Uncanny Valley – Anna Wiener

In her mid-twenties, at the height of tech industry idealism, Anna Wiener—stuck, broke, and looking for meaning in her work, like any good millennial–left a job in book publishing for the promise of the new digital economy. She moved from New York to San Francisco, where she landed at a big-data startup in the heart of the Silicon Valley bubble: a world of surreal extravagance, dubious success, and fresh-faced entrepreneurs hell-bent on domination, glory, and, of course, progress.

Anna arrived amidst a massive cultural shift, as the tech industry rapidly transformed into a locus of wealth and power rivaling Wall Street. But amid the company ski vacations and in-office speakeasies, boyish camaraderie and ride-or-die corporate fealty, a new Silicon Valley began to emerge: one in far over its head, one that enriched itself at the expense of the idyllic future it claimed to be building.

Part coming-age-story, part portrait of an already-bygone era, Anna Wiener’s memoir is a rare first-person glimpse into high-flying, reckless startup culture at a time of unchecked ambition, unregulated surveillance, wild fortune, and accelerating political power. With wit, candor, and heart, Anna deftly charts the tech industry’s shift from self-appointed world savior to democracy-endangering liability, alongside a personal narrative of aspiration, ambivalence, and disillusionment.

Unsparing and incisive, Uncanny Valley is a cautionary tale, and a revelatory interrogation of a world reckoning with consequences its unwitting designers are only beginning to understand.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

First off, I just have to say how much I LOVE the cover! It’s eye-catching and fits the subject perfectly…although to clarify just in case, know that this book is not about robots and AI (not directly, anyway), but about Silicon Valley during the growth years.

This was one of my most anticipated reads of early 2020 (can’t believe I posted that in January, seems like a lifetime ago). How’d it stack up? I was maybe a little disappointed by it overall, but it was still an entertaining and informative read.

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No Time to Spare – Ursula Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin took readers to imaginary worlds for decades. In the last great frontier of life, old age, she explored a new literary territory: the blog, a forum where she shined. The collected best of Ursula’s blog, No Time to Spare presents perfectly crystallized dispatches on what mattered to her late in life, her concerns with the world, and her wonder at it: “How rich we are in knowledge, and in all that lies around us yet to learn. Billionaires, all of us.”

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I’ll be honest: this wasn’t exactly a voluntary pick. I usually never choose books like this for myself, being a fiction lover all the way, but as things go, it was an accidental selection from the NYPL ebooks page. I’d been impatiently looking for Wizard of Earthsea for weeks, saw a Le Guin book scroll by, and without thinking, checked it out. Then I opened it up and – surprise, it was actually a collection of her blog posts from the later years of her life! Quarantine being what it is, I gave it a shot and settled in.

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Maybe You Should Talk to Someone – Lori Gottlieb

One day, Lori Gottlieb is a therapist who helps patients in her Los Angeles practice. The next, a crisis causes her world to come crashing down. Enter Wendell, the quirky but seasoned therapist in whose office she suddenly lands. With his balding head, cardigan, and khakis, he seems to have come straight from Therapist Central Casting. Yet he will turn out to be anything but.

As Gottlieb explores the inner chambers of her patients’ lives — a self-absorbed Hollywood producer, a young newlywed diagnosed with a terminal illness, a senior citizen threatening to end her life on her birthday if nothing gets better, and a twenty-something who can’t stop hooking up with the wrong guys — she finds that the questions they are struggling with are the very ones she is now bringing to Wendell.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What a great read! Lori Gottlieb is a columnist for the New York Times and The Atlantic (she’s the therapist in their Ask a Therapist series); I’ve been loosely following her writings there for a while and have always really appreciated her intelligence and empathy, so when she came out with a full-length book about being a therapist and going to therapy herself, I knew it had to be interesting.

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Three Women – Lisa Taddeo

A riveting true story about the sex lives of three real American women, based on nearly a decade of reporting.

Rating: 1.5/5

Given all the hype this book got on Bookstagram, I thought it was going to be way better! But Bookstagram recs definitely been tossups for me, and it looks like this was another one of the disappointments. It wasn’t terrible, per se…just very underwhelming. I feel guilty for saying this, but the first thought I had after finishing was, “A decade of reporting and investigating for this?”

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Educated – Tara Westover

Rating: 4/5

It’s impossible to love a book as filled with trauma, abuse, and violence as this one is, but nonetheless it was absolutely riveting. My jaw hit the floor over and over again as Westover kept revealing the next crazy scheme her father roped the family into, and I’m still coming to terms with the knowledge that there are still people out there who believe so strongly in fundamentalist survivalism that they refuse to go to hospitals and visit doctors, bury thousands of gallons of gasoline and other “supplies” underground for when the rapture comes, and think the government is out to get them at all costs, among other things. I mean, if you just faced a large, fiery explosion head-on and are suffering third-degree burns across your body and your face is literally melting off, go to the hospital! Don’t just wait for God and essential oils to work their magic on you!

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Primates of Park Avenue – Wednesday Martin

Rating: 2/5

Let’s just start off by saying, the fact that the front cover has a quote by Amy Chua of all people basically says what you need to know about this book and its author. That is, if the zebra-print pencil skirt and cheetah-print curtain and matching cheetah-print Loubs didn’t already give it away.

Anyway, this book is NUTS! Here’s the good and the bad:

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