Books of 2018

Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space by Lynn Sherr
I've known why Sally Ride was famous, but not much more about her beyond some superficial facts I learned in school. I finally picked up her biography and I'm glad I did. She was bi and terrified of losing her job is very conservative NASA found out that her partner was a woman. She was involved in both the Challenger and Columbia investigations, and she went above and beyond to do what was right even when it was hard. In one investigation, it only got solved because Ride leaked information. After space, she advocated for children STEM education, before passing away of cancer at 61. We probably didn't deserve her. Fellow SRE friends, there is a *lot* to learn from her, and I strongly encourage you to read the book.

Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change by Ellen Pao
I learned a lot about what happened at Reddit after reading this book, and I'll admit I was surprised to find out I believed some of what I read about Pao in the news, embarrassed to find out from Pao's book what was false. In hindsight, it should have been obvious. I really admired just how far she pushed and I'm grateful for what she was able to accomplish, even with a losing case. Her book put a lot of the challenges in perspective and is helpful to keep in my mind when you're running out of steam yourself.

Chasing Space: An Astronaut's Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances by Leland Melvin
I was on a bit of an astronaut kick. Leland Melvin, known for having the coolest official astronaut photo of him and his two dogs, accidentally became an NFL player and then an astronaut, so... cool for him. He did recover from an ear injury that nearly disqualified him as an astronaut, and he later was a game show host for a show for kids that I think never aired. But overall cool dude.

One More Thing by BJ Novak
I had been reading a lot of depressing books, so I picked this up. Some stories are humorous, others thought-provoking, and some I just didn't get. It was a nice break, but I don't think I've ever recommended this book to anyone.

I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up For Education and Was Shot By The Taliban
I wanted to read more books by and about women this year. Malala seemed like an obvious choice. If you read this, brace yourself as it opens with her being shot. You'll probably cry. I did. I learned a lot about education in her village, why things like climate and culture made things more challenging, and how to make a bigger impact myself.

No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay
I've been a fan of Sarah's since I saw her TED Talk, and then watched a lot of performances on YouTube. I finally got to see her perform with Phil Kaye in Seattle this year after kicking myself for passing up a chance to see her in college in favor of studying for a class I no longer remember. I've been wanting to work through the rest of her work, and No Matter The Wreckage was a great place to start. I found a lot of new favorites that I hadn't previously seen performed.

All Over The Place: Adventures in Travel, True Love, and Petty Theft by Geraldine DeRuiter
Geraldine DeRuiter is a Seattle author that I've been following on Twitter for quite some time. I finally read her book and cried so hard that I was laughing, and at times cried so hard that I was crying. :) So much of it hit close to home. If you also have a challenging grandmother, enjoy travel, or have had some scary medical procedures, you'll enjoy this book.

Demystifying Public Speaking by Lara Hogan
Lara Hogan is a bit of a role model for me, and I ordered her book when I made a resolution to do more speaking this year. This is a super quick read, but the way it's structured makes it 100% worth having a physical copy. I refer back to it all the time. Most of the stuff seems like common sense in hindsight, but only because of how Lara laid it all out. Grab this if you're trying to get into public speaking more; as Lara points out, you do more speaking than you realize- meeting presentations, stand-up at work, and more. This helps with all of that, even if you don't want to be a conference speaker.

Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song by Sara Bareilles
I listened to this audiobook on a long drive to visit a friend with a tough diagnosis, and I trusted Sara to pick-me-up. She did. I've been a Sara fan since Gravity (which she wrote at 15!?) and it was fun to get a behind-the-scenes look at some things. She procrastinated writing the (short) book by writing two musicals first, and the need to productively procrastinate resonated with me. :) My favorite anecdote was probably about producing Brave, naming the tour after it, and then learning she couldn't reliably hit the high note. She worked her butt off in training to be able to do it before tour. There are a lot of great stories in here, and this book will put a smile on your face, so save it for when you need one.

