The year of reading female

At the end of 2018 I reviewed my reading list and was ashamed to find it all too male. Roughly three-quarters (!) of the books I read in 2018 were written by men. Coincidentally, that is right on par with how male most engineering teams in tech are, which is likewise embarrassing. And similarly I could explain it as a lack of intentionality, something that just happened in the natural course of taking recommendations from friends, looking at bestseller lists and public accolades, but in the end I’m still missing out by not reading more from female and generally more diverse authors.

As it’s now Women’s History Month, it’s a convenient time to check in on my reading for 2019, which is thus far 100% female authors and an excellent crop of books. Not to belabor the analogies to diversity and inclusion elsewhere, but I’ve found the overall caliber and resonance of these books higher than an average selection from my past reads. Perhaps I’ve held the bar higher, or perhaps women just have to be better to make it in a world that stacks everything against us. Regardless, as a reader I’m enjoying it.

Hot Milk, Deborah Levy ⭐⭐⭐
I think I might have enjoyed this book as beach reading on a lazy European summer holiday, but it felt a little too literary for me. 

The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin ⭐⭐⭐
Was hoping to like this more, but science fiction is always very hit or miss for me, so I’m not that surprised. I do always appreciate how science fiction holds up a mirror to current society, and I find the writing of female authors in SF/F to be particularly illuminating in that capacity. 

So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I’d had my eye on this book for a while but held off on reading it because I’m already so emotionally exhausted from diversity and inclusion work that I needed to muster the energy to delve into a book on this subject. It’s a fantastically practical guide and I found it both reassuring from the perspective of someone who is often stuck in the job of trying to gently educate those who do not want to see privilege, and also discomfiting, in a good way, in the reminders of areas where I still have plenty of room for growth myself. 

Conversations with Friends, Sally Rooney ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The New Yorker calls Sally Rooney the “first great millennial novelist for her stories of love and late capitalism”. I am inclined to agree. I adored this book. 

(I first started hearing buzz about Sally Rooney, who is an Irish author, when I was in the UK, and I regret not picking up her second book, Normal People, while I was still there, as the US imprint isn’t out yet. One more month!)

Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I finally get all the Mr. Darcy references! Regency English is a little slow to read, but Jane Austen writes some of the most delicious, wittiest dialogue I’ve ever seen. I think she would kill it on Twitter if she were around today. I aspire to her level of snapback. 

Shrill, Lindy West ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Funny but not light. I particularly appreciated her writing on fat acceptance, which is an area I am not as well-versed in, and on online harassment and dealing with trolls, which is an area I am unfortunately well-versed in. 

Small Fry, Lisa Brennan-Jobs ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
This was a beautiful, heart-wrenching memoir. It’s so exquisitely written it made me long to be a writer, that I could capture memories and stories and the essence of people and place with such deftness. One of the best books I’ve read in a long time. 

Women & Power, Mary Beard ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Short, punchy. Mary Beard is a historian  and her references to women in Greek mythology were a nice tee-up to the next book on my list. 

Circe, Madeline Miller ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
An extremely engaging feminist re-telling of the story of the Greek goddess, who I’d previously only known as the one who turns Odysseus’s men into pigs. I want to say this book “humanized” her, though that’s not right; perhaps what I mean is that she is relatable, when we can see her full story, and from her point of view. Some reviews called this book subversive, which to me that suggests that the forever male-dominant version of history and mythology is the “real” one, and this is deviant. Bleh, but I guess that’s the point, right? History has always been written by men, sympathetic to the male protagonists, at best dismissive of and at worst horribly misogynistic to female characters. 

Useful Phrases for Immigrants, May-lee Chai ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This book of short stories was so wonderfully resonant for me as a Bay Area Asian-American, both in the story arcs and in the little details. 

I loved passages like this: “Anping pursed her lips as though she were sucking on a sour plum pit, weighing a new complaint. Every night it was something else. The Ranch 99 no longer carried her favorite brand of dried cuttlefish, the price of eggs was too high, the Kumon in the strip mall had a waiting list.” The sour plum pit description is perfect. Ranch 99, the NorCal way of saying it — not 99 Ranch, as they say in SoCal. I have a favorite brand of dried cuttlefish too, the one I remember from childhood, and I still look for it when I’m in Chinese grocery stores. And Kumon! I finished the whole math program and my first job was grading math worksheets at Kumon. 

Is this what white people feel like when they can identify with all the references in the literature they read? 

The Private Lives of the Impressionists, Sue Roe ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Back in January I happened upon a lovely Impressionism exhibit at the National Gallery in London. In the temporary exhibit, plus the permanent collection, was a highlight reel of representative works from all of that early group: Monet’s water lilies, Manet with scenes of the Seine, Degas and his dancers, Pissarro painting Montmartre, Cézanne’s card players, Renoir’s studies of women. (I will never stop marveling at how much culture is accessible in London!) It inspired me to pick up this group biography of the Impressionists. I’m glad I did. I now want to go back to London and see all those paintings again, as well as to visit Paris and bask in the wide boulevards and parks of Haussmann’s renovation that were the setting for this group of friends making art history. 

