Close Modal

Number Go Up

Author Zeke Faux
Paperback
$20.00 US
6.11"W x 9.22"H x 0.82"D   (15.5 x 23.4 x 2.1 cm) | 14 oz (408 g) | 24 per carton
On sale Sep 12, 2023 | 304 Pages | 978-0-593-72822-2
| Grades 9-12 + AP/IB
Sales rights: US, Canada, Open Mkt
Export Edition
The “rollicking” (The Economist), “masterfully written” (The Washington Post) account of the crypto delusion, and how Sam Bankman-Fried and a cast of fellow nerds and hustlers turned useless virtual coins into trillions of dollars—hailed by Ezra Klein in The New York Times as one of the “Books That Explain Where We Are”

FINALIST: the Edgar Award (Fact Crime), the Macavity Award (Nonfiction), the Porchlight Business Book Award • A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: The New York Times DealBook, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Financial Times, The Globe and Mail, Irish Examiner, Morningstar, The Verge, Wired


In 2021 cryptocurrency went mainstream. Giant investment funds were buying it, celebrities like Tom Brady endorsed it, and TV ads hailed it as the future of money. Hardly anyone knew how it worked—but why bother with the particulars when everyone was making a fortune from Dogecoin, Shiba Inu, or some other bizarrely named “digital asset”?

As he observed this frenzy, investigative reporter Zeke Faux had a nagging question: Was it all just a confidence game of epic proportions? What started as curiosity—with a dash of FOMO—would morph into a two-year, globe-spanning quest to understand the wizards behind the world’s new financial machinery. Faux’s investigation would lead him to a schlubby, frizzy-haired twenty-nine-year-old named Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF for short) and a host of other crypto scammers, utopians, and overnight billionaires.

Faux follows the trail to a luxury resort in the Bahamas, where SBF boldly declares that he will use his crypto fortune to save the world. Faux talks his way onto the yacht of a former child actor turned crypto impresario and gains access to “ApeFest,” an elite party headlined by Snoop Dogg, by purchasing a $20,000 image of a cartoon monkey. In El Salvador, Faux learns what happens when a country wagers its treasury on Bitcoin, and in the Philippines, he stumbles upon a Pokémon knockoff mobile game touted by boosters as a cure for poverty. And in an astonishing development, a spam text leads Faux to Cambodia, where he uncovers a crypto-powered human-trafficking ring.

When the bubble suddenly bursts in 2022, Faux brings readers inside SBF’s penthouse as the fallen crypto king faces his imminent arrest. Fueled by the absurd details and authoritative reporting that earned Zeke Faux the accolade “our great poet of crime” (Money Stuff columnist Matt Levine), Number Go Up is the essential chronicle, by turns harrowing and uproarious, of a $3 trillion financial delusion.
Prologue

Nassau, Bahamas
February 17, 2022

Total Value of All Cryptocurrencies: $2 Trillion
(Yes, Trillion with a “T”)

“I’m not going to lie,” Sam Bankman-Fried told me.

This was a lie.

We were in his office in the Bahamas, and I had just pulled up my chair to his desk and turned on my tape recorder. I had flown in on assignment from Bloomberg, where I worked as an investigative reporter, to see the man at the center of the cryptocurrency frenzy that was sweeping the globe.

Bankman-Fried stared ahead at his six monitors and scrolled through emails as he told me that I could always count on him to give his honest opinions about crypto. Forbes had recently declared him the world’s richest person under thirty, but he looked like a student who’d been shaken awake after an all-nighter in the library. He was schlubby and shoeless, in blue shorts and a gray T-shirt advertising his cryptocurrency exchange, FTX. His wild curly hair was so matted down by the headphones he’d been wearing that he resembled a half-sheared sheep. On his desk I saw an open packet of chickpea korma—yesterday’s lunch.

My plan was to write a profile of crypto’s boy genius, the man who, at twenty-nine, seemed to have the future of money figured out. His rise had been so meteoric that it seemed plausible when he said FTX would one day take over all of Wall Street. He was worth at least $20 billion, but he claimed he’d only gotten rich so that he could give it all away. He drove a Toyota Corolla and liked to sleep at the office on a beanbag chair, which I could see next to his desk.

It was an irresistible story. The problem was that it was not true. While the media, politicians, venture capitalists, and investment bankers lauded him as a benevolent prodigy—a Warren Buffett or J. P. Morgan for the digital age—he was secretly embezzling billions of dollars of his customers’ money and blowing it on bad trades, celebrity endorsements, and an island realestate shopping spree to rival any drug kingpin’s.

I’d like to tell you that I was the person who exposed it all, the heroic investigator who saw through one of history’s greatest frauds. But I got tricked like everyone else. I was sitting next to the biggest con man since Bernie Madoff, with a clear view of his emails, internal chats, and trading records, and I had no idea what he was up to.

“You can use me as a resource for information,” Bankman-Fried said, tapping his crew-sock-clad feet aggressively. “That’s one of the biggest things I want to convey.”

