Brown's first pick is tech entrepreneur Ping Fu's memoir, Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds, which tells the story of the Chinese native's rise from a Cultural Revolution re-education camp to the forefront of American digital prowess.
"Her telling what she went through as a young girl whose life was utterly blown apart by the Cultural Revolution, and how she winds up getting here and becoming this enormously successful tech entrepreneur, is absolutely compelling," Brown says.
Ping was raised in Shanghai by her adopted parents, but when Mao Zedong's anti-elitist Cultural Revolution swept the country in early 1966, 8-year-old Ping was removed from her parents and sent to live in a prisonlike camp in Nanjing. "Bitter meals" — composed of dung and dirt — and a gang rape ensue, all part of a considered effort to humiliate and dehumanize her, to demonstrate her worthlessness as an individual.
"For the next 10 years, she's unparented, she's unschooled," says Brown. But "at the end of the Cultural Revolution she goes to university; she writes this incredibly brave thesis about infanticide in China."
Because of that thesis, Ping was forced to leave China, ending up in the United States "with just a few dollars in her pocket."
She enrolled in the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, and eventually became a renowned technological entrepreneur — all because of her own skills and brilliance, Brown says.
"Her philosophical thoughts ... her stoic ability to understand the patient lessons that she learned and apply them to her thoughts about survival and love ... it's very, very moving, indeed," Brown says.