stuff.

As it is classed as NON-fiction though, it is an unforgivable, cast iron 1 star, maybe 0. It just fundamentally is wrong about a great many things. The most truly painful thing is though, that people who
I knew from Chapter One that I was going to love this book. Having previously read Bilton's Hatching Twitter created high hopes and Bilton did not dissipoint! Immediately addicted, I was worried that I was going to blow through this book in the first day. The thought of not having it to savor each day was depressing because finding a book this exciting is a rarity. I tried so hard to make this book last, promising myself to only listen to the audio version while on the treadmill. (What a great r ...more
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Nick Bilton is a Special Correspondent for Vanity Fair, where he writes about technology, politics, business and culture. He is also a contributor to CNBC, and a former columnist and reporter for The New York Times.

He has written three books, including The New York Times bestseller, “Hatching Twitter,” which chronicled the turmoil and chaos inside Twitter as it grew from a fledgling st
“Most people go through life thinking that tomorrow they’re going to do something great. Tomorrow will be the day that they wake up and discover what they were put on this earth to do. But then tomorrow comes—and goes. As does the next day. Before long, they realize that there aren’t that many tomorrows left.” 2 likes
“Over time he learned that the way to have a leg up on everyone else was to anticipate something before it happened and then have the answer to it.” 0 likes
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