“That makes sense,” I said to him, nodding amiably.

I did have my suspicions. From the day I started digging into the crypto world, I had seen nothing but red flags. Why were all these companies based in infamous offshore regulatory havens? What was up with all these random virtual coins that were supposedly worth tens of billions of dollars? Was that, just maybe, a precarious foundation for the future of finance? Were they all scams?

But by the time I visited Bankman-Fried’s island hideaway, the logic of the financial world had broken down. Hardly anyone knew what cryptocurrencies were for. Even supposed experts couldn’t explain them. It was unclear why many of the coins would be worth anything at all. But from 2020 to early 2022, the prices of Bitcoin and hundreds of other lesser coins—with ridiculous names like Dogecoin, Solana, Polkadot, and Smooth Love Potion—were going up and up. While I was in the Bahamas, people traded more than $500 billion worth of them, and the market value of all coins combined topped $2 trillion.

Crypto boosters claimed they were in the vanguard of a revolution that would democratize finance and lead to generational wealth for those who believed. The roar of the rising prices drowned out the skeptics. Incomprehensible jargon became inescapable. Blockchain.

DeFi. Web3. The metaverse. What these terms meant was beside the point. Newspapers, TV, and social media bombarded potential investors with stories of regular people who invested in them and got rich quick.

Crypto seemed like a giant slot machine that had been rigged to pay out almost every time. Hundreds of millions of people around the world gave in to the temptation to pull the lever. Everybody knew somebody who’d hit it big. And the more people who bought in, the higher prices rose.

None of this led to any sort of mass movement to actually use crypto in the real world. Nobody tossed their credit cards, closed their bank accounts, and abandoned the dollar or the euro in favor of, say, Cardano coins. But the hucksters, zealots, opportunists, and outright scammers who created the boom got unbelievably, unimaginably, impossibly rich.

Bankman-Fried told me that as many as five of his colleagues at FTX were billionaires. And that was just a single crypto company. Many unprofitable start-ups with questionably legal business plans were valued in the billions. Changpeng Zhao, who founded another crypto exchange called Binance, made a fortune estimated at $96 billion. The numbers got so large that even the most delusional crypto fantasies started to sound reasonable. It seemed like nothing could stop crypto’s manic rise.

Until, of course, the house of cards collapsed. Starting in the summer of 2022, many companies in crypto were revealed to be frauds. The bubble popped. About $2 trillion of market value was erased. Billionaires went bankrupt. Millions of ordinary people lost their savings. The financial authorities who’d allowed scammers to run rampant finally decided it was time to lay down the law. Bankman-Fried and many of his associates were arrested. Crypto didn’t disappear entirely, but the fever had broken.

This is the story of the greatest financial mania the world has ever seen. It started as an investigation of a coin called Tether that served as a kind of bank for the industry. But it morphed into a two-year journey that would stretch from Manhattan to Miami, to Switzerland, Italy, the Bahamas, El Salvador, and the Philippines. It is based on hundreds of interviews with people at every level of crypto, from gamblers to coders to promoters to billionaires. I visited their yachts and parties at the pinnacle of the frenzy and their hideouts as the authorities were closing in.

From the beginning, I thought that crypto was pretty dumb. And it turned out to be even dumber than I imagined. Never before has so much wealth been generated with such flimsy schemes. But what shocked me was not the vapidity of the crypto bros. It was how their heedlessness had devastating consequences for people across the world. By the end, I’d find myself in Cambodia, investigating how crypto fueled a vast human-trafficking scheme run by Chinese gangsters.

I pitched this book to my publisher in November 2021, near the mania’s peak, on the premise that crypto would soon collapse, and I’d chronicle the catastrophic fallout. Three months later, I was sitting with Bankman-Fried at his Bahamas office and looking at the computer screens behind his fuzzy head. I was oblivious to the giant fraud happening right in front of me. In fact, by then, I was starting to worry that I would never figure out the secret behind the crypto boom.

I was still fairly certain that huge swaths of crypto were essentially a pyramid scheme, but the bubble hadn’t popped. The industry was doing great. It seemed quite possible that the craze could continue far beyond my deadline. Or maybe crypto would gain so many followers that it would become unstoppable. I had no idea what the ending of the book was going to be.

After we’d spent a few hours together, I decided to ask Bankman-Fried for advice. This was half interview tactic, half genuine cry for help. I didn’t expect him to tell me his whole industry was really a fraud. But I wanted to see if he might be willing to point me in the right direction. So I laid out my whole narrative dilemma. I told him my theory: that the coin called Tether, the supposedly safe crypto-bank that served as the backbone for a whole lot of other cryptocurrencies, could prove to be fraudulent, and how that could bring down the whole industry.