New and Selected Poems, Volume One, Mary Oliver ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
I love the simple, clean lyricism of Mary Oliver’s poetry. My copy of this book is all marked up with pencilled underlines of my favorite lines, so many unusual, captivating descriptions of scenes from nature: “the snails on the pink sleds of their bodies”, “the red thumbs of the raspberries”, “the kale’s puckered sleeve”. I rarely buy physical books but this is one I’ll keep around. 

One last diversity observation: I’m sad to report I somehow fell into the trap of mostly white women and Western/Euro-centric world first, though there is some diversity along other dimensions (like genre: literary fiction, science fiction, Greek mythology/historical fiction, short stories, political/social science non-fiction, memoirs, art history, poetry; and age: authors living and passed, amongst the present-day Sally Rooney is 28, Mary Beard 64). Fortunately I still have nine and a half months to make amends, and next I shall work to line my virtual bookshelf with more writers of color. I might even think about including some token men, but I think they’ll be fine without my readership and patronage.

[Update, April and onwards] For convenience, I’ll keep tracking my year’s reading here. Happy to report that since March I have done much better on finding a more diverse set of authors whose work to enjoy. It’s been easier to find strong fiction recommendations than non-fiction while also filtering on female/non-binary and non-white, and I’ve been seeking escapism anyways, so my reading is skewing literary vs. “practical” or “educational”.

Three Daughters of Eve, Elif Shafak ⭐⭐⭐⭐

An easy read, flipping between the events of one evening in present-day Turkey and the protagonist’s college years at Oxford. Interesting themes around Islam and feminism. According to one review, Elif Shafak is the number one best-selling novelist in her native Turkey; she writes in both Turkish and English and is quite well-received for her fiction as well as her other writing, which leans towards the activist. 

Life on Mars, Tracy K. Smith ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Pulitzer Prize-winning book of poetry by the most recent United States Poet Laureate, a Black woman whose father was an engineer on the Hubble Space Telescope. Dreamy and cosmic, but also grounded in everyday earthly life, Smith’s poetry presents the particular kind of focus on our own existence that only comes from a telescopic lens on the expanse of the universe. 

The Upside of Stress, Kelly McGonigal ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Quick, straightforward read with highly relevant takeaways for a generally stressed out population: We are taught that stress is a bad thing, but the scientific underpinnings of our pop culture understanding of stress are questionable. Worse, our belief that stress is bad for us becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Luckily, that also means that mindset interventions can be very effective. Reframing our perspective on stress as something that is good and productive can actually make it so in our lives. 

Given that this is a non-fiction, science book, it was not one where I necessarily anticipated the identity (and specifically, the gender) of the author to be significant. Not in the way, say, that personal experience forms a palette of details that a novelist might paint their exposition with. But there were numerous places throughout the book that I noted the relevance of a female scientist perspective; for example, in experiment design and research analysis that did not consider a difference in female and male subjects, and inappropriately over-generalized male responses to both genders. 

Chemistry, Weike Wang ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The deadpan narration of a high-achieving Asian-American female graduate student’s anxiety about her work, her relationship, her family, her self-worth, and her future. Her anxiety stands out in even starker relief when she does the compare and contrast with her white American boyfriend, who has a wholesome Midwestern family and a clear life path. The writing is crisp and excellent and I found the story eminently relatable. 

Severance, Ling Ma ⭐⭐⭐

Zombie apocalypse fiction, unusual in that it features a Chinese-American female protagonist, and also thus unusually resonant with me, especially given the setting of the story in New York City. Apart from that, though, not my preferred style of fiction. 

Normal People, Sally Rooney ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

One of the books I’ve most anticipated reading, and it did not disappoint. I liked Normal People even more than Conversations with Friends; Rooney’s exposition of millennial concerns about relationships, social status, and wealth, is standout. 

The Friend, Sigrid Nunez ⭐⭐⭐

Well-written and skillfully executed second-person narrative, the story of a student turned friend who wanted more. I thought the book had great literary merit but it wasn’t a story that spoke to me. 

In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Historical fiction about the brave revolutionary Mirabal sisters of the Dominican Republic; one who lived, three who didn’t. 

Kindred, Octavia Butler ⭐⭐⭐⭐

There’s that darkly funny bit about time machines by disgraced comic Louis CK: “Here’s how great it is to be white — I can get into a time machine and go to any time and it would be fuckin’ awesome when I get there! That is exclusively a white privilege! Black people can’t fuck with time machines. A black guy in a time machine is like, ‘Hey anything before 1980, no thank you, I don’t wanna go.'” 

Without deliberating much on the mechanics of the time travel, Kindred unceremoniously drops its protagonist, a Black woman from the late 1900s, in the antebellum South, taking with her the present-day reader back to confront American slave history and the psychology and persistence of racism and inequality, as well. 

Heart Berries, Terese Marie Mailhot ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

One of those memoirs that reads like fiction, from First Nation Canadian writer Terese Marie Mailhot. It is troubled, haunting, telling of intergenerational trauma, addiction and abuse and violence in the family and the community, a chronicle that she begins writing during her own institutionalization at a mental hospital. 

The Power, Naomi Alderman ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The wordplay and double meaning of the title capture the book well: In this work of speculative fiction, at first adolescent girls, then women, develop the ability to shoot electricity from their bodies, such that they become the dominant gender and the ones with the position and ability to abuse their power, literal and figurative. I found The Power extremely thought provoking as a novel-length version of the sexism test to invert the genders in a situation to consider whether it is problematic (hi, @manwhohasitall). As for the plot, character development, and writing generally, I thought they were just okay, but certainly serviceable. 