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
On the way back on the same trip, I listened to Year of Yes, trying to focus on happier books. I've been watching Shonda Rhimes shows since college, and so it seemed a good audiobook for a long drive. Reading a book helped me understand her voice in her shows. No one does a monologue like Rhimes. You also understood why some periods of Grey's were so "dark and twisty." The biggest take away is doing more things that scare you, which for her meant live interviews and public speaking, which I could definitely appreciate.

Thanks For the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen
This book took *months* to read. It was recommended to me a while ago by a (not my) manager at Google after I vented to them about the performance review process. They were right. It was incredibly useful. But it takes a while to read because it calls for a lot of self-reflection, which as we all know, is everyone's *favorite* way to unwind in the evening. So this book was done in pieces, and I found I got a lot out of it. Feedback can suck but the way you react to it doesn't have to, but also you're human and there are ways to process negative or unfair feedback without letting it ruin your whole day.

The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone
The book is among my favorite that I've read this year. I loved it *so much* I gave a lightning talk about it at work.

She's an incredible woman who did a lot of work that wasn't properly recognized. She was groundbreaking for her time, and if you read this, you'll finally get a peek at her brilliance. Obviously you know the outcome of both Worlds Wars, but learning the part she played in both is a really great story and worth reading. The first few chapters sounded so ridiculous that they had to be fiction, but sure enough, sometimes life is stranger than fiction.

You don't need a background in cryptology to understand it. Fagone does a good job making sure you just need to know the alphabet, so don't let that discourage you from reading it.

Never Split The Difference by Chris Voss
The summary is a bit dramatic; negotiation, as the author himself points out, is a useful life skill regardless of whether or not you're a hostage negotiator. That said, this was recommended to me at a local Ops meetup, and I think was the strongest work recommendation of the year. It was immediately applicable, and, as fate should have it, I wish I had read it two weeks earlier in that particular negotiation, but the tail end still benefited from the advice. I like Voss' approach because it echoes a lot of what Thanks For The Feedback gets at- understanding the other side's motivations can be incredibly useful, even when you think those motivations are ill-advised. It also has a cheat sheet so you can practice later.

I wish I had read this in college when negotiating salaries; students, check your libraries.

Just The Funny Parts by Nell Scovell
I didn't realize that Nell Scovell had helped write Lean In; I knew her as the woman behind Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Turns out she also wrote jokes for Obama, scripts for NCIS, and even a few movies that I recognized. I stumbled across this book at Powell's, and I wanted to learn more about writers. Perfect.

It was funny at parts, and crushing at others. I hadn't mentally connected her to the Letterman fiasco either. The book is honest, and I was able to take away some lessons from it that I wasn't expecting. I don't love all of Scovell's views, but I respected the work and effort she put in to survive a male-dominated industry. I also hope future generations have the opportunities to make different choices.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House
by Alyssa Mastromonaco,  Lauren Oyler
Did you ever binge-watch a bunch of episodes of The West Wing and wonder for a second if you could do the job? This can permanently solve that.

It wasn't what I was expecting, but I think it's still a useful read. Sometimes you need a reminder that there is more than one path to a job, that what you want is allowed to change, and that no one has it really figured out from day 1. She covers what it's like to be a woman in the West Wing (that now has a tampon dispenser), how stories were covered in the media, and what it takes to keep a presidential administration running. It's a tough job and it's a good reminder that even well-intended people are human and will mess up in spectacular ways.

A Girl Stands At The Door by Rachel Devlin

This got recommended to me by my local library, and after realizing I couldn't name more than Ruby Bridges involved in desegregation of schools, it seemed like a good topic to finally learn more about.

I understand some of the critiques of this book, such as the author seemingly going out of her way to include a white woman involved in the fight. I agree it felt almost like a non-sequitur. I do think it's good for other white women to see how to get involved and properly lend privilege, but that's not really what the book claimed to be about and it felt like it stole focus so that white women could feel like they historically did their part or something. The rest of book still rightfully heavily showcased those who truly *fought*- like Lucille Bluford. How did no one tell me about her growing up? (I mean, I do know how. But ugh.)

