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The Nudist on the Late Shift: And Other True Tales of Silicon Valley Paperback – May 2, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (May 2, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767906039
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767906036
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,226,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Perhaps more than anywhere else, Silicon Valley in the latter part of the 20th century has come to represent the essence of the American dream. Its economy has resembled the various rushes and booms of the 1800s. The Valley is a unique place in a unique time, where just about anyone with a good idea, an aptitude for hard work, and a boatload of luck has a chance to make it big--really big. In The Nudist on the Late Shift, Po Bronson intends to capture the spirit of the Valley, leading us through a series of vignettes that takes us from a "near brush with sudden wealth" to a $400 million buyout; from life on the edge with a group of Java programmers to the plight of a futurist writer with the looming deadline for a 9,000-word article. For Bronson, the appeal of the Valley is this:
Every generation that came before us had to make a choice in life between pursuing a steady career and pursuing wild adventures. In Silicon Valley, that trade-off has been recircuited. By injecting mind-boggling risk into the once stodgy domain of gray-suited business, young people no longer have to choose. It's a two-for-one deal: the career path has become an adventure into the unknown.
Like Tracy Kidder's Soul of a New Machine, what makes Bronson's book work is a talent for narrative. He presents compelling stories about those who make it--for example, Ben Chiu (Killerapp.com, C/NET) and Sabeer Bhatia (Hotmail)--as well as those whom we'll never hear of again: the database salesman working on the "hockey stick" at the close of the quarter and the "kiss-ass entrepreneur" who's taken up COBOL programming to make ends meet. The Nudist on the Late Shift is for anyone who has wondered what life on the modern frontier is like--and for those who are already there, the reflection might be revealing. --Harry C. Edwards --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Having satirized Silicon Valley in his novel The First $20 Million Is Always the Hardest, Bronson now turns a much rosier eye on the pulsing heart of the information age. As Bronson examines the pursuit of high-tech entrepreneurial glory, his method recalls the way Robert Altman's Nashville gave moviegoers a sense of the chase for country music stardomAexcept there's very little pathos here and a lot of blue sky. Though he dutifully presents the long odds facing the would-be founders of the next Yahoo!, Bronson thrills to the culture of the Valley because he believes it fuses the often contradictory desires for security and adventure. "By injecting mind-boggling amounts of risk into the once stodgy domain of gray-suited business, young people no longer have to choose. It's a two-for-one deal: the career path has become the adventure into the unknown." Bronson clearly likes the wild-eyed optimists and masters of uncertainty he profiles. There's Sabeer Bhatia, the Indian-born founder of Hotmail, who established a company and, against the advice of more experienced heads, rejected several buyout offers from Bill Gates until Microsoft paid $400 million for Hotmail. There's the exec who let Bronson be a fly on the wall during the ulcer-inducing process of steering a company through an IPO. And there are the talented programmers, many of whom, though not yet 30, have Ancient Mariner-like tales of rejecting stock optionsAand thus forfeiting millionsAin companies that were bought or went public. Bronson is tuned in to the quirks of both personality and culture. His prose, often funny, maintains impressive velocity and is well suited to the manic life of the Valley and its colorful menagerie of characters. (July)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman's NurtureShock was on the New York Times bestseller list for six months. One of the most influential books about children ever published, NurtureShock landed on more than 35 "Year's Best" lists and has been translated into 16 languages. The authors have won nine national awards for their reporting, including the PEN USA Award for Literary Journalism and the American Association for the Advancement of Science Award for Outstanding Journalism.

Prior to their collaboration, Bronson authored five books, including What Should I Do with My Life?, a #1 New York Times bestseller with more than ten months on the list. He has been on Oprah, on every national morning show, and on the cover of five magazines, including Wired and Fast Company. His first novel, Bombardiers, was a #1 bestseller in the United Kingdom. His books have been translated into 20 languages. Po speaks regularly at colleges and community "town hall" events. He is a founder of The San Francisco Writer's Grotto, a cooperative workspace for writers and filmmakers. He also serves as volunteer president of the San Francisco Vikings Youth Soccer League. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children.