Whereas, Layli Long Soldier ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

An extraordinarily creative collection of poetry by a Oglala Lakota poet. The title references the conjunctive adverb that introduces pompous proclamations and legal disclaimers, appropriate to the many agreements that have shaped Native American compromises and reservation life in the United States. 

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love, Dani Shapiro ⭐⭐⭐

Topic: What the title says. It was a decent read, and I could imagine it being spectacular for people working through questions about genealogy and family, but it didn’t have any strong resonance for me with my background and for where I am in my life. 

An American Marriage, Tayari Jones ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

All the Single Ladies, Rebecca Traister ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Maybe my new Bible. As I was reading it, I found myself wanting to underline every sentence. It was a very thorough examination of the history and sociology of single and unmarried women. I credit this book as the third and final step of my conversion from perpetually anxious about relationship status and lack of progression towards marriage as critical life milestone, to gloriously delighted about being single, free, and unfettered. (For the curious: The first step was ending an emotionally abusive relationship with a sociopath, and the second was getting my eggs frozen.) 

Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, Lori Gottlieb ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

All the Names They Used for God: Stories, Anjali Sachveda ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Short stories with a delicate touch of magical realism. 

Seeing People Off, Jana Beňová ⭐⭐⭐

I picked up this book because I was visiting Bratislava, Slovakia, and wanted a taste of local fiction. Nothing exceptional, though I did enjoy the descriptions of the city as I got to know it in real life: “Bratislava. A city that forces you to pounce on something, just as it has pounced on you.” “It’s a small city. The minute you start off, you’ve already got most of it behind you.” “The city was lit with matte light and only tourists and freaks moved through the empty streets.” 

The Piano Teacher, Elfriede Jelinek ⭐⭐⭐

Another geo-located read, because I was transiting through Vienna from Bratislava back to London. This is the book that the critically acclaimed erotic psychological thriller of the same name is based on. It is a deeply disturbing tale of a middle-aged woman, a piano teacher at the conservatory, who is repressed and tormented by her overbearing mother; she finds escape in secret visits to the porn cinema, and masochistic self-injury. Then there is a handsome young student who seduces her, or she seduces him, it’s ambiguous, and they have a destructive and short-lived illicit affair. Not my favorite type of reading but I suppose it’s good in the way that people find Lolita good. I also appreciated that music and music institutions are important in the book and not merely incidental, since I was specifically seeking a story set in Vienna, and music is so integral a part of the city’s history and identity that it is known as the City of Music.

Rage Becomes Her, Soraya Chemaly ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is the number one book on my required reading list for a potential partner, since I am attracted to men (obviously not by choice) and men typically participate in the weight of the patriarchy and misogyny crushing me and my fellow women in this world. It was empowering to be reassured that I indeed should be angry, because there is injustice, my rage is an acknowledgement of that injustice, and its seething power is also a demand for change. 

Chocolat, Joanne Harris ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A light read that I chose for its setting in rural France, inspired by the couple days I spent in the countryside outside Paris at Fontenay-Trésigny for a developer conference-festival. This is the book that the movie Chocolat is based on. I liked it for its traces of magic and female, witchy impudence against the misogynistically hostile powers of religion and marriage. 

Beauty Sick, Renee Engeln ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Another must-read for potential partners. This one is number two on the list. It talks about how societal and cultural obsession with women’s appearance is a sickness, an epidemic even, and about the cost to women of constant body monitoring. How can we scheme to tear down the patriarchy when we’re all using our brainpower to count calories? I liked that there was an actionable takeaway at the end: Instead of worrying about how we look, a framing which positions our bodies as objects to be judged, we should focus on what our bodies can do, we are the subjects, we are the ones doing things (shoutout Outdoor Voices tagline), we have agency and power. 

No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference, Greta Thunberg ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A short collection of speeches by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. Like the Parkland High gun control activists, she is remarkably compelling in her youth and sounding a clarion call to action. If you don’t yet feel the urgency of the impending, self-induced destruction of our world, please read this book. 

Three Women, Lisa Taddeo ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Non-fiction, about female pleasure. The author spent almost a decade criss-crossing the States interviewing women for this book and in the end selected three women whose stories she told in surprising sexual detail. Spoiler alert: The kicker for me, at the very end of the book, was that the one woman whose life seemed so effortlessly sexy and perfectly fulfilling… really just longed for her husband to pitch in on household chores. 

LaRose, Louise Erdrich ⭐⭐⭐⭐

How Long Til Black Future Month?, N.K. Jemisin ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

The Song of AchillesMadeline Miller ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Trick Mirror, Jia Tolentino ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls, Carrie Goldberg ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Internet is a terrible thing if someone wants to ruin your life. I know this firsthand, and so does Carrie Goldberg, who’s a lawyer fighting back against revenge porn and online abuse. 

Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I loved this book. I picked it up randomly while wandering through the English language section of a bookstore in Dubrovnik as I was avoiding the Game of Thrones tour groups. I sat down on a stool in the shop and couldn’t stop reading. It’s a very loose re-telling of the story of Rumpelstiltskin with a girl who “spins” silver. Great especially for people who like the fantasy genre. 

