For years Theranos was the “it” company in the Silicon Valley. It was the perfect startup–using technology to create an unprecedented medical device that promised to save lives. Theranos bragged that with just a finger prick, its devices could run hundreds of blood tests with a higher degree of accuracy than traditional lab tests. The icing on the cake was Theranos’ young, charismatic, female CEO, Elizabeth Holmes. Investors, scientists, and pharmacies were lining up to get in on the ground floor with this female Steve Jobs and the technology that would revolutionize the industry.
But not everyone was so excited about Theranos’ product, as investigative journalist John Carreyrou first discovered when approached by a fearful whistleblower. Despite threats of litigation, and NDAs, and a toxic culture of secrecy and bullying, a handful of Theranos’ former employees felt compelled to speak out about the faulty devices and numerous lies Holmes was feeding to investors and consumers. Her aggressive and secretive tactics may have been part of Silicon Valley’s tech culture, but Theranos had a key difference: they manufactured medical devices. Their lies were putting people’s lives in danger.
Fighting a multi-billion dollar company and its lawyers was no small feat, but Carreyrou pursued the truth and ultimately published a series of articles in the WSJ that brought Theranos to its knees. In this gripping book, he describes the corruption of Theranos in detail and demonstrates the frightening ways that Holmes exploited a “fear of missing out” to lead investors and business partners to completely disregard regulations, business protocols, and basic common sense.
The Danish concept of hygge embraces everything comfy, cozy, and homey, and may be part of the reason that Danes are the happiest people on Earth. In brief chapters, Meik Wiking breaks down “how to hygge,” teaching readers how to reject artifice, embrace genuine friendships, and find peace and joy in simple things like mood lighting, baking, and spending quality time with small groups of loved ones. There are a lot of anecdotes, recommendations, and instructions (such as recipes) in this brief book, some of which are more compatible with an American lifestyle than others. Overall, this book reads kind of like a Real Simple article; it creates a pretty picture of what life could be, with lots of ideas that you may or may not be able to apply in certain aspects of your own life. A light read that may interest people who want a glimpse into another culture, or readers looking for ways to simplify or relax in their own lives.
Before “The Guild” and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Felicia Day was an isolated, home schooled kid who discovered a community and her own voice on the then fledgling internet. Her memoir goes beyond hilarious anecdotes from an unconventional childhood with the history of the Internet and online gaming from a user’s perspective, her experience with video game addiction, a glimpse into the life of an unknown actor trying to make it in LA, an account of creating a low budget Web series (“The Guild”), and her perspective on and experience with Gamergate. A truly gifted writer, Day divides her memoir into semi-chronological sections by topic, giving each individual part its own arc in addition to the overall narrative arc of the memoir, which encourages readers to pursue their creative passions.
I picked up this book as a Guild fan, thinking it would just be an interesting glimpse into Felicia Day’s life. Instead I found one of the most interesting and entertaining memoirs I have ever read and a new audiobook favorite! If you are not a Felicia Day fan already, the book may lack the “squee” factor it had for me, but if you are an Internet user who enjoys memoirs, you will probably still find her story engaging. Definitely listen to the audiobook!
My apologies for the unannounced hiatus from blogging. I was overly optimistic about my ability to continue reading extensively for pleasure as my pregnancy drew to a close and last minute baby preparations took over my life. But now I’m back to reading and this post hopefully marks the return of regular book reviews. I’ll kick things off with some quick evaluations of a few popular pregnancy guides.
What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel
Probably the most well-known pregnancy prep book on the market today, What to Expect covers pregnancy week by week, discussing symptoms, common issues, and things to think about: decisions that will need to be made about the birth and also decisions about what will happen in your early days of parenting. The writing style is informal and somewhat trendy with many light-hearted references to the “baby bump” and other common social aspects of the modern American pregnacy, such as designing a nursery. There is also an online community associated with the book, where expectant mothers can connect with other expecting mothers. This book will resonate with many pregnant women, but not all will relate to the writing style and some of priorities the book presents as universal. The book’s main weakness is its organization. Many useful tidbits of information and are interspersed throughout the week by week discussion, which can make them difficult to locate again.
The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy
Although a new edition of this book has not been released in several years, the information included in it is still relevant and valuable. This book is well organized, including a section on pregnancy week by week, but also including chapters devoted specifically to different issues surrounding pregnancy so that if you are experiencing symptoms or thinking about issues at a different time than is typical, you can easily locate the information that you need. One of the more useful sections is an index of pains and other potentially alarming symptoms with an assessment of whether it is normal or worth an immediate call to your healthcare provider. The focus of the book is on physical and mental health, so while you will find broader topics such as choosing a childcare provider, you will not find as much of a variety as you find in What to Expect. The writing style is less playful, but still accessible and easy to read. I personally found this resource the most helpful.
Birthing From Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz
The focus of this book is on mental and logistical preparations for childbirth with a heavy emphasis on natural, non-medicated birth. It includes strategies for overcoming or facing fears, strategies for natural pain management with suggestions for how to practice before labor, and a few pregnancy tips such as a nutrition guide. Not all of the stories, techniques, and beliefs presented in this book will resonate with all readers, but I highly recommend it if you have a lot of birth-related fears or if you are planning on a medication-free birth. There are chapters with practical strategies you may find very useful.
Have you noticed a change in American clothing stores? I didn’t until I read this book by Elizabeth Cline. In the past several decades, clothing in mainstream “department” stores has gotten cheaper and more uniform. But to drive down costs, manufacturers also sacrifice quality, creating a sustainability nightmare and a culture of overstuffed, homogeneous wardrobes. Overdressed traces the history of clothing and shopping habits in America and predicts where our bargain-driven clothing culture will ultimately lead.
This book was interesting, but didn’t keep me engaged the whole way through. I think a more concise article on the topic would have better fit my attention span. But if you are really interested in clothing and social history, it is definitely an intriguing topic.