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Uncanny Valley

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3.90  ·  Rating details ·  2,643 ratings  ·  427 reviews
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,
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Hardcover, 288 pages
Published January 14th 2020 by MCD
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Michael
Jan 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
In her debut memoir, Uncanny Valley, Anna Wiener recounts how, at age 25, she abandoned her drab job at a New York literary agency for a high-paying customer support role at a Silicon Valley start-up. In compulsively readable prose the writer describes how the excitement she first felt toward working in the tech industry soon soured, after repeated encounters with her white male peers’ sexism, racism, and disregard for user privacy. As she recounts her story she adroitly links her ...more
Emily
I thought I was burnt out on reading about tech, but many parts of this excerpt made me laugh out loud:

Job listings are an excellent place to get sprayed with HR’s idea of fun and a 23-year-old’s idea of work-life balance.

Also, this!!!!!!

To solve our problem, management arranges for a team-building exercise. They schedule it on a weeknight evening, and we pretend not to mind. Our team-building begins with beers in the office, and then we travel en masse to a tiny event space at the mouth of the
...more
Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
Jan 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc
Anna Wiener left behind NYC and a job in publishing for a position at a Silicon Valley startup. With no experience in tech, her position in customer service / data analytics isn't valued by the industry.

It's a boy's club supported by venture capitalists and dripping in extravagance. There are ski vacations, open bars at the office, and flexible schedules while demanding corporate fealty above the personal lives of employees.

The lifestyle perks and salary lure Wiener in to the bubble but not
...more
Lou
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Silicon Valley, a place in which Anna Wiener was overwhelmingly outnumbered by men in the technological sphere, is still as dominated by white males as it was decades ago. Minorities and female workers are present but not as often as you might believe. Wiener certainly has some mettle to overlook these issues and decide to add at least one more woman to the Silicon Valley workforce. She details some important topics and discusses just how prevalent sexism, unwanted sexual advances and sexual ...more
Meborn
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was ok
Wiener is a very good writer, and I really liked the original essay that inspired the book. But this felt too much like a long-form essay extended into a book, with little narrative arc. I never felt that invested in the narrator (Weiner), or what would happen in the broader world she's inhabiting. Just when you think a subplot is developing it peters out, or is muted by a lack of elaboration (eg Pizzagate).

The narration felt very distant, like someone who's chipping away at a core truth, but
...more
Doon
Nov 07, 2019 rated it liked it
This book is badged as an inside look into the world of tech bro’s by a woman who was there. However, the books main insights, that the men who work in Silicon Valley are mainly white, middle-class and supremely confident men who think that every idea they have has value, are nothing you didn’t already know.

I kept on reading, expecting that there would be a ‘gotcha’ moment, an insight into a well-known public occurrence, but it never came. It felt like it was written for people who don’t follow
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Diane S ☔
DNF. I tried and tried again but my interest in start ups and the excessive money they draw is just not there. For the most part this is garnering good reviews, but it's just not for me.
Michelle
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Debut author Anna Wiener shares her engaging professional story of her move from a small Brooklyn, N.Y. literary agency to an exciting new tech start-up: “Uncanny Valley: A Memoir” highlights the big money, big deals, contracts of big business, the big talent and big egos of the male staff that dominated the Silicon Valley tech industry. Fifty men and six women worked at the (unnamed) tech start-up where Weiner was first employed.

While living in her North Brooklyn apartment --furnished with
...more
Kasa Cotugno
In this her first book, Anna Wiener has nailed the world of tech culture from her vantage point of being an insider yet feeling like an outsider. She moves to San Francisco after being a Brooklynite for most of her 25 years and experiences the dislocation blues acutely like most people. For those of us on the outside, it's not really clear what her high paying job entails or what the startup produces. For that matter, what do any of the startups she eventually works for do to amass the enormous ...more
Siobhan
Nov 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Uncanny Valley is a memoir about Silicon Valley, about being a woman there, and about the changing tech landscape. Anna Wiener left being an assistant in New York City publishing to work in a startup and soon ended up in Silicon Valley, working in data analytics. The memoir charts her time there and then at an open source repository company, as she looks at how she became deeply embedded in some of the mindsets of Silicon Valley and still felt like an outsider in others, particularly as someone ...more
Michelle
Jan 15, 2020 rated it liked it
mmmm bleh. i enjoyed the first half way more than the second half. i just really wanted the book to end differently, in a more confronting-complicity-in-tech kind of way but this really wasn’t that kind of book unfortunately. i thought i’d read this and feel a little better about some of the ppl in tech and the state of san francisco but i really fooled myself! lol

anna is a good writer but i just wanted more complicated FEELINGS.

my only notable thing to take with me is this little passage i
...more
Sarah
Anna Wiener's memoir follows her departure from the New York publishing circle and change of career where she takes up a position in a tech start-up in of Silicon Valley.

