CleanTech Reading Corner: Virginia Emery


You know their professional credentials, but do you know their reading habits? The CleanTech Reading Corner introduces you to the board of directors while also giving you a new list of books to read – or to give them a good ribbing about the next time your paths cross at a cleantech event.

Virginia Emery, CEO and Founder of BetaHatch and recent CleanTech Vision Award winner – demonstrates that the time-intensive work of growing a startup is no excuse for skimping on the extracurricular reading list. She can recommend books ranging from science fiction to business tips – and often immediately puts lesson learned or new perspectives gained to good use. Though her family and friends may have a different take on that skill…

What are your overall reading habits?

I am (and have always been) a prolific reader. I read fiction before bed most nights, and I enjoy audiobooks – especially for my commute. Listening to books makes sitting in Seattle traffic feel more productive, and has helped hone my listening skills. Outside of traffic, I use a kindle e-reader which lets me have dozens of books going at the same time, so I always have something I’m in the mood to read.

What books are on your night stand these days?

Endurance- A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery

By Scott Kelly

Picked up this gem at the airport while on business travel. Scott Kelly and his twin Mark Kelly were part of the longest experiment on the impact of space travel on humans. Scott spent a year on the International Space Station while his twin was studied in parallel on Earth. I wanted to be an astronaut as a kid – my childhood bedroom featured a big map of Mars – so this book has been great for living vicariously.





The Confidence Code- The Science and Art of Self-Assurance

By Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

I’ve been listening to this one in audiobook. It was recommended by a fellow female entrepreneur and has some helpful tips on how to improve communication, body language and decision making to be more assertive in all parts of life. Anything in the productivity or business sphere I tend to listen to on my commute to kick start and end cap the day.




Big Chicken-The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats 

By Maryn McKenna

This book was recommended to me by at least three people, and I understand it has a lot of similarities with Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma. Given my work, popular books on food systems come up often in conversations, so I try to keep the latest on my shelf. I keep a look out for authors who are trained in investigative journalism because they tend to be less political and more well-rounded in their writing.

My favorite non-fiction author is Mary Roach- everything she writes is gold.

Do you have any reading guilty pleasures?

On the fiction side I like to read a lot of science fiction and fantasy, particularly dystopian adventures. Growing up watching Star Trek, I have always been fascinated by how fiction, particularly science fiction, can so aptly reflect on the complexities of the human experience and its problems.

As for non-fiction, I enjoy reading science-driven books, particularly around psychology, agriculture and environmental issues. I have a habit of implementing what I read pretty quickly- much to the chagrin of my partner and employees. When I read ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo,’ for instance, I did some pretty deep cleaning both at home and at work.

What reading helps you keep up with current cleantech trends, or the future of the industry?
At BetaHatch we subscribe to several industry magazines, such as Aquaculture North America and PoultryUSA (you’ve never seen so many bizarre advertisements with carcass pictures). Magazines are a great way to stay current and to have something around the office to flip through that is relevant to our industry.

We have also started implementing a weekly journal club for our technically-minded team to stay up to date on the latest academic work in our field.