An entertaining chronicle of creativity, luck, and unflagging perseverance.

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THAT WILL NEVER WORK

THE BIRTH OF NETFLIX AND THE AMAZING LIFE OF AN IDEA

The rocky road from startup to colossal success.

Randolph, co-founder of Netflix, makes an engaging book debut with a candid memoir recounting the history of the company as it evolved “from dream to concept to shared reality.” After co-founding the magazine MacUser and working in direct marketing for a software giant, Randolph, eager to work for himself, had been coming up with new business concepts (e.g., personalized dog food) when he hit on the idea of renting videotapes. When his friend Reed Hastings, looking to fund a new company, expressed mild interest, Randolph gathered a dozen “brilliant, creative people” to see if the idea made sense financially. Videotapes, it turned out, were prohibitively expensive to mail, but the upcoming new technology of DVDs seemed viable. Inventing a name for the new company (NowShowing and CinemaCenter were possibilities) was the least of their problems: Only by contracting with Toshiba and Sony to offer free rentals with the purchase of a DVD player did they entice customers, but even then, sales of DVDs were stronger than rentals. For a few years, the company was “almost always on the razor’s edge between total success and total failure.” When individual rentals failed to put the company on secure footing, Randolph and his team came up with the idea of a monthly subscription service with no late fees, a move that proved popular. Yet even with 200,000 subscribers, Netflix still lost money and was forced to trim its staff; the layoffs, writes the author, were painful. Besides internal changes, the company looked for alliances with more successful enterprises, but a deal with Amazon (it would sell DVDs and steer customers to Netflix for rentals) collapsed and a hopeful bid for Blockbuster to buy Netflix fizzled. Elevating Hastings to CEO helped to lure investors, and after “years of work, thousands of hours of brainstorms, dire finances, and an impatient CEO,” Netflix went public in 2002. Now with 150 million subscribers, Netflix has morphed into a media behemoth.

An entertaining chronicle of creativity, luck, and unflagging perseverance.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-53020-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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