A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER. ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES'S 10 BEST BOOKS OF 2020.
Named one of the Best Books of 2020 by The Washington Post, The Atlantic, NPR, the Los Angeles Times, ELLE, Esquire, Parade, Teen Vogue, The Boston Globe, Forbes, The Times (UK), Fortune, Chicago Tribune, Glamour, The A.V. Club, Vox, Jezebel, Town & Country, OneZero, Apartment Therapy, Good Housekeeping, PopMatters, Electric Literature, Self, The Week (UK) and BookPage. A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice and a January 2020 IndieNext Pick.
"A definitive document of a world in transition: I won't be alone in returning to it for clarity and consolation for many years to come." --Jia Tolentino, author of Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion
The prescient, page-turning account of a journey in Silicon Valley: a defining memoir of our digital age
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-of-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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Anna Wiener’s entertaining and unabashedly feminist memoir explores what it’s like to work and live as a woman in the middle of Silicon Valley—and it isn’t pretty. When Wiener was offered a job at a tech startup in 2013, she was understandably enthusiastic: She was just 25, with an opportunity to enter a booming industry fueled by crazy money and the promise of changing the world. But almost as soon as Wiener arrived in San Francisco a dark feeling set in, as she quickly realized that the local game was almost entirely rigged in favor of men. Stunningly candid, Uncanny Valley details all the disturbing everyday misbehavior Weiner witnessed, including sexism, racism, bullying, and an utter disregard for users’ privacy. But Weiner is over raging against all this toxic masculinity. Her thought-provoking reflections on tech’s abuses—and the circumstances that allow them to continue—are laid out with an eye roll and a shrug emoji. The unrelenting wit of even her most unsettling stories had us cringe-laughing.
Technology journalist Wiener looks at Silicon Valley life in this insider-y debut memoir that sharply critiques start-up culture and the tech industry. In 2013, Wiener left an assistant job at a New York literary agency to work for an e-book start-up run by young men who were uninterested in reading books. That job led to a move to San Francisco, where she worked in customer support at a data analytics start-up, then at a start-up that focused on software development. Wiener humorously describes the employee perks at the office ("a miniature theme park" with a wraparound bar, a roof deck, a speakeasy), though she decided to primarily work from home "in sagging leggings." Wiener writes of how she struggled to be taken seriously in a male-dominated industry that lacked diversity; attended lavish work events at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Lake Tahoe while San Francisco's homeless population increased; communicated with coworkers using just emoji; and watched 20-somethings get rich overnight. She eventually became disillusioned with her job ("I was burning out and failing up") and left in 2018 to pursue writing, but not before buying up her vested stock options. Wiener is an entertaining writer, and those interested in a behind-the-scenes look at life in Silicon Valley will want to take a look.