Outline, Rachel Cusk ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Well-written but kind of floating and intangible. The descriptions of Mediterranean summer brought me back to my last sun-drenched vacation on the sparkling Adriatic, but there wasn’t much plot or character to hang onto.  

She Said, Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China, Fuschia Dunlop ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was both a lovely and loving travel memoir, a very tasteful chronicle of the British author’s embrace of Chinese culture and food.   

The Testaments, Margaret Atwood ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

My Sister, The Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Beekeeper of Aleppo, Christy Lefteri ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Know My Name, Chanel Miller ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Female Persuasion, Meg Wolitzer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, T Kira Madden ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Nine Pints, Rose George ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind, Barbara K. Lipska ⭐⭐⭐

Chasing the Sun, Linda Geddes ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Red at the Bone, Jacqueline Woodson ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Brit(ish), Afua Hirsch ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Dominicana, Angie Cruz ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Ensemble, Aja Gabel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Disappearing Earth, Julia Phillips ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

An Unkindness of Ghosts, Rivers Solomon ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Invested, Danielle Town & Phil Town ⭐⭐⭐⭐

How to Date Men When You Hate Men, Blythe Roberson ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Night Tiger, Yangsze Choo ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Ghost Bride, Yangsze Choo ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Your library makes our small corner of the world feel big

I’m back in San Francisco now after two and a half years away. It’s so trendy now to hate on the city that I’m reluctant to jump on that train, and I had really hoped it might pleasantly surprise me, that I might be able to find a fresh appreciation for it after being away, but it has been a rough adjustment back.

For the time being, I’m staying in Noe Valley, so perfectly pleasant with its stroller-friendly sidewalks and pastel-colored Victorians, and yet—in a word, the word that clings to my every attempt to describe how it feels to be in San Francisco again, after time in New York, London, abroad—it feels so provincial.

Every morning as I wander my way towards 24th Street for coffee, feeling the neighborhood starting to wake up, I think of Belle’s opening lines from Beauty and the Beast:

Little town, it’s a quiet village
Every day like the one before
Little town, full of little people
Waking up to say,
Bonjour! Bonjour!
Bonjour! Bonjour! Bonjour!

And as she continues through the town, the refrain:

There must be more than this provincial life!

Not that I particularly needed reason to read more, but being a bookworm of a child I always loved that Belle finds her escape through reading, and I am again inspired to take that approach in adjusting to my life back again in this tech monocultural filter bubble materialized as a city.

Today I stopped by the neighborhood bookstore and picked up a collection of poetry, a beautiful selection of works from the late Mary Oliver. And it is everything, just so; lovely, simple, pure, love letters to nature, existence, life. I’ve been hiding inside all day, recovering from a dull headache of exhaustion and weariness, but her words are such a breath of encouragement for keeping that sense of curiosity and wonder towards the world:

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

What is it like to move from New York City to London?

Crossposted from Quora.

I lived in New York City for two years, from October 2016 to 2018, before moving to London a few months ago. I also spent substantial time in London prior to moving. Overall, it’s an easy move, as the cities are quite similar in being modern, diverse, cosmopolitan capitals. I am finding London more delightful since I am still new here and I like being an expat, but I do miss the energy of NYC. (Definitely not the endless honking and wailing of sirens, though, I’m glad to be rid of those.)


Particularly given the state of despair of NYC MTA in 2019, one of the most standout features about moving to London is that public transit here works really well. You can get around reliably with Tube and bus, even to the major airports. And you can use contactless to pay —none of that flimsy yellow Metrocard swipe flailing.

For some lines, the Tube comes every minute! It was an adjustment for me to not race to the platform whenever I heard the train coming. In NYC, where I lived off the F, missing a train might mean waiting 10 minutes for the next, so I got used to running at the sound of a train entering the station. In London, people hear the whooshing of the train and continue at their normal speed, completely unbothered. There is good bus coverage of the city as well, especially for areas like Shoreditch which aren’t as connected by Tube. The buses aren’t nearly as convenient as the Tube, since they don’t come as often and can get stuck in traffic, but they are still quite nice and it’s fun to sit at the front of the top deck of the double deckers and feel very British.

As for the airports, Heathrow, Gatwick, and Stansted are all well served by transit options, both with express trains (Heathrow Express, Gatwick Express, Stansted Express) and other trains, and for Heathrow it’s possible and even quite common to just take the Piccadilly Underground line all the way out.

However, London does feel a bit more sprawled out than NYC, and even with the good transit, it feels like “everything” takes 40+ minutes to get to. For example, I was living in Notting Hill for a month and a half when I first moved, and getting to the Entrepreneur First office in Bermondsey took 40 minutes. Now I’m staying in Aldgate East, which is in the East End, close to Shoreditch, and it still takes 40 minutes to get to Bermondsey. Long commutes seem much more standard in London than in NYC.


Contactless everywhere! I almost never need to pull my wallet out, since I can just use Apple Pay on my phone.

And, restaurants will bring the credit card machine to you, making it easy to split bills, as you can easily tell the server what part of the check you want to pay, tap your card or your phone, and then they move on to the next member of your party.

The only times I’ve really had to deal with cash so far were to pay rent, because it does take a little bit of work to get set up with a UK bank / debit account. As far as that process goes, though, it seems a lot easier here than anywhere else, since UK financial regulations are quite progressive and there are a lot of fintech services, like TransferWise, and challenger banks, like Revolut, Monzo, and N26, that are new and millennial-friendly.