This suffered from unrealistic expectations on my part: I've seen the book billed as a number of things - comparable to Joan Didion, a brutal expose on the sexist bro culture of the tech start-up business - and while, yes, the writing is good, companions to Didion are going a bit far. I don't know much about start-ups and while
...more
Andrew Smith
This is the third audiobook I’ve listened to in the past few months that is focused on Silicon Valley. The first two concentrated on the development and life of specific companies, namely Yahoo and Google, whereas this book takes a look at the culture of technology start-ups. Having previously worked in publishing and at a literary agency in New York, Anna Wiener joined a four-person start-up who were developing an eBook reader app. She was to be the person who knew books amongst this small ...more
Sonya
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Thanks to NetGalley for an advance review copy of this book, which I received in exchange for an honest assessment.

Anna Wiener is a young woman with an English degree and no technical experience. Her memoir starts as she enters the heady and often overly optimistic world of start-ups. Sky high budgets, charismatic founders, lots of misogyny and non-diverse hiring make for a work bubble that glorifies the technological boom and downplays the downsides of the new world.

Wiener is good at
...more
Jenee Rager
Sep 06, 2019 rated it did not like it
Try as I might I could not get into this book. I think the story itself was informative, and it could have been interesting had it been written in a different style. I really struggled with the lack of names. Instead of just calling her co-workers "John" or "Mary" or whatever name she felt like, the author referred to them by their job description, making it impossible for me to connect with any of them. This was a goodreads giveaway and I appreciate the opportunity to try reading something new ...more
Wendy Liu
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Dazzling and brutal at the same time. If you're disillusioned with Silicon Valley, you'll want to read this book. If you're not, you won't want to read this book, but you should.
Julie Ehlers
These are the days of miracles and wonder
this is the long-distance call
the way the camera follows us in slow-mo
the way we look to us all
the way we look to a distant constellation
that’s dying in a corner of the sky
these are the days of miracles and wonder
and don’t cry, baby, don’t cry


I heard Paul Simon’s “Boy in the Bubble” in the car this morning and felt the way I always do when I hear it: That it could have been written yesterday. And because I’ve been thinking about Uncanny Valley lately, it
...more
Sarah at Sarah's Book Shelves
Thanks to MCD for an advanced copy of this book.

Wiener has the unique perspective of joining the tech industry (first at a data analytics start-up, followed by an open-source software company) from publishing (an old-school culture that couldn’t be more different from tech), so I enjoyed her quasi-outsider’s perspective on the cult-like, all-encompassing, over-the-top, child’s playground culture of Silicon Valley. She railed on what you’d expect (i.e. the male and youth dominated culture, the
...more
jasmine sun
uncanny valley was a weirdly intimate look into a bubble i know all too well.

i congratulated myself for understanding wiener's references to both dead french theorists and viral vc tweets, remembered my own first encounters with cowen-style rationalists and custom slack reacts, then wondered whether it was self-indulgent to read a 200 page inside joke.

but so what? i've grown to expect every tech piece i read to be either a how-to guide or an investigative take-down. at its core, uncanny valley
...more
Amar Pai
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this, disturbing as it is. Every veiled reference in this book is immediately recognizable to someone working and living in tech SF during the 2nd dot com boom. For better or for worse. She nails the time and place. Wiener is scathing, precise; her writing is top notch as you'd expect from a New Yorker contributor. Part of the draw of the book is that she isn't above it all; she's seduced by the scene even as she recognizes how gross it is. So many tech bros in dot com shirts, ...more
Laura
Oct 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anna Weiner’s Uncanny Valley is a memoir of working in Silicon Valley in her mid-twenties; for me, it felt like a good online article that had been stretched out into more than three hundred pages. Weiner has nothing especially insightful to say about tech, and rehearses familiar critiques: the dominance of young white men, the lack of concern for data security, the distance from the ‘real world’. I also found the way Weiner presents herself as totally unrelatable; she seems to think it’s a ...more
Yong Hoon
- I didn't like how all private entities were described and not named; it was kind of funny and then felt more like a gimmick.