Bankman-Fried said that I was wrong. Crypto wasn’t a scam, and neither was Tether. But he wasn’t offended by my question. He said he totally understood my problem. Then he did something that didn’t strike me as strange at the time. But knowing what I know now, I can’t help but wonder if he was trying to make some kind of winking confession.

Bankman-Fried cut me off, nodding, as I tried to explain more. His tone turned chipper. He said: “It’s like the narrative would be way sexier if it was like, ‘Holy shit, this is the world’s biggest Ponzi scheme,’ right?”

Right.
  • NOMINEE | 2024
    Edgar Award
“Journalism schools will be able to use Going Infinite, Michael Lewis’ new book about the collapse of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange and the fall of its boss, Sam Bankman-Fried, as a textbook. . . . Fortunately, readers interested in the story of the cryptocurrency scam and Bankman-Fried’s rise and fall can turn to a much more convincing (and more entertaining) book. That’s Number Go Up. . . . In telling this story, Faux has one major advantage over Lewis: Almost from the start, he had crypto’s number.”Los Angeles Times

“Faux’s boisterous, masterfully written book is worth a read. . . . Faux’s cast of misfits and con artists never fails to entertain.”—The Washington Post

Number Go Up offers a shrewdly skeptical view of crypto where Going Infinite is stubbornly credulous.”The New York Times

“Mr. Lewis reveals little about the inner workings of crypto, which he says even SBF barely bothered to understand. For those wanting a rollicking—albeit jaundiced—examination of crypto’s underbelly, read Mr. Faux’s book.”The Economist

“Everybody’s talking about the wrong Sam Bankman-Fried book. . . . Faux’s rollicking Number Go Up . . . is the far superior guide to understanding the FTX debacle and Bankman-Fried himself. . . . This is the strength of Number Go Up: It doesn’t pretend there’s something inside, just beyond our reach.”Wired

“Combines sharp analysis, intrepid reporting, and punchy writing.”The Wall Street Journal

“A clearly written narrative of the high and low points of the recent crypto boom and bust. [Zeke Faux] has a wry eye for details.”Financial Times

“A very thorough, fierce investigation of the shady world of cryptocurrencies that erupted in FTX’s failure, diving deep into the evolution and current state of cryptocurrencies and the key characters involved in that ecosystem . . . It’s a must-read for investors considering crypto, as well as one of the rare financial nonfiction books that’s by turns hilarious and scandalous—a gripping page-turner.”Morningstar

“Not only a breath of fresh air but quite possibly the best book ever written about the cryptocurrency industry.”Protos

“Laugh-out-loud funny . . . An often hilarious courtside view of the recent mania—and a useful reminder to blockchain evangelists about the many, many sleazy characters who inhabit their realm. Well worth a read.”Fortune

Number Go Up is a triumph of reporting, wit, and sheer exuberant fun. It—and it alone—makes me glad that crypto came into the world.”—James Grant, editor and publisher of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer

“One of the finest books of financial journalism I have ever read (and I read all of them).”—Peter Conti-Brown, associate professor, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

“Masterful, important, and utterly riveting . . . I devoured Number Go Up in almost one gulp.”—Diana B. Henriques, New York Times bestselling author of The Wizard of Lies

“A riveting, character-driven narrative through a blistering, vividly rendered hellscape populated by corporate lawyers, drug lords, terrorists, and former child actors.”—Jessica Pressler, contributing editor, New York

“This book is ludicrously compelling. I, quite literally, couldn’t put it down—and I don’t even care about crypto.”—Evan Osnos, National Book Award–winning author of Age of Ambition

“This book is what happens when the funniest financial journalist in America takes on the funniest story in modern finance. The results are as darkly hilarious as you could hope for.”—Matt Levine, Money Stuff columnist

“Riveting, scary, funny, unbelievable . . . If you want a front-row seat to one of the greatest business stories of all time, you should read Number Go Up now.”—A.J. Jacobs, bestselling author of The Puzzler

“Both a serious financial investigation and an incredibly entertaining romp . . . Zeke Faux seems to be the only one asking the uncomfortable questions.”—Sarah Frier, Financial Times/McKinsey award–winning author of No Filter

“The definitive book about crypto and the only one you’ll want to read.”—Max Chafkin, author of The Contrarian

“I loved Number Go Up, Zeke Faux’s clever, vivid, propulsive, terrifying, and often hilarious account of the cryptocurrency bubble.”—Ed Caesar, author of The Moth and the Mountain
© Vincent Tullo
Zeke Faux is an investigative reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek and Bloomberg News and a National Fellow at New America. He’s a winner of the Gerald Loeb Award and the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award and a National Magazine Award finalist. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and three children. View titles by Zeke Faux
Available for sale exclusive:
•     Guam
•     Minor Outl.Ins.
•     North Mariana
•     Philippines
•     Puerto Rico
•     Samoa,American
•     US Virgin Is.