I’ve also needed a UK debit account to pay some subscriptions which require direct debit, e.g. PureGym’s month-to-month payment scheme requires direct debit (though in that case I just gave up and found an alternative gym option), and Soho House membership requires payment from a UK debit account.


Only to a New Yorker would London housing prices seem reasonable, but especially with the weak pound, thanks Brexit, I’ve found housing in London to be quite easy. Not cheap, but definitely more affordable than Manhattan or San Francisco, and easy to find flat shares with sites like SpareRoom. I didn’t end up using a letting agent in London, so I don’t know the whole process, but from watching my friends find housing it doesn’t seem anywhere near as absurd as NYC with all its brokers and 15% broker fees. Yes, I’m still annoyed about those mandatory broker fees and honeypot “no fee” listings on StreetEasy that turned out to be, surprise, brokered places.


There’s really great food in both cities, and a wide variety of it, from cheap to posh and lots of different cuisines.

London has more fast casual places, like Pret, Itsu, Leon, Wagamama, etc., but fewer salad places. I miss sweetgreen and Whole Foods. In general, produce in London doesn’t seem as fresh, but maybe that’s because I’m shopping at Tesco Express and Sainsbury’s Local instead of Whole Foods.

I haven’t found as many good Chinese food options in London compared to New York. There are some good spots, and within 5 minutes of me now I have a great Xi’an noodle place, Xi’an Biang Biang Noodles, which is like Xi’an Famous Foods in NYC, and a Szechuan restaurant, My Old Place, but they’re quite a bit pricier than their equivalents in New York and there’s nothing like the crop of trendy Chinese shops now in East Village and around town, like Ho Foods for beef noodle soup, 886 for Taiwanese food, and Meet Fresh for Taiwanese desserts.

However, the Indian and South Asian options in London are fantastic. Dishoom is a favorite, of course, and there are dozens of good curry shops and other Indian places on Brick Lane and around the city.


London’s coffee scene has caught up quite a bit in the last few years, and particularly in East End there are a lot of hip coffee shops with good vibes and good coffee. And they have non-dairy milk options! As someone who is lactose-intolerant, I’m very happy about the now-prevalent alternative milks, since even a couple years ago it could be hard to find soy, almond, or oat milk — now they’re everywhere.

However, London does still trail NYC in the very important (to me, anyways!) category of cold brew. I’ve been on a hunt ever since I moved here and discovered, sadly, that there are very few places that serve it, mostly in East End, some in Soho, and even then it’s mostly bottled cold brew. Usually Sandow’s, which I find weak and a bit sour. There’s another brand, Minor Figures, that’s available in some grocery stores, but I also find them underwhelming. There is nothing like Chameleon cold brew here, my favorite in the States and which is sold at Whole Foods. People have told me London is still more into tea than coffee.

Culture and Diversity

Both NYC and London are very culturally vibrant and diverse cities, with lots to recommend in terms of art, theatre, shows, museums, history, and things happening around town. I have found the arts to be more accessible in London, with most museums being free, and very discounted options like £7 gallery tickets for the Proms. I like the concept of returns queues for shows here in London as well; whereas the only way to get tickets to Hamilton in NYC was paying exorbitant prices, I was able to queue for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London and get same day tickets at face value instead of being scalped by re-sellers.

London has a more international mix of people, with a lot more Europeans, Africans, Arabs, and South Asians (and people of that heritage). I’ve enjoyed getting to know and befriend a much more multicultural cohort. One cute thing I’ve found is how people here like to refer to each other by nationality, much more common than back in the States. I also really like being called American, if only because in America I’m so tired of being identified as Asian and not American.


I’m totally in love with London’s parks. NYC mainly has Central Park, which is wonderful if you’re close to it, but I rarely visited it since I lived downtown, and only went running there for races. In London, there are many more of them throughout the city and the green respite from the bustle of the city is such a treasure. They make London a really nice running city, too, with so many options for routes inside the different parks and you can also string together multiple for longer runs.

Please indulge my love affair with Hyde Park in the fall:


London doesn’t have nearly as much of a fitness and workout culture as NYC, but it’s still pretty strong. Not too many of the US brands have made it over here yet, just a handful of Barry’s Bootcamp studios and an Equinox in Kensington, but many equivalent / similar studios. I like 1Rebel, which has cardio + HIIT classes like Barry’s, as well as spin, and Psycle is supposed to be pretty similar to Soul Cycle. Grow Fitness does group rowing classes similar to CITYROW in New York. And there are CrossFit boxes all around town as well.

I used to do ClassPass in New York City, with Blink gym membership as part of my membership, but I’ve cut down my ClassPass usage quite a bit in London. One, because there aren’t as many studios that I like, but more importantly, because there are two Soho Houses with gyms in London, White City House and Shoreditch House. I joined Soho House when I was in NYC, but members clubs are way more of a thing in the UK, and being able to use the fitness facilities at the houses here has been a big boost to my quality of life. I’m sorry for my insufferable bougieness.


