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The Nudist on the Late Shift: And Other True Tales of Silicon Valley [Paperback]

Po Bronson
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 2 2000
As a novelist and writer for Wired and other publications, Po Bronson has earned a reputation as the most exciting and authentic literary voice to emerge from Silicon Valley. In his national bestseller The Nudist on the Late Shift he tells the true story of the mostly under-thirty entrepreneurs and tech wizards, immigrants and investors, dreamers and visionaries, who see the Valley as their Mecca. Taking us inside the world of these newcomers, brainiacs, salespeople, headhunters, utopians, plutocrats, and innovators as they transform our culture, The Nudist on the Late Shift is a defining portrait of a new generation in the whirl of an information revolution and an international gold rush.

Po Bronson is the author of two novels and one book of nonfiction. Bombardiers, a dark satire of high finance, was an international bestseller that was translated into twelve languages. The First $20 Million Is Always the Hardest, soon to be a feature film from 20th Century Fox, is a comedy of Silicon Valley.  His third bestseller, The Nudist on the Late Shift and Other True Tales of Silicon Valley, demonstrates that Bronson's wit and imagination apply as well to nonfiction as to fiction.

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From Amazon

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Not terribly interesting March 17 2004
The first few chapters were compelling, humorous and downright thoughtful. After that, the format became a bit tired. The characters portrayed here are homogenized to the point that you find the same story repeating itself, over and over. It just became boring after a while. Read the first two or three chapters and enjoy. From there, proceed with caution.
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I enjoyed this book; I liked the way Bronson chose the themes for each Chapter, such as The Enterpreneurs, The Programmers, The Salespeople etc. It did show both how many of the people in Silicon Valley 'live on another planet', and it also showed how they've transformed this planet for many of the rest of us.
I particularly enjoyed the Chapter dedicated to the IPO of Actuate, not just because I'm an Actuate customer, but because until now I hadn't fully understood how IPO's happen, and now I feel I do (that Chapter in isolation would have rated a 5 from me).
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4.0 out of 5 stars Now a Good Historical Account May 1 2003
The economic and cultural situation in the San Francisco area around the turn of the 21st century has been described as being similar to that of the 1850's gold rush in the same area. Now that the boom is over, Po Bronson's book is just as entertaining as Mark Twain's tales of the gold rush days. As another "one who was there", I recognize the heady atmosphere, the excesses that seemed reasonable at the time, the temerity with which a bold few reached out to grab everything they could.
One anecdote early in the book really hits home with me. Bronson mentions an article about Siebel Systems, one of the darling stocks of the 1999-2000 boom. He relates how, after the article first appeared, he received an e-mail from a Siebel employee about how working for the company was ruining his life. When I read the book, I was working for Siebel Systems and its stock was flying high. I laughed at Bronson's story. A year later, working for Siebel had ruined my life, and I left the company in early 2001...
That's just the perspective of one disillusioned employee of one company, but the same story was repeated all throughout Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley, and the rest of the dot-com universe. This book gives you a great picture of life during the boom. For the "after" picture, just look at today's headlines.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Like Visiting a Museum Oct. 28 2002
'The Nudist on the Late Shift' is an above average commentary on life before/during the birth of the dotcom. This book includes numerous stories about life in Silicon Valley - the Shangra-La of geekdom. It was written during the boom period of the valley. Being a geek myself, I read the book a couple of years ago. It has some very humerous and interesting stories. Those in the software or computer profession, will probably relate to this book the best. Or maybe if you're not in the computer field, it will provide a slightly skewed glimpse into the industry.
Po's 'The First $20 Million is Always the Hardest', a novel, is a better example of his work, and Cringely's 'Accidental Empires' is a better read on Silicon Valley.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good book Oct. 19 2002
I felt this was a fairly interesting and relevant story. It seems that Bronson is trying to perform in the shadow of Michael Lewis and unfortunately finds himself as a second fiddle.
Although Bronson is a second rate author in this genre, I have to credit him for coming up with intriguing information and exciting first hand accounts of slithery success.
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3.0 out of 5 stars So where is the nudist after all...? Nov. 1 2001
By Jeremy
Well I'l leave that for you to figure out as to who and where the nudist is but I had fun reading this book. Being one of the techie myself in the bay area but not a dotcom-er it was interesting to read the inside scoop on the wheeling and dealings of some of the cyber companies. The insider IPO tale of one of them is downright amazing. The ending is kinda blah and Po lingers forever on that stupid clock story.
I think people who have not experienced the valley-phenomena yet would find this book even more amusing since the locals tend to take a lot of things for g-r-a-n-t-e-d!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Book that stands up in Internet Time Sept. 18 2001
For an industry that moves as fast as it does and for a stock market that is even more fickle you would think this book would only be relavant fow a month or two after its release. However, I did not read it until this past June and found it to be a great look into a certain place that will still exist after the hype is long gone.
Bronson's writing makes for a quick read and yes while it is true that there is not much in the way of technical detail in here, I never thought that would be in this book. If you want to technical stuff read a programming manual.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It's just like being there Feb. 12 2001
This is a very good book. Po Bronson presents us a collection of stories that really gives the reader an insightful view of Sillicon Valley. A friend of mine who works in Sillicon Valley said that it describes the culture perfectly.
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