An immensely readable account of America’s wild cauldron of innovation.




An oral history of Silicon Valley.

Wired contributor Fisher, who grew up in the valley, debuts with an exhaustive gathering of the voices of the nerds, hippies, engineers, hackers, scientists, weirdos, and tech billionaires who invented the American future—from personal computers and video games to Google and Facebook—over several generations in the northern San Francisco Bay area. Based on more than 200 interviews and bristling with facts, personalities, and gossip, his inside account brings to life the “future obsessed and forward thinking” culture that gave life to our current digitized world. “Ready or not, computers are coming to the people,” Stewart Brand told Rolling Stone in 1972. Already, Atari’s Nolan Bushnell was creating video games, and the blending of hacker- and counter-culture was fostering a new popular culture among bright 20-somethings. Providing just enough context, Fisher wisely allows interviewees to tell their stories: of the pioneering Xerox PARC and Apple’s Macintosh; of the virtual community the WELL and the short-lived General Magic (with its early iPhone); of Pixar Netscape and the eBay experiment. In the mid-1990s, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin “looked like a bunch of kids…screwing around,” says Deadhead Charlie Ayers, their chef. Throughout the narrative, we meet shoeless programmers and watch water-gun fights; attend wild parties and hacker conferences; witness the inception of innumerable startups; and hear debates on everything from power to the people to IPOs as a stream of entrepreneurs, including Twitter’s “nose-ring-wearing, tattooed, neck-bearded, long-haired punk hippie misfits,” recall the beginnings of the cyberculture. There is much nostalgia: “We were younger then, and we thought it would go on forever,” says Buck’s Restaurant owner Jamis MacNiven, of the pre–dot-com crash days. While focusing on the valley’s cultural influence, this colorful history also describes emblematic moments from the lives of ambitious movers and shakers, including long walks with Apple’s Steve Jobs and young Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s famous party exclamation: “Domination!”

An immensely readable account of America’s wild cauldron of innovation.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4555-5902-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.


An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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