“The difference between America and England is that Americans think 100 years is a long time, while the English think 100 miles is a long way.” — Earle Hitchner

Everyone says this, but it’s worth repeating: travel in Europe is incredible. Two hours on a plane can get you anywhere, and Paris is just two hours away on the Eurostar. It’s such a treat to be able to explore so many different countries and cultures on quick weekend trips, and there is so much history in the streets and architecture.

Budget airlines are really popular in Europe. Cheap prices, the tradeoff is just that you have to pay for every possible amenity you might want, including assigned seating. Getting status on an alliance (or multiple alliances) isn’t really a thing.

Time Zones

If you want to coordinate with people back in the States, whether for personal reasons or professional, the time zone differences can be pretty rough. London is +5 hours from NYC, and +8 from SF / LA, which means people back in the States are just getting their day going as the day is ending in the UK. I’m naturally a morning person so having to shift my work hours so much later in the day is not easy. It’s also not good for being social after-hours.

Pub Culture

I’m still really amused whenever I pass by a pub and see Londoners standing on the street outside, drinking their beers and pretending like it’s not depressing weather out. There is a lot more pub culture here and it’s kind of a thing for people to go for drinks after work and skip proper dinner.


London has much milder weather than NYC. The summer is not so hot and humid, and the winter doesn’t get so cold, snowy, and slushy. Spring and fall are positively beautiful.

People complain about London being grey and gloomy, and maybe it is a little bit that, and in winter 3:30pm sunset is sad, but it’s really not so bad. Also, in December…


London wins at Christmas. Hands down.

2018 Reading List

75 books 📚
41 non-fiction 🖊
18 by female authors 🤦🏻‍♀️
A more global perspective this year, reflecting my travels — including Zimbabwe, Botswana, China, UK, Sweden, Czechia, Germany, Portugal 🌍
One theme around trauma, abuse, and sociopathy — very enlightening, very resonant, a good area of learning and growth for me this year  😥 
Quite a few memoirs — which I don’t usually like, but enjoyed this year 🤷🏻

Superintelligence, Nick Bostrom
Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff
Exit West, Mohsin Hamid
Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier
American Gods, Neil Gaiman
Evicted, Matthew Desmond
The Square and the Tower, Niall Ferguson
Brotopia, Emily Chang
Down and Across, Arvin Ahmadi
Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann 🌟
When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, Peter Godwin 🌟
Whatever You Do, Don’t Run, Peter Allison
The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan 🌟
The Making of Asian America, Erika Lee
Machine Learning, Hugh Howey
Ishmael, Daniel Quinn
Age of Ambition, Evan Osnos
The Paper Menagerie, Ken Liu 🌟
On the Road, Jack Kerouac
The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
Life of Pi, Yann Martel
The Dance of the Possible, Scott Berkun
Let My People Go Surfing, Yvon Chouinard 🌟
Bad Blood, John Carreyrou 🌟
Hunger, Roxane Gay 🌟
Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain 🌟
This Is Going to Hurt, Adam Kay 🌟
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman
Getting the Love You Want, Harville Hendrix
Attached, Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller
The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel Van der Kolk
Crucial Conversations, Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron Mcmillan, and Al Switzler
Wabi Sabi, Andrew Juniper
A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman
Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker 🌟
The Software Engineer’s Guide to Freelance Consulting, Zack Burt and Jay El-Kaake
Pachinko, Min Jin Lee 🌟
Lost Connections, Johann Hari
Ice Cream Social, Brad Edmondson
Turtles All the Way Down, John Green
How to Fix a Broken Heart, Guy Winch
Wonder, R.J. Palacio
Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan 🌟
China Rich Girlfriend, Kevin Kwan
Rich People Problems, Kevin Kwan
Girl in Translation, Jean Kwok
Fresh off the Boat, Eddie Huang
The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch
Tin Man, Sarah Winman
The Mom Test, Rob Fitzpatrick
Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
Winners Take All, Anand Giridharadas 🌟
Healing from Hidden Abuse, Shannon Thomas
The Psychopath Test, Jon Ronson
Dangerous Personalities, Joe Navarro
Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert
The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
The Dog Stars, Peter Heller
Leviathan Wakes, James S. A. Corey
AI Superpowers, Kai-Fu Lee 🌟
R.U.R., Karel Čapek
The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
Technically Wrong, Sara Wachter-Boettcher
Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter
In the Penal Colony, Franz Kafka
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, John Le Carré
The Dip, Seth Godin
Skin in the Game, Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Less, Andrew Sean Greer
I Am Pilgrim, Terry Hayes 🌟
Educated, Tara Westover 🌟
Becoming, Michelle Obama 🌟
Faces in the Crowd, Valeria Luiselli
The History of the Siege of Lisbon, José Saramago


The weather in Prague has been grey, gloomy, and wet since I arrived yesterday, but the city of a hundred spires still has a self-assured presence and history about it. I’m enthralled by the Old World elegance of cobblestone and Gothic architecture, red-tiled roofs and copper-green domes. And in the current throes of autumn, the verdancy of the city’s trees and ivy-covered walls warming into fall colors, it’s easy to be taken in by the sense of place. People had warned me that I’d be put off by the crowds, which are certainly hectic and have additionally been exacerbated by Czechia’s centennial independence celebrations this weekend, but apart from the tourist top hits, I’ve found Prague busy enough to feel lively, but not so much to be tedious.