I think it helps folks understand just how emotionally draining this fight was, and helps you connect to the women who were doing the work. We often celebrate the success, but not the journey there. I had no idea about the other court cases involved other than Brown vs Board of Education or that so many of the first plaintiffs were young girls. I can say I did not have a deep understanding of how painful some of the harassment of young students must have been. The journalists involved put a lot on the line, and I had no idea that it was largely driven by black women and girls (but, duh, of course it was). This is worth your worth time if you're someone who had a pretty sanitized education on school desegregation.

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin
I was a Giffin fan after reading one of her short stories in Girls Night Out as a teen, and I have been reading her books ever since. Honestly, sometimes her work infuriates me, and in at least one of her books I was really wondering if she was testing how much you could make an audience hate a character and an ending and still copies. I was beginning to feel like maybe I outgrew her, but this book finally felt like she got it. Her work has evolved over time to be more meaningful and feel less rom-com, and I appreciate that. This is my new favorite. It was timely for the #MeToo discussions, and in classic Giffin fashion, she did a great job explaining the motivations of each side and how they rationalized it to themselves, even if it broke your heart in the process.

Bad Blood by John Carreyou
I remember being a young biomedical engineering major, hearing about Theranos, and wanting Holmes to succeed *so badly*. She was a hero, and I, like the rest of the medical world, was excited about what more continuous monitoring could bring. Hell, I even remember a professor who was pissed that he couldn't figure out how they were possibly doing this. Yeah, well turns out they weren't.

They might have as well titled this "Holy shit" because it's what you say every other chapter. I can't believe Theranos held up the act as long as they did. What's particularly impressive is how long they evaded being independently evaluated. Lying by omission was the key part of their game, and they were brought down with the big help if a new grad who had an ethical backbone. If anything good came out of this story, it's that this is a strong case for teaching ethics in under grad and encourage even those green in their careers to speak up.

Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology by Ellen Ullman
I forget how I stumbled across this. Ellen's collection of essays were conflicting for me, and they gave me a lot to think about, so overall worth the read. I love tech + history, and it was fascinating to learn what's changed and what hasn't, but some parts gave me a gatekeeping vibe, even while she was also complaining about other forms of it.

The best essay was all the preparation for Y2K, and why it was so uneventful. Not because it wasn't a problem, but because of the coordinated efforts to fix things.

Even though it's a personal history, you'll take a lot away from it.

This Is Me by Chrissy Metz

I didn't notice the subtitle and did not expect this to be a mash up between an autobiography and a self-help book. I picked it up because I love This Is Us, and I had heard a bit about Chrissy Metz' rise out of poverty with the show, having less than a dollar in her bank account when she booked the role. Also, my pattern of buying a collection of essays is because I often listen to audiobooks on my commute, as reading on the bus makes me carsick and reading while driving makes me a bad driver.

This stories she shares are great. The advice she gives isn't bad! It was just unexpected. But overall, it's a nice a pick-me-up and Chrissy shares some things that would probably have been good for my teenage self to hear.

Mechanical Failure by Joe Zieja
This was the dumbest book I read this year and I loved every second of it. It made my husband cry-laugh so I finally picked it up, too. It takes digs at men failing up, programmers, bureaucracy, and more. Not intellectual at all.

Empire Falls by Richard Russo
My dad lent me this book ages ago, and I finally got around to finish it. Russo is famous for writing small, blue-collar towns, and I think the general vibe hit a little too close to home. He's very slow to start; 100 pages in I couldn't really describe the plot. The ending by contrast happens incredibly fast. This is later a theme in the book, and I can't tell if that was intentional or not. I'd read another Russo, apparently one is *literally* based on my hometown where Russo used to teach, but overall this felt like a slog to read.

Communication Failure by Joe Zieja
Equally as dumb as Mechanical Failure but still worth the laughs. I plan to read the final book in the series.

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