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Uncanny Valley

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  18,902 ratings  ·  2,433 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, where
Paperback, 281 pages
Published January 2020 by 4th Estate
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Average rating 3.68  · 
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HM. The first 25% was so strong but then it became a long decrescendo. I enjoyed this as an audiobook, I find memoirs work really well when someone is reading them to you and you feel like they're coming right from the authors mouth, but this definitely started to become repetitive and the message of "tech is sexist and I didn't fit in" got boring. I definitely learned some stuff and enjoyed moments but it fell a bit flat 3 ...more
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 ca
Jan 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 disillusionmen ...more
I usually avoid reading about tech, but the excerpt on n plus one made me laugh out loud. Once I actually picked the book up, it was really hard to put down.

The writing in this book is so good. It's funny, and it's incisive, and it really captures a specific time and place extremely well. Men in restaurants are "dressed, typically, to traverse a glacier." Perks offered by Google "land between the collegiate and the feudal." Anna Wiener captures what it's like to work at a five-person startup, t
Nov 07, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
mindful.librarian ☀️
UPDATE 11.24.20 - how the HELL did this qualify to be one of NYT’s Best Books of the Year? I just quit reading their list after seeing it on there because REALLY??? I mean, it wasn’t the worst book of the year but I MEAN..... so so so many others could have filled that spot.

ORIGINAL REVIEW 2.14.20 (free review copy) Hmmmm. Sigh. I had such such high hopes.

Well, how about a summary:
Privileged 20-something white female goes to work in Silicon Valley in tech. Literally nothing happens to her except
Uncanny Valley is Anna Wiener’s story of working in tech, primarily in Silicon Valley. Anna is looking to leave her NY-based job in publishing, seeking more from a career. Millennials were flocking to the West coast, where the tech industry continued to grow — software, digital service providers, and social media platforms, all making a name for themselves and marking their presence. Anna decides to join them.

In this book, she details her work experience at a few different companies: one book r
Elyse  Walters
Mar 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition by Suehyla El-Attar [8 hours and 14 minutes]

For Anna Wiener, working in the high tech industry from where she came from - a literary book background - was like learning a foreign language.

For the old farts who have lived in the Bay Area and witnessed the Silicon Valley growth - the tech growth - the changes from fruit orchards to new startups - will be shaking their heads - smiling & laughing - cringing occasionally - while saying....”oh, my gosh, YES”.....THE SILICON VALLEY i
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
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 grou ...more
Feb 01, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
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 inaccu
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
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. ...more
Jan 24, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Mis-sold and over-hyped. More space in this book was given over to description of shoes, clothes and food than to actual issues of gender discrimination. Also, quite self-absorbed. Maybe she was not taken seriously in technical companies, because she had zero technical background, not because she happens to be a woman? I am sure there are many men out there who did not make it for this reason. Oh, and another highly annoying thing - hardly anyone has a name, people are just walking job titles an ...more
Patrick Brown
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Too real. I drank at those bars. I ate those salads. I did the scavenger hunt that the team building place by the tunnel puts on. This book was uncomfortable for me to read. But I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a chronicle of a very specific place and a very specific time that suddenly feels decades ago to me.

Too. Real.
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 har ...more
Feb 13, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I am truly vexed as to why this book is getting so many positive reviews from so many people I admire. The author projects herself as naive as to the power and harm of tech and capitalism. I don't buy this narrative of naivete. But even if one does, she never fully investigates her position. Instead, she projects a constant tone of blase guilt and self-loathing, while still working in tech and being compensated VERY well for her trouble. It’s all just cheeky jokes and cliches about how silly Sil ...more
Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
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 wi
Jessica Woodbury
This isn't exactly a memoir, at least not in a traditional way. And it isn't an exposé of Silicon Valley, since not much in here is very surprising. Wiener takes us in her experience but also holds us at arm's length. Her prose has a level of remove to it: she rarely refers to people or companies by name, she moves us through this brandless, nameless place as if we're seeing it all through a muddying lens that blurs it all. She rarely tells us her own feelings or experiences, you can forget it's ...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
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 seco
Amar Pai
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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, s ...more
Otis Chandler
I agree with my friend and former coworker, Patrick Brown - too real. I was a startup CEO in San Francisco for over 10 years, and I ate at those restaurants, went to those bars, took my company for an outing at the same place by the Stockton tunnel. Weird to see a different lens on the places I know.

And yet, I don't recognize the San Francisco she describes. In fact, I found myself rejecting it again and again, and almost put this book down. I do recognize that the gold rush of tech has brought
Jenee Rager
Sep 06, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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. ...more
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
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 lo
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
Hype can be a good and bad thing for a book. For me, the hype ruined Uncanny Valley. Since maybe July of last year, this book has been heralded as a send-up of Silicon Valley, a scathing and witty critique of everything wrong with tech culture, by Goodreads and The New York Times alike. I was expecting such when I picked it up, only to discover that it is a completely mediocre, not very well written piece of nonfiction that recycles many opinions about tech that I've heard before.

The author, An
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
Feb 14, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 intere ...more
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