I spent my first day on the tourist circuit, making my way from Wenceslas Square up through Old Town and the plaza, stopping there just long enough to snap a photo of the clock tower; then through the Jewish Quarter; crossing a bridge over the Vtalva to the Metronome in Letná Park; through the park to Prague Castle; and again down towards the river, detouring past Lennon Wall, crossing back to Prague 1 via Charles Bridge. All the must-sees, dutifully checked off the list, so I could be completely free to explore off the tourist-trodden path today.

And indeed, today was much funkier and more captivating. I started at VNITROBLOCK for art and coffee and pretending to be a sneakerhead, then moseyed over to the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art to work out in the Hard Times gym exhibit and climb aboard Gulliver the airship. A short metro ride away, alighting at Florenc, I took a wander through the Manifesto market, got a second flat white at EMA Espresso Bar, then headed over to the garden at St. Agnes Convent, which was just the loveliest space of outdoor art and calm, even despite drab sky and drizzle. Back closer to Old Town, on my search for a postcard writing implement, I stopped in at the House at the Black Madonna  and discovered an absolutely wonderful Czech Cubism exhibit. Then, finally, a perfect Italian dinner for one at La Bottega Linka, and a chance to sit and reflect.

我就站在布拉格黃昏的廣場 在許願池 投下了希望
那群白鴿 背對著夕陽 那畫面太美我不敢看。。。

Your Step-by-Step Guide to a Crazy Rich Birthday on a Budget

By Tracy Chou @triketora and Elisa Mala @elisa_mala

Step 1. The invite.

Watch Crazy Rich Asians. Not once, not twice, but three times, each. Between two of you, that’s six times altogether. Maybe even go to the LA premiere and interview some of the cast on the red carpet. Or meet Singapore’s ambassador to the United Nations when the country’s tourism board hosts a screening in New York.

Pick your spiritual inspiration from a cast of characters that, for the first time ever, might actually look like you. Astrid. Peik Lin. Obsess over the whole thing a little bit more. Decide to host a Crazy Rich Asians-themed party.

~ Fancy-shmancy or “snoshy”
~ Favorite waterproof wedding dress
~ Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops
~ One word: “clubbing”
~ Shirtless to show off your six-pack


Splashthat: $0.

Step 2. The decor.

Order some paper lanterns and twine off Amazon. That’s the easy part.

To recreate the lush Singaporean jungle effect of Araminta Lee and Colin Khoo’s wedding scene, you need some florals and foliage. Take a spin through Manhattan’s floral district and find some end-of-life flowers to bargain down on price. Bring your Asian mom for full effect; with a huge smile and the sweetest voice, she casually mentions to the seller the broad monstera deliciosa leaf has holes in it and looks “broken.” A huge discount is offered. Negging: an effective haggling tactic! Return home triumphant with a haul of four dozen baby roses, two dozen orchids, many fistfuls of stemmed green leafery, plus the “broken” monstera, all this for only $22.

Put up the twine like clotheslines across the room, tie alternating lengths of the string to dangle vertically from those, then knot on the lanterns and flowers for dramatic hanging effect. On the table beneath, arrange the leaves and remaining flowers like a table runner.

Don’t forget to put up that Crazy Rich Asians movie poster you picked up from the third screening you went to. Just to remind people of the theme, in case they forget.

Paper lanterns: $25.
Twine: $4.
Flowers: $22.
Crazy Rich Asians movie poster: $0.

Step 3. The food.

Go for cookies, cakes, and tea. Like Eleanor’s bible study session. Indulge in mooncakes, since it’s almost Mid-Autumn Festival. Trust that your friends will be darlings and bring a dazzling array of desserts to contribute. (They do.)

Swing by the dollar store for a handful of 100 Grands and Oh Henry!s. They make for good party decor.


Assorted teas and almond milk from Trader Joe’s: $20.
Assorted cookies from Trader Joe’s: $20.
Mooncakes from Lung Moon Bakery: $34.
Candy bars from the dollar store: $1 each.

Step 4. The wardrobe.

Screenshot movie stills to your phone for fashion inspiration. Search Rent the Runway for appropriately glamorous garments and accessories. Get excited, then get realistic that you’re not actually going to spend $150 to wear a designer dress for a day. Realize that the Rent the Runway Unlimited subscription you canceled has a week left until expiration. Get excited again.

For Astrid: Reserve that Prabal Gurung tea rose side slash dress you’ve been eyeing and a gorgeous pair of gold-plated, resin-painted Oscar de la Renta floral drop earrings (clip-ons, though, because you don’t have pierced ears). Finish off the look with dramatic cream-and-brown cat eye sunglasses, on sale at GAP.


GAP sunglasses: $17.
Prabal Gurung dress: $0 (with Rent the Runway Unlimited subscription).
Oscar de la Renta earrings: $0 (with Rent the Runway Unlimited subscription).
Any non-black high-heeled footwear from closet: $0.

For Peik Lin: Sadly, Rent the Runway doesn’t do animal-patterned silk pajama sets (yet?) but some of their glittery pieces do give a good nouveau riche Goh family vibe.


Step 5. The guestlist.

Miscellaneous high-society well-dressed Asians, Rachel, “Cocktail Dress” and “Walk of Shame”. Jet-setting friends in town from Singapore, London, and San Francisco. (They definitely came in by private jet.)

Step 6. The toast.