Customer Reviews

If that's too profound, then think of it as just a fun book from an engrossing story teller.
J. G. Heiser
To overcome this hurdle, the book is therefore divided into chapters, each focusing on a particular niche like the programmers, the salespeople, the futurists etc.
Patrik Öster
They are hoping for that one break, which will write them into history and make them "so much money that they never have to make money again".
Michael Gering

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Marina Streznewski on July 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love Po Bronson's writing -- really I do. Every time I see an article in Wired with his byline, I devour it. His descriptions, particularly those of the people involved, crystallize a wide range of details into focused and evocative prose. His characters are exceptionally memorable.
Which is the problem.
Most of the essays in Nudist appeared in similar form as articles in Wired. I know this because the details in those articles stuck with me. I remember the lady with emphysema and her gift for closing software sales. I remember George Gilder's knee swelling because of his caffeine-fueled excess on a hotel treadmill. I remember Danny Hillis. And on it goes.
For someone who has not read all of the Wired articles, this book is great fun. Bronson's skill with details places the reader right smack in the middle of the chaos that is Silicon Valley. You can practically smell the hot asphalt.
But if you are a regular Bronson reader, save your money. I wish I'd known ... but who can deny a guy a way to make a quick buck on work that's already done?
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By David C Carrithers on March 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
What an excellent book. A fast read. It was fun to read and get an inside glimpse of the new business environment taking shape in the "valley of the e-Titians!" Po Bronson' style of writing invites the reader to stay and enjoy. His choice of words, stories and metaphors is very enlighten and imaginative. Anyone wanting to get a feel for how the world of venture capitalist, start-ups, the Internet and the truly unique characters that exist in the technology valley of California must read this book. If you have a start up in your mind, read this book first. It will help you get a sense of the required commitment and creativity to be successful in the web technology world of today.
One of the greatest surprises was how the book was broken out, by the different types of business people in the "dot.com" world - i.e. the start-up, the IPO, the drop out, etc. It is a great book to use as a learning tool. It should be required reading in College business classes on setting up an Internet business.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Bronson doesn't seem to have much of a desire to penetrate the multiple layers of hype and expose what's underneath. Instead, he seems quite content to lap up whatever his favored VC buddies dish out to him, and is just grateful for the opportunity to be part of the scene. His writing has that annoying Wired hipsterish feel to it. It's a good thing he got this book out when he did, because the new Michael Lewis book totally blows it away. If you thought Po had any depth at all, reading Lewis's book will cure you of that misconception.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Steven B. on January 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
By way of profiles of a dozen or so people, this book chronicles the so-called dot com boom in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1990s. It was an exciting time for the computer industry. Venture capitalists were throwing money every which way, and even a paltry idea could make someone with computer know-how quite rich.

I found this book fascinating for all the wrong reasons. I picked it up in a used book bin for a couple of dollars and devoured it, marveling that people used to live this way.

Bronson describes a handful of self-styled entrepreneurs. Reading this book, it's easy to see why the dot com bubble burst. None of these people are particularly interesting to anyone whose interests don't lie in the computer field. They are all single-minded: they like computers and, even more so, they like money.

The author seems enamored of the Silicon Valley, but reading his account, you wonder why. There is no community in the Silicon Valley. The subjects of this book toil away at their computer projects without any regard for the life around them or the community they live in.

I would glady read a sequel to this book. It would make fascinating reading if Bronson were to look up the subjects of this book and find out what they are up to now. Did they learn anything from the dot com demise? Has their narrow outlook on the world expanded any?

These questions could well be asked of the author as well. This is an insular little book, but a fascinating record of the times.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 4, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I knew that Po did not truly understand silicon valley when he tried to say that San Francisco is part of the valley.
According to Po, everyone in the valley is on mega doses of coffee, have no friends and have no life outside of work.
I live in the valley, and work in a former start-up company and I will admit some of the things in the book are worth reading, but most of the stories are over-cliched.
I was on a 10 hour flight and I found it was better to watch the clouds than continue with the book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mark U. Chadwick on November 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Having read several reviews complaining about lack of accuracy in a few small areas, I felt compelled to write this review. Granted I have only recently moved to the Valley, but reading The Nudist on the Late Shift primed me for what was in store. The main focus book, like that of the Valley, was on the technology industry. Since that is my chosen field this book had particular relevance to me. The story detailing the lives of several new migrants to the Bay Area and that of the experienced software consultants were not only accurate reflections of the way things can be here, but also managed to be truly entertaining. I would heartily recommend this book for anyone in the technology industry or those who are thinking of moving to the Valley. Well done, Po.
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