Available for sale non-exclusive:
•     Afghanistan
•     Aland Islands
•     Albania
•     Algeria
•     Andorra
•     Angola
•     Anguilla
•     Antarctica
•     Argentina
•     Armenia
•     Aruba
•     Austria
•     Azerbaijan
•     Bahrain
•     Belarus
•     Belgium
•     Benin
•     Bhutan
•     Bolivia
•     Bonaire, Saba
•     Bosnia Herzeg.
•     Bouvet Island
•     Brazil
•     Bulgaria
•     Burkina Faso
•     Burundi
•     Cambodia
•     Cameroon
•     Cape Verde
•     Centr.Afr.Rep.
•     Chad
•     Chile
•     China
•     Colombia
•     Comoro Is.
•     Congo
•     Cook Islands
•     Costa Rica
•     Croatia
•     Cuba
•     Curacao
•     Czech Republic
•     Dem. Rep. Congo
•     Denmark
•     Djibouti
•     Dominican Rep.
•     Ecuador
•     Egypt
•     El Salvador
•     Equatorial Gui.
•     Eritrea
•     Estonia
•     Ethiopia
•     Faroe Islands
•     Finland
•     France
•     Fren.Polynesia
•     French Guinea
•     Gabon
•     Georgia
•     Germany
•     Greece
•     Greenland
•     Guadeloupe
•     Guatemala
•     Guinea Republic
•     Guinea-Bissau
•     Haiti
•     Heard/McDon.Isl
•     Honduras
•     Hong Kong
•     Hungary
•     Iceland
•     Indonesia
•     Iran
•     Iraq
•     Israel
•     Italy
•     Ivory Coast
•     Japan
•     Jordan
•     Kazakhstan
•     Kuwait
•     Kyrgyzstan
•     Laos
•     Latvia
•     Lebanon
•     Liberia
•     Libya
•     Liechtenstein
•     Lithuania
•     Luxembourg
•     Macau
•     Macedonia
•     Madagascar
•     Maldives
•     Mali
•     Marshall island
•     Martinique
•     Mauritania
•     Mayotte
•     Mexico
•     Micronesia
•     Moldavia
•     Monaco
•     Mongolia
•     Montenegro
•     Morocco
•     Myanmar
•     Nepal
•     Netherlands
•     New Caledonia
•     Nicaragua
•     Niger
•     Niue
•     Norfolk Island
•     North Korea
•     Norway
•     Oman
•     Palau
•     Palestinian Ter
•     Panama
•     Paraguay
•     Peru
•     Poland
•     Portugal
•     Qatar
•     Reunion Island
•     Romania
•     Russian Fed.
•     Rwanda
•     Saint Martin
•     San Marino
•     SaoTome Princip
•     Saudi Arabia
•     Senegal
•     Serbia
•     Singapore
•     Sint Maarten
•     Slovakia
•     Slovenia
•     South Korea
•     South Sudan
•     Spain
•     St Barthelemy
•     St.Pier,Miquel.
•     Sth Terr. Franc
•     Sudan
•     Suriname
•     Svalbard
•     Sweden
•     Switzerland
•     Syria
•     Tadschikistan
•     Taiwan
•     Thailand
•     Timor-Leste
•     Togo
•     Tokelau Islands
•     Tunisia
•     Turkey
•     Turkmenistan
•     Ukraine
•     Unit.Arab Emir.
•     Uruguay
•     Uzbekistan
•     Vatican City
•     Venezuela
•     Vietnam
•     Wallis,Futuna
•     West Saharan
•     Western Samoa
•     Yemen

Not available for sale:
•     Antigua/Barbuda
•     Australia
•     Bahamas
•     Bangladesh
•     Barbados
•     Belize
•     Bermuda
•     Botswana
•     Brit.Ind.Oc.Ter
•     Brit.Virgin Is.
•     Brunei
•     Canada
•     Cayman Islands
•     Christmas Islnd
•     Cocos Islands
•     Cyprus
•     Dominica
•     Falkland Islnds
•     Fiji
•     Gambia
•     Ghana
•     Gibraltar
•     Grenada
•     Guernsey
•     Guyana
•     India
•     Ireland
•     Isle of Man
•     Jamaica
•     Jersey
•     Kenya
•     Kiribati
•     Lesotho
•     Malawi
•     Malaysia
•     Malta
•     Mauritius
•     Montserrat
•     Mozambique
•     Namibia
•     Nauru
•     New Zealand
•     Nigeria
•     Pakistan
•     PapuaNewGuinea
•     Pitcairn Islnds
•     S. Sandwich Ins
•     Seychelles
•     Sierra Leone
•     Solomon Islands
•     Somalia
•     South Africa
•     Sri Lanka
•     St. Helena
•     St. Lucia
•     St. Vincent
•     St.Chr.,Nevis
•     Swaziland
•     Tanzania
•     Tonga
•     Trinidad,Tobago
•     Turks&Caicos Is
•     Tuvalu
•     USA
•     Uganda
•     United Kingdom
•     Vanuatu
•     Zambia
•     Zimbabwe