Clink your glass and marvel at how the room immediately falls silent.

Against a backdrop of opulence and abs, Crazy Rich Asians is about the magic that awaits those who are brave enough to take on the world as their very best, most bok-bok selves. Your own crazy rich party on a budget is obviously not about being rich in the Taiwan Plastics Chus kind of way.

You are grateful to be crazy rich in all the ways money can’t buy.

Toast to adventure, to life experience, to grand opportunity.

Toast to friendship, and to your friends in the room: The ones who make their way through the world with you, whether that’s tech events in San Francisco, Russian baths in New York, congressional hearings in Washington, DC, or Sundance Film Festival in the dead of winter in Utah. The ones who remain by your side when air conditioners malfunction and hearts break, who power through jetlag and tears. Who cheer your successes. Who protect you from harm. Who show you the love you deserve. Who make all things feel possible.

Bonus! Step 7. The photoshoot.

Once the guests are gone, take full advantage of both you and the space looking fabulous to stage a photoshoot. Bask in being extra.

P.S. Your mom joins for this part. She’s rocking a rose gold sequin gown off the CRA rack at Rent the Runway. And she’s got the sunglasses to match.

#MeToo, what’s next? Turning a movement into action


A couple weeks ago I had the incredible opportunity and honor to visit Capitol Hill and testify in front of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, in the third of a series of hearings on #MeToo and sexual harassment. Previous hearings laid out the problem; ours focused on solutions.

I spoke about the work of Project Include in driving cultural and process change in the tech industry, and #MovingForward in galvanizing VC firms towards accountability; the latter of which also tied into Jess Ladd’s work with Callisto, using technology to detect repeat sexual offenders and to connect survivors. Debbie Katz gave sharp, punchy recommendations grounded in her 30+ years of litigation in employment discrimination, civil rights, and whistleblower protection. Judge Laura Safer Espinoza with the Fair Food Standards Council spoke about economic justice for farm workers, Dr. Dorothy Edwards of Alteristic (with her wife and children in the audience!) gave analysis and perspective on training and prevention, and Linda Seabrook with Workplace Safety & Equity for Futures without Violence had specific requests for Congress around re-authorizing VAWA.

Representatives Susan Brooks IN-5 and Lois Frankel FL-21, the bipartisan co-chairs of the caucus, presided, directing our testimony and then the Q&A from other Representatives present: Kathy Castor FL-14, Susan Davis CA-53, Lucille Roybal-Allard CA-40, Ann McLane Kuster NH-2, Debbie Dingell MI-12, and Barbara Comstock VA-10. Remarkably, some of the Congresswomen even spoke to their own experiences with harassment, including on the Hill, and recently; and called out their own institutions for not doing more.

After the hearing, I (and my wonderfully supportive friend Elisa!) then got to play tourist for a couple hours before heading back to NYC. The physicality of the space and historic architecture was a visceral reminder, at least to me, of how important the work of our lawmakers and government is.



A non-apology for my obsession with Crazy Rich Asians

I’m unexpectedly emotional when it comes to Crazy Rich Asians. The last time I could see even a reflection of myself in a movie’s main character was Mulan, 20 years ago. And now! Here is Rachel Chu: an ABC who grew up in the Bay Area, went to Stanford, now lives in New York City, and is professionally ambitious and accomplished. Asian-American, too Asian to be American and too American to be Asian. Every one of these things something that is true of me as well.

Image result for rachel chu crazy rich asians
“bok bok, bitch”

I love who I am and that I have lived at the intersection of cultures, but I also feel a sense of rootlessness, that I don’t belong anywhere. Like every other Asian-American, I’ve been asked countless times: “Where are you from?” “But where are you really from?” I don’t know. There is no answer that is satisfactory. I’ve never truly felt at home anywhere. I don’t “look” American, and even in the Asian-dense Bay Area, I’ve alternately been praised, “Your English is really good!” and disparaged with, “Do you even speak English?”

The rallying cry of “Representation matters!” has been loud enough that I at least intellectually knew it would be powerful for me to see someone like me on screen. I didn’t realize how much more powerful it would be for me to feel seen, to feel mainstream American acknowledgment and validation of the stories and experiences of people like me.

(Even the funny bits, like Peik Lin’s dad trying to set Rachel up with her brother, dismissing the fact that Rachel has a boyfriend; I’ve 100% been at that dining room table before, with a friend’s dad voicing aloud his strong approval of my physical appearance, Taiwanese heritage, and Stanford degree and how I would be very good for my friend’s brother, despite my friend’s protestations that I already had a boyfriend. “Well, when you break up!”)

I was so afraid that a box office flop for this movie might be another repudiation of Asians in Western society, culture, and media, another reminder that we don’t belong and might never belong. Instead, I’m crying happy, grateful tears of relief for a #GoldOpen and a breakthrough moment in the form of a crazy rich fantastically-set love story that also happens to be the coming-of-age story of an Asian-American woman who reminds me of me. As director Jon Chu writes, “It’s a lavish, fun, romantic romp but underneath it all, there’s an intimate story of a girl becoming a woman. Learning that she’s good enough and deserves the world, no matter what she’s been taught or how she’s been treated, and ultimately that she can be proud of her mixed heritage.”

Maybe someday I’ll meet my Nick Young, too 😉

Image result for crazy rich asians henry golding