- I also found that I didn't connect very well to the depictions of startup culture; it felt like I had heard those stories before, though they were still terrible.

- That said, this was a book that captured my feelings at this moment in time fairly well, with all the quirks and privilege and misgivings and everything else.

- If a movie like Funny Ha Ha is a slice-of-life
...more
Aaron
Jan 15, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I often felt teased here. There are moments of the life being shared that I felt connected to. But, a lot of that was drowned out by generalities in the experience and in the disparagement of that world.
Admitting their own part in it all feels much like the person saying 'no offense', before insulting you: as if they're mostly trying to assuage their own guilt.

Probably I'm being defensively triggered.
Alex
Jan 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book was an incredible take on the craziness that is Silicon Valley- the money, the technology, the Bay Area... But I think it was particularly poignant to me because I'm going through almost exactly what Anna Wiener went through. I'm living it, working at a startup where the co-founders are 20 and 23. (I'm 23).

Anna left her low-paying job at a publishing company in New York to check out the start up scene. On the outside, it is pretty impressive. Companies that grow and become valued at a
...more
Jay Gabler
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was ok
Uncanny Valley is literally a memoir insofar as it recounts the author’s lived experiences, but never quite connects the dots between her personal journey and the environment it moves through.

It’s understandable, of course, that Wiener might want to hold herself at a distance even in the pages of her own book, since a recurring motif of her account is the commodification of personal information. One of the author’s tech jobs is at a company that helps other companies analyze their users’
...more
Agnese
Jan 17, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, ebook
It was a quick read, but, ultimately, I don't feel like I learned anything new from this book about the ego-centric and cultish world of Silicon Valley's startup culture. This could have easily just been a longer magazine piece.
Eilonwy
Feb 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm not really sure what to say about this book. I enjoyed it all right. Mostly, it was interesting to read a book from someone who has been part of the Silicon Valley culture/experience but as a sort of outsider, so that she looked at the whole thing from a cynical perspective ("We're all making boatloads of money, but for what, exactly?") rather than a worshipful perspective ("they're all making boatloads of money; they must be truly deserving and awesome people!!!"). The book asks some ...more
KarnagesMistress
I need to start a new Goodreads shelf: books that make me glad to be a poor, white trash, introvert. Of course, this is all said tongue-in-cheek. Although my experience would have been different, being Generation X, I was offered the chance to become a computer programmer. Coming out of my first two years of college, with some kind of skill for higher levels of theoretical math and science, I was actively recruited by my college's math department for their computer programming degree program. I ...more
Clare
Feb 01, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
DNF - got bored and stopped about halfway through.

The memoir is unfocused and uncompelling. There are many stories out there about sexism and naked ambition in Silicon Valley but, unfortunately, this one doesn't contribute anything to those dialogues. There's a lot of telling and not much showing. Wiener pops the word sexism in every now and then as if she forgot that it was supposed to be a proper topic of conversation in her memoir. Or maybe it's not and it's the blurb's fault for being
...more
Andrea Laurion
Jan 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
To sum up: A lit world person goes to work for several years in Silicon Valley in customer support roles. It's the type of book that's written for a very particular audience on two separate sides of the country. Whether anyone outside of that will be interested, I'm not so sure.

The writing is solid and the humor is dark. The anecdotes are bonkers, which is what you want in a tech world memoir (the more dirt, the better, imho). Still, I think it would have been a stronger book if it was written
...more
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“or the stack of data-driven T-shirts I kept” 1 likes
“Being the only woman on a nontechnical team, providing customer support to software developers, was like immersion therapy for internalized misogyny. I liked men—I had a brother. I had a boyfriend. But men were everywhere: the customers, my teammates, my boss, his boss. I was always fixing things for them, tiptoeing around their vanities, cheering them up. Affirming, dodging, confiding, collaborating. Advocating for their career advancement; ordering them pizza. My job had placed me, a self-identified feminist, in a position of ceaseless, professionalized deference to the male ego.” 1 likes
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