About

The “rollicking” (The Economist), “masterfully written” (The Washington Post) account of the crypto delusion, and how Sam Bankman-Fried and a cast of fellow nerds and hustlers turned useless virtual coins into trillions of dollars—hailed by Ezra Klein in The New York Times as one of the “Books That Explain Where We Are”

FINALIST: the Edgar Award (Fact Crime), the Macavity Award (Nonfiction), the Porchlight Business Book Award • A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: The New York Times DealBook, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Financial Times, The Globe and Mail, Irish Examiner, Morningstar, The Verge, Wired


In 2021 cryptocurrency went mainstream. Giant investment funds were buying it, celebrities like Tom Brady endorsed it, and TV ads hailed it as the future of money. Hardly anyone knew how it worked—but why bother with the particulars when everyone was making a fortune from Dogecoin, Shiba Inu, or some other bizarrely named “digital asset”?

As he observed this frenzy, investigative reporter Zeke Faux had a nagging question: Was it all just a confidence game of epic proportions? What started as curiosity—with a dash of FOMO—would morph into a two-year, globe-spanning quest to understand the wizards behind the world’s new financial machinery. Faux’s investigation would lead him to a schlubby, frizzy-haired twenty-nine-year-old named Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF for short) and a host of other crypto scammers, utopians, and overnight billionaires.

Faux follows the trail to a luxury resort in the Bahamas, where SBF boldly declares that he will use his crypto fortune to save the world. Faux talks his way onto the yacht of a former child actor turned crypto impresario and gains access to “ApeFest,” an elite party headlined by Snoop Dogg, by purchasing a $20,000 image of a cartoon monkey. In El Salvador, Faux learns what happens when a country wagers its treasury on Bitcoin, and in the Philippines, he stumbles upon a Pokémon knockoff mobile game touted by boosters as a cure for poverty. And in an astonishing development, a spam text leads Faux to Cambodia, where he uncovers a crypto-powered human-trafficking ring.

When the bubble suddenly bursts in 2022, Faux brings readers inside SBF’s penthouse as the fallen crypto king faces his imminent arrest. Fueled by the absurd details and authoritative reporting that earned Zeke Faux the accolade “our great poet of crime” (Money Stuff columnist Matt Levine), Number Go Up is the essential chronicle, by turns harrowing and uproarious, of a $3 trillion financial delusion.

Excerpt

Prologue

Nassau, Bahamas
February 17, 2022

Total Value of All Cryptocurrencies: $2 Trillion
(Yes, Trillion with a “T”)

“I’m not going to lie,” Sam Bankman-Fried told me.

This was a lie.

We were in his office in the Bahamas, and I had just pulled up my chair to his desk and turned on my tape recorder. I had flown in on assignment from Bloomberg, where I worked as an investigative reporter, to see the man at the center of the cryptocurrency frenzy that was sweeping the globe.

Bankman-Fried stared ahead at his six monitors and scrolled through emails as he told me that I could always count on him to give his honest opinions about crypto. Forbes had recently declared him the world’s richest person under thirty, but he looked like a student who’d been shaken awake after an all-nighter in the library. He was schlubby and shoeless, in blue shorts and a gray T-shirt advertising his cryptocurrency exchange, FTX. His wild curly hair was so matted down by the headphones he’d been wearing that he resembled a half-sheared sheep. On his desk I saw an open packet of chickpea korma—yesterday’s lunch.

My plan was to write a profile of crypto’s boy genius, the man who, at twenty-nine, seemed to have the future of money figured out. His rise had been so meteoric that it seemed plausible when he said FTX would one day take over all of Wall Street. He was worth at least $20 billion, but he claimed he’d only gotten rich so that he could give it all away. He drove a Toyota Corolla and liked to sleep at the office on a beanbag chair, which I could see next to his desk.

It was an irresistible story. The problem was that it was not true. While the media, politicians, venture capitalists, and investment bankers lauded him as a benevolent prodigy—a Warren Buffett or J. P. Morgan for the digital age—he was secretly embezzling billions of dollars of his customers’ money and blowing it on bad trades, celebrity endorsements, and an island realestate shopping spree to rival any drug kingpin’s.

I’d like to tell you that I was the person who exposed it all, the heroic investigator who saw through one of history’s greatest frauds. But I got tricked like everyone else. I was sitting next to the biggest con man since Bernie Madoff, with a clear view of his emails, internal chats, and trading records, and I had no idea what he was up to.

“You can use me as a resource for information,” Bankman-Fried said, tapping his crew-sock-clad feet aggressively. “That’s one of the biggest things I want to convey.”

“That makes sense,” I said to him, nodding amiably.

I did have my suspicions. From the day I started digging into the crypto world, I had seen nothing but red flags. Why were all these companies based in infamous offshore regulatory havens? What was up with all these random virtual coins that were supposedly worth tens of billions of dollars? Was that, just maybe, a precarious foundation for the future of finance? Were they all scams?

