Our favorites this month include a timely memoir that serves as a cautionary tale, a prescriptive guide to changing behaviors that impede us from achieving our goals, a page-turning psychological thriller, and more.
Learn more about these and all of our picks for the Best Books of the Month.
Uncanny Valley: A Memoir by Anna Wiener
In her mid-twenties, Anna Wiener left her low-paying but rewarding-ish job in New York publishing and sold her soul to Silicon Valley start-up culture. First she dipped her toe in by taking a job at a books-focused tech company, but soon she made the full plunge, moving West and joining a data analytics company as an early employee. In her debut memoir, Wiener relays firsthand the juxtaposition of the extreme wealth and poverty of San Francisco, most memorably with an anecdote about a homeless man wearing the sweatshirt swag from her company. Her colleague’s response? “I wonder whose it was. We’re not supposed to give away the hoodies.” Wiener is not here to make friends, as she gets pretty dish-y on the highs and lows of tech culture. We see young tech entrepreneurs with low EQ struggle to run a sustainable business, and highly paid boys and girls acting badly in and around the Bay Area. Wiener’s observations and writing are razor sharp; she cleverly doesn’t name any companies (Google is the “search-engine giant down in Mountain View”, Uber “an on-demand ride-sharing startup”), but they are easily recognizable and make the reader feel clever when they uncrack her code. This perfectly named memoir places Wiener on the map as an astute documenter of our time. She’s now married her worlds and is writing about Silicon Valley, startup culture and tech for national publications. —Sarah Gelman
Given the surge in popularity in books on making and breaking habits, it’s a wonder there’s room for another one. But make space for BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits, a practical guide to introducing intentionally small changes into your routine that can lead to big results. The director of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford, Fogg has spent years trying to figure out what makes habits stick. After much trial and error, he’s focused upon a potent trinity of motivation, ability, and consistent prompts. More important, he shows the reader how to hone in on what small actions are more likely to be accomplished and therefore can snowball into something bigger, whether that action is flossing teeth or eventually running a marathon. I admit I found the book design off-putting at first, but the content is so good I quickly forgot my aesthetic quibbles. An excellent, lively resource for those seeking life changes. —Adrian Liang
The Wives: A Novel by Tarryn Fisher
There’s a virtual reality Harry Potter-themed ride at Universal Studios that simulates a Quidditch match. You strap in, and start flying through the air, only to swing wildly to the right, stop short, dip, and then lurch 180 degrees to the left. Reading The Wives felt like being back on that ride. Thursday is a nurse in a busy Seattle hospital, slowly getting back in the swing of things after a miscarriage leaves her without her longed-for baby and infertile to boot. Her husband Seth is there for support but only one day a week. The rest of his week is spent commuting to and from Portland where his other two wives live. Presumably. Thursday’s never met either of his other wives; all she knows is that one of them is pregnant, about to give Seth the one thing that Thursday no longer can. When she finds a scrap of information about one of the other wives—enough to identify her and locate her—the opening to the rabbit hole beckons, and Thursday is about to fall into it. Yes, the premise is about as preposterous as taking part in a Quidditch match, so if you’ve made it this far, ignore that fact and consider yourself strapped in and ready for a soapy, bumpy, twisty, exhilarating ride, set at a breakneck pace. Enjoy. —Vannessa Cronin
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