Empire of Pain – Patrick Radden Keefe, 1 Powerful Drug & the Sackler Family

Empire of Pain is the best narrative non-fiction book I’ve read in years. Investigative journalist Patrick Radden Keefe has written such a good book that I have learned a lot and once again discovered that life is stranger than fiction.


Empire of Pain tells the story of the Sackler Family and how they turned many Americans into addicts. This family, whose names we frequently see in museums and universities in Britain and America, is known by most people as philanthropists. But behind all the donations they make is OxyContin, their highly addictive drug. This drug, responsible for the opioid crises that lead to the deaths of half a million Americans, allows the Sackler Family to live in unprecedented luxury and write their sickening names on the walls of prestigious institutions.

Empire of Pain - Patrick Radden Keefe

I never knew anything about the Sackler family before, nor did I know about the opioid crisis in America. Thanks to Empire of Pain, I learned so much that I was surprised at my ignorance for a long time. Although I have often seen addicts talk about Oxy in American films and TV shows, I thought it was some kind of illegal drug. When I learned that it was sold as a legal pain killer, I was surprised at first how such an addictive drug was approved. However, when you see that the Sackler family is a money-worshipping family, it is not difficult to understand what may have been going on in the background.

To summarise, Empire of Pain is about the Sackler Family that caused the opioid crisis in America. This family, which I think is more horrifying than all the serial killers in the world combined, will be one of the families that you will curse a lot with all their arrogance and love of money. But you’ll love the book and you won’t be able to put it down.

Empire of Pain is such a good book that I found myself missing it when I couldn’t read it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t carry it everywhere because it was heavy, but I realised that I was thrilled when I got home and read it. I was also surprised to feel such strong feelings about a non-fiction book whose subject matter did not particularly interest me. Patrick Radden Keefe is a great journalist, a legendary writer. ReadEmpire of Pain; you’ll admire Patrick Radden Keefe and hate the Sackler family in equal measure; you won’t regret it. Enjoy!

Empire of Pain - Patrick Radden Keefe

Empire of Pain

Shortlisted for the 2021 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction
Shortlisted for the 2021 Financial Times/McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award
A Barack Obama 2021 Summer reading list choice

The gripping and shocking story of three generations of the Sackler family and their roles in the stories of Valium, Oxycontin and the opioid crisis.

‘Jaw-dropping . . . Beggars belief’ – Sunday Times

‘You feel almost guilty for enjoying it so much’ – The Times

Empire of Pain: The Sackler name adorns the walls of many storied institutions – Harvard; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Oxford; the Louvre. They are one of the richest families in the world, known for their lavish donations in the arts and the sciences. The source of the family fortune was vague, however, until it emerged that the Sacklers 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.

In this masterpiece of narrative reporting and writing, award-winning journalist and host of the Wind of Change podcast Patrick Radden Keefe exhaustively documents the jaw-dropping and ferociously compelling reality. Empire of Pain is the story of a dynasty: a parable of 21st century greed.

Patrick Radden Keefe

Patrick Radden Keefe is an award-winning staff writer at The New Yorker magazine and the author of the New York Times bestsellers Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty and Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, as well as two other books: The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream, and Chatter: Dispatches from the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping.

Patrick started contributing to The New Yorker in 2006 and has written investigative narrative nonfiction on a range of subjects, from the hunt for the drug lord Chapo Guzman to the tragic personal history of the mass shooter Amy Bishop. He received the National Magazine Award for Feature Writing in 2014, and was a finalist for the National Magazine Award for Reporting in 2015 and 2016. Say Nothing received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, as well as the Orwell Prize for Political Writing, and was selected by Entertainment Weekly as one of the “10 Best Nonfiction Books of the Decade.”

He is also the writer and host of WIND OF CHANGE, an 8-part podcast series from Pineapple Street Studios, Crooked Media and Spotify, which investigates the strange convergence of espionage and pop music during the Cold War and was named the #1 podcast of 2020 by The Guardian.

Patrick grew up in Dorchester, Massachusetts and went to college at Columbia. He received masters degrees from Cambridge University and the London School of Economics, and a JD from Yale Law School. In addition to The New Yorker, his work has appeared in The New York Review of BooksThe New York Times MagazineSlate, and other publications. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, and fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the New America Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.  

He lives in New York.

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