But by the time I visited Bankman-Fried’s island hideaway, the logic of the financial world had broken down. Hardly anyone knew what cryptocurrencies were for. Even supposed experts couldn’t explain them. It was unclear why many of the coins would be worth anything at all. But from 2020 to early 2022, the prices of Bitcoin and hundreds of other lesser coins—with ridiculous names like Dogecoin, Solana, Polkadot, and Smooth Love Potion—were going up and up. While I was in the Bahamas, people traded more than $500 billion worth of them, and the market value of all coins combined topped $2 trillion.

Crypto boosters claimed they were in the vanguard of a revolution that would democratize finance and lead to generational wealth for those who believed. The roar of the rising prices drowned out the skeptics. Incomprehensible jargon became inescapable. Blockchain.

DeFi. Web3. The metaverse. What these terms meant was beside the point. Newspapers, TV, and social media bombarded potential investors with stories of regular people who invested in them and got rich quick.

Crypto seemed like a giant slot machine that had been rigged to pay out almost every time. Hundreds of millions of people around the world gave in to the temptation to pull the lever. Everybody knew somebody who’d hit it big. And the more people who bought in, the higher prices rose.

None of this led to any sort of mass movement to actually use crypto in the real world. Nobody tossed their credit cards, closed their bank accounts, and abandoned the dollar or the euro in favor of, say, Cardano coins. But the hucksters, zealots, opportunists, and outright scammers who created the boom got unbelievably, unimaginably, impossibly rich.

Bankman-Fried told me that as many as five of his colleagues at FTX were billionaires. And that was just a single crypto company. Many unprofitable start-ups with questionably legal business plans were valued in the billions. Changpeng Zhao, who founded another crypto exchange called Binance, made a fortune estimated at $96 billion. The numbers got so large that even the most delusional crypto fantasies started to sound reasonable. It seemed like nothing could stop crypto’s manic rise.

Until, of course, the house of cards collapsed. Starting in the summer of 2022, many companies in crypto were revealed to be frauds. The bubble popped. About $2 trillion of market value was erased. Billionaires went bankrupt. Millions of ordinary people lost their savings. The financial authorities who’d allowed scammers to run rampant finally decided it was time to lay down the law. Bankman-Fried and many of his associates were arrested. Crypto didn’t disappear entirely, but the fever had broken.

This is the story of the greatest financial mania the world has ever seen. It started as an investigation of a coin called Tether that served as a kind of bank for the industry. But it morphed into a two-year journey that would stretch from Manhattan to Miami, to Switzerland, Italy, the Bahamas, El Salvador, and the Philippines. It is based on hundreds of interviews with people at every level of crypto, from gamblers to coders to promoters to billionaires. I visited their yachts and parties at the pinnacle of the frenzy and their hideouts as the authorities were closing in.

From the beginning, I thought that crypto was pretty dumb. And it turned out to be even dumber than I imagined. Never before has so much wealth been generated with such flimsy schemes. But what shocked me was not the vapidity of the crypto bros. It was how their heedlessness had devastating consequences for people across the world. By the end, I’d find myself in Cambodia, investigating how crypto fueled a vast human-trafficking scheme run by Chinese gangsters.

I pitched this book to my publisher in November 2021, near the mania’s peak, on the premise that crypto would soon collapse, and I’d chronicle the catastrophic fallout. Three months later, I was sitting with Bankman-Fried at his Bahamas office and looking at the computer screens behind his fuzzy head. I was oblivious to the giant fraud happening right in front of me. In fact, by then, I was starting to worry that I would never figure out the secret behind the crypto boom.

I was still fairly certain that huge swaths of crypto were essentially a pyramid scheme, but the bubble hadn’t popped. The industry was doing great. It seemed quite possible that the craze could continue far beyond my deadline. Or maybe crypto would gain so many followers that it would become unstoppable. I had no idea what the ending of the book was going to be.

After we’d spent a few hours together, I decided to ask Bankman-Fried for advice. This was half interview tactic, half genuine cry for help. I didn’t expect him to tell me his whole industry was really a fraud. But I wanted to see if he might be willing to point me in the right direction. So I laid out my whole narrative dilemma. I told him my theory: that the coin called Tether, the supposedly safe crypto-bank that served as the backbone for a whole lot of other cryptocurrencies, could prove to be fraudulent, and how that could bring down the whole industry.

Bankman-Fried said that I was wrong. Crypto wasn’t a scam, and neither was Tether. But he wasn’t offended by my question. He said he totally understood my problem. Then he did something that didn’t strike me as strange at the time. But knowing what I know now, I can’t help but wonder if he was trying to make some kind of winking confession.

Bankman-Fried cut me off, nodding, as I tried to explain more. His tone turned chipper. He said: “It’s like the narrative would be way sexier if it was like, ‘Holy shit, this is the world’s biggest Ponzi scheme,’ right?”

Right.

