Today’s Maximum Shelf pick is Anna Wiener’s page-turning account of her time in Silicon Valley, UNCANNY VALLEY: A Memoir.
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 during 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-of-age-story, part portrait of an already bygone era, Anna Wiener’s memoir, UNCANNY VALLEY, 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.
“So UNCANNY VALLEY is a story about work, but it’s also a story of capitalism and complicity. It’s a story of progress, greed, principles, EDM and a lot of kombucha. It’s alternately outrageous and outraging. What makes UNCANNY VALLEY unforgettable is not just Wiener’s unique take on tech, but the fun of being along on the journey with her.”–Shelf Awareness