Holiday Reads 2019

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

The full inside story of the breathtaking rise and shocking collapse of a multibillion-dollar startup, by the prize-winning journalist who first broke the story and pursued it to the end in the face of pressure and threats from the CEO and her lawyers.

In what is basically a really longform newspaper article, Carreyrou tells, in painful detail, the story of how he took down Theranos, the “blood-testing” company. If you aren’t familiar with Theranos or Elizabeth Holmes, go Google it. The short of it is the story of how one woman got away with so many lies and bullshit for so many years it’s almost unbelievable (but believe it, because America). If you’re looking for a manual on how not to manage people or develop a product, this is all you’ll ever need. Reading this honestly felt kind of exhausting because Holmes got away with so much and for so long that it just read like a list of sins instead of a narrative (which is Holmes’ fault, not Carreyrou’s). I still enjoyed this though. It has some shock value for sure, and it’s an ongoing story (Holmes is only 35), so you can count it in your “keep up with current events” resolution for 2020.

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

A 20th-century LGBTQ+ classic in which a young woman takes a road trip with an older suburban housewife in the throes of divorce. Carol is the more-recognized movie version.

As far as the story goes, I didn’t enjoy this much until the second half of the book. Carol was so ridiculously rude to Therese in the beginning I had trouble getting invested in their relationship because I didn’t understand how Therese could put up with it. I’m glad I stuck it out though, because it ended up nicely, and I realized the first half was important with regards to Therese’s relationship with her then-boyfriend. It was written in the 50s, so it’s a bit of a different writing style than I am used to, but I’m really glad this exists for those who need it and can 100% see how this has been a catalyst for books like Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

The riveting, powerful memoir of the woman whose statement to Brock Turner gave voice to millions of survivors.

I cannot express how much I loathe having to contextualize Chanel Miller by her rapist, because she is orders of magnitude more amazing than him and than what happened to her. I really don’t even have words for this memoir. If you haven’t yet, go read this now. Put it on the top of your TBR. Chanel is an incredible, evocative writer. She pulls you into every single detail of her experience, not just of where we all know her from, but of her exploration of her identity and her art and her family ties. She is a gifted storyteller, and not just on paper. She is a spoken word artist, a comedian, a cartoonist, and now an advocate for sexual assault survivors everywhere. Read this and read it soon. That is all I have to say.

Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

From award-winning New Yorker staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe, a stunning, intricate narrative about a notorious killing in Northern Ireland and its devastating repercussions.

I’ll be honest – I misunderstood the back cover copy initially, thinking this was a basic true-crime book about a mysterious murder and simply set during “the Troubles.” It’s really more of a narrative history of the IRA that begins and ends with the true-crime scenario billed on the back. The woman written about in the synopsis, Jean McConville, is not really the protagonist – Dolours Price and other prominent IRA leaders feature insetad. Once I realized this, I really enjoyed this book. It was well-written and absolutely fascinating. I had heard of the Troubles before, but had no idea how very recent it all was. It’s not long-gone history by any means. In fact, I found this so interesting that when I finished the book I immediately went and watched the documentary I, Dolours (available on Hulu) just to find out more about her. This was a fantastic read.

The Girl From the Garden by Parnaz Foroutan

A suspenseful debut novel of desire, obsession, power, and vulnerability, in which a crisis of inheritance leads to the downfall of a wealthy family of Persian Jews in early twentieth-century Iran.

If you’re ever looking for just a really sad read, here you go. This was a super quick read; I think I read it in a few evenings, if that. It’s is ultimately about how we as humans measure a woman’s worth and how that affects everyone around us, especially the women, who have historically borne the brunt. It’s not really a happy ending, which isn’t a spoiler if you live on planet earth. Read this one for sure, but save it for a time when you’re feeling emotionally strong because it might leave you in pieces otherwise.

Girls and Sex by Peggy Orenstein

A contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and the New York Times best-selling author of books like Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Orenstein spoke to psychologists, academics, and other experts in the field and yes, 70 young women, to offer an in-depth picture of “girls and sex” today.

This is exactly what the synopsis says it is – an incredibly well-researched picture of girls and sex today. And it was really awesome information – not always awesome for the girls who were experiencing it, but so vital for us all to understand. I want every woman I know to read this, honestly. Some of the interviews with girls made me feel less alone in some of the things I’ve experienced. When it comes to sex ed, my view is the more information the better, and this book is a fantastic place to start in order to understand how girls experience sex. Orenstein’s other books on sex will be high on my list to read next.