Awards

  • NOMINEE | 2024
    Edgar Award

Praise

“Journalism schools will be able to use Going Infinite, Michael Lewis’ new book about the collapse of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange and the fall of its boss, Sam Bankman-Fried, as a textbook. . . . Fortunately, readers interested in the story of the cryptocurrency scam and Bankman-Fried’s rise and fall can turn to a much more convincing (and more entertaining) book. That’s Number Go Up. . . . In telling this story, Faux has one major advantage over Lewis: Almost from the start, he had crypto’s number.”Los Angeles Times

“Faux’s boisterous, masterfully written book is worth a read. . . . Faux’s cast of misfits and con artists never fails to entertain.”—The Washington Post

Number Go Up offers a shrewdly skeptical view of crypto where Going Infinite is stubbornly credulous.”The New York Times

“Mr. Lewis reveals little about the inner workings of crypto, which he says even SBF barely bothered to understand. For those wanting a rollicking—albeit jaundiced—examination of crypto’s underbelly, read Mr. Faux’s book.”The Economist

“Everybody’s talking about the wrong Sam Bankman-Fried book. . . . Faux’s rollicking Number Go Up . . . is the far superior guide to understanding the FTX debacle and Bankman-Fried himself. . . . This is the strength of Number Go Up: It doesn’t pretend there’s something inside, just beyond our reach.”Wired

“Combines sharp analysis, intrepid reporting, and punchy writing.”The Wall Street Journal

“A clearly written narrative of the high and low points of the recent crypto boom and bust. [Zeke Faux] has a wry eye for details.”Financial Times

“A very thorough, fierce investigation of the shady world of cryptocurrencies that erupted in FTX’s failure, diving deep into the evolution and current state of cryptocurrencies and the key characters involved in that ecosystem . . . It’s a must-read for investors considering crypto, as well as one of the rare financial nonfiction books that’s by turns hilarious and scandalous—a gripping page-turner.”Morningstar

“Not only a breath of fresh air but quite possibly the best book ever written about the cryptocurrency industry.”Protos

“Laugh-out-loud funny . . . An often hilarious courtside view of the recent mania—and a useful reminder to blockchain evangelists about the many, many sleazy characters who inhabit their realm. Well worth a read.”Fortune

Number Go Up is a triumph of reporting, wit, and sheer exuberant fun. It—and it alone—makes me glad that crypto came into the world.”—James Grant, editor and publisher of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer

“One of the finest books of financial journalism I have ever read (and I read all of them).”—Peter Conti-Brown, associate professor, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

“Masterful, important, and utterly riveting . . . I devoured Number Go Up in almost one gulp.”—Diana B. Henriques, New York Times bestselling author of The Wizard of Lies

“A riveting, character-driven narrative through a blistering, vividly rendered hellscape populated by corporate lawyers, drug lords, terrorists, and former child actors.”—Jessica Pressler, contributing editor, New York

“This book is ludicrously compelling. I, quite literally, couldn’t put it down—and I don’t even care about crypto.”—Evan Osnos, National Book Award–winning author of Age of Ambition

“This book is what happens when the funniest financial journalist in America takes on the funniest story in modern finance. The results are as darkly hilarious as you could hope for.”—Matt Levine, Money Stuff columnist

“Riveting, scary, funny, unbelievable . . . If you want a front-row seat to one of the greatest business stories of all time, you should read Number Go Up now.”—A.J. Jacobs, bestselling author of The Puzzler

“Both a serious financial investigation and an incredibly entertaining romp . . . Zeke Faux seems to be the only one asking the uncomfortable questions.”—Sarah Frier, Financial Times/McKinsey award–winning author of No Filter

“The definitive book about crypto and the only one you’ll want to read.”—Max Chafkin, author of The Contrarian

“I loved Number Go Up, Zeke Faux’s clever, vivid, propulsive, terrifying, and often hilarious account of the cryptocurrency bubble.”—Ed Caesar, author of The Moth and the Mountain

Author

© Vincent Tullo
Zeke Faux is an investigative reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek and Bloomberg News and a National Fellow at New America. He’s a winner of the Gerald Loeb Award and the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award and a National Magazine Award finalist. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and three children. View titles by Zeke Faux

Rights

Available for sale exclusive:
•     Guam
•     Minor Outl.Ins.
•     North Mariana
•     Philippines
•     Puerto Rico
•     Samoa,American
•     US Virgin Is.

Available for sale non-exclusive:
•     Afghanistan
•     Aland Islands
•     Albania
•     Algeria
•     Andorra
•     Angola
•     Anguilla
•     Antarctica
•     Argentina
•     Armenia
•     Aruba
•     Austria
•     Azerbaijan
•     Bahrain
•     Belarus
•     Belgium
•     Benin
•     Bhutan
•     Bolivia
•     Bonaire, Saba
•     Bosnia Herzeg.
•     Bouvet Island
•     Brazil
•     Bulgaria
•     Burkina Faso
•     Burundi
•     Cambodia
•     Cameroon
•     Cape Verde
•     Centr.Afr.Rep.
•     Chad
•     Chile
•     China
•     Colombia
•     Comoro Is.
•     Congo
•     Cook Islands
•     Costa Rica
•     Croatia
•     Cuba
•     Curacao
•     Czech Republic
•     Dem. Rep. Congo
•     Denmark
•     Djibouti
•     Dominican Rep.
•     Ecuador
•     Egypt
•     El Salvador
•     Equatorial Gui.
•     Eritrea
•     Estonia
•     Ethiopia
•     Faroe Islands
•     Finland
•     France
•     Fren.Polynesia
•     French Guinea
•     Gabon
•     Georgia
•     Germany
•     Greece
•     Greenland
•     Guadeloupe
•     Guatemala
•     Guinea Republic
•     Guinea-Bissau
•     Haiti
•     Heard/McDon.Isl
•     Honduras
•     Hong Kong
•     Hungary
•     Iceland
•     Indonesia
•     Iran
•     Iraq
•     Israel
•     Italy
•     Ivory Coast
•     Japan
•     Jordan
•     Kazakhstan
•     Kuwait
•     Kyrgyzstan
•     Laos
•     Latvia
•     Lebanon
•     Liberia
•     Libya
•     Liechtenstein
•     Lithuania
•     Luxembourg
•     Macau
•     Macedonia
•     Madagascar
•     Maldives
•     Mali
•     Marshall island
•     Martinique
•     Mauritania
•     Mayotte
•     Mexico
•     Micronesia
•     Moldavia
•     Monaco
•     Mongolia
•     Montenegro
•     Morocco
•     Myanmar
•     Nepal
•     Netherlands
•     New Caledonia
•     Nicaragua
•     Niger
•     Niue
•     Norfolk Island
•     North Korea
•     Norway
•     Oman
•     Palau
•     Palestinian Ter
•     Panama
•     Paraguay
•     Peru
•     Poland
•     Portugal
•     Qatar
•     Reunion Island
•     Romania
•     Russian Fed.
•     Rwanda
•     Saint Martin
•     San Marino
•     SaoTome Princip
•     Saudi Arabia
•     Senegal
•     Serbia
•     Singapore
•     Sint Maarten
•     Slovakia
•     Slovenia
•     South Korea
•     South Sudan
•     Spain
•     St Barthelemy
•     St.Pier,Miquel.
•     Sth Terr. Franc
•     Sudan
•     Suriname
•     Svalbard
•     Sweden
•     Switzerland
•     Syria
•     Tadschikistan
•     Taiwan
•     Thailand
•     Timor-Leste
•     Togo
•     Tokelau Islands
•     Tunisia
•     Turkey
•     Turkmenistan
•     Ukraine
•     Unit.Arab Emir.
•     Uruguay
•     Uzbekistan
•     Vatican City
•     Venezuela
•     Vietnam
•     Wallis,Futuna
•     West Saharan
•     Western Samoa
•     Yemen

Not available for sale:
•     Antigua/Barbuda
•     Australia
•     Bahamas
•     Bangladesh
•     Barbados
•     Belize
•     Bermuda
•     Botswana
•     Brit.Ind.Oc.Ter
•     Brit.Virgin Is.
•     Brunei
•     Canada
•     Cayman Islands
•     Christmas Islnd
•     Cocos Islands
•     Cyprus
•     Dominica
•     Falkland Islnds
•     Fiji
•     Gambia
•     Ghana
•     Gibraltar
•     Grenada
•     Guernsey
•     Guyana
•     India
•     Ireland
•     Isle of Man
•     Jamaica
•     Jersey
•     Kenya
•     Kiribati
•     Lesotho
•     Malawi
•     Malaysia
•     Malta
•     Mauritius
•     Montserrat
•     Mozambique
•     Namibia
•     Nauru
•     New Zealand
•     Nigeria
•     Pakistan
•     PapuaNewGuinea
•     Pitcairn Islnds
•     S. Sandwich Ins
•     Seychelles
•     Sierra Leone
•     Solomon Islands
•     Somalia
•     South Africa
•     Sri Lanka
•     St. Helena
•     St. Lucia
•     St. Vincent
•     St.Chr.,Nevis
•     Swaziland
•     Tanzania
•     Tonga
•     Trinidad,Tobago
•     Turks&Caicos Is
•     Tuvalu
•     USA
•     Uganda
•     United Kingdom
•     Vanuatu
•     Zambia
•     Zimbabwe

The 2024 Edgar Awards Shares Its Finalists For Best Mystery Titles

According to the Mystery Writers of America, the 2024 Edgar Allan Poe awards honor “the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction and television published or produced in 2023.” On January 18, the Edgars announced that eleven Penguin Random House titles were finalists across six different categories. The winners of the 78th Annual Edgar Awards will be

Read more