“They’re all on Kindle,” says the streaming service’s co-chief executive, whose new book is “No Rules Rules.” “Although I have to admit as a first-time author, when the hardcover book arrived, it felt really good to hold in my hands.”
What books are on your night stand?
“Caste,” by Isabel Wilkerson, which is devastating and important and regrettably timely.
And “The Three-Body Problem,” by Liu Cixin — a mind-bending masterful sci-fi epic. And full disclosure I’m mainly reading “Three-Body Problem” because we’re bringing it to Netflix with the showrunners who made “Game of Thrones.”
What’s the last great book you read?
“The Overstory,” by Richard Powers. It’s a wonderful example of how great storytelling can help build understanding and empathy. Original and profound. I have to admit that my fiction reading has declined a lot in recent years so our family agreed we would all read together on vacation, and luckily “The Overstory” is one we chose.
Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?
“Typhoon and Other Tales,” by Joseph Conrad. “Typhoon” is very much of its time — the story of an uninspiring merchant ship captain and his crew facing a storm in the South China Sea. But it’s also about duty and the ambiguous morality of staying the course in a tough situation. Ironically, at the end of this near-catastrophe, the captain says, “There are things you find nothing about in books.”
Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).
I’m an early riser, so for me it’s morning, with the sky lightening and the coffee warm.
What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?
Probably “Beyond Entrepreneurship,” by Jim Collins and William C. Lazier. It’s not nearly as well known as Collins’s “Good to Great” or “Built to Last” in the pantheon of influential business books. But it came out in the early 1990s, right around the time I was starting my first company, Pure Software. It had a huge influence on how I thought about that business and, later, what I aspired to create at Netflix. Collins and other business authors whose books I benefited from are a big reason I decided to write a book of my own, to try to pay it forward to other entrepreneurs in the same way those other authors have. Years from now, it would be great if someone who found “No Rules Rules” useful today writes their own book improving on it.
Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?
One that stands out is Yuval Noah Harari. He’s unconventional yet concerns himself with the biggest questions about life and technology and society, pushing our understanding of the dramas yet to unfold.
What’s the best book that’s been made into a great movie?
I’d have to go with Harry Potter. J. K. Rowling built a world filled with characters that thrilled audiences of all ages through multiple installments, and did not disappoint its fans when it was adapted into a film series that still endures. It’s a phenomenon in both mediums.
What qualities make a book especially well suited for adaptation to screen?
In my job, adapting a book is something I should know enough about to appreciate how hard it is, but I don’t fool myself that I’m the expert — I’m more of a cheerleader. What I do observe from our content team is that it’s worlds and characters that people can’t get out of their minds, something that they want to stay up all night reading with a flashlight.
What book would you most like to see turned into a movie or TV show that hasn’t already been adapted?
I actually don’t know if “The Overstory,” so beautifully told, could be adapted visually. But here are two actual examples: “The Three-Body Problem,” which I mentioned and is incredibly ambitious, and “Hillbilly Elegy,” by J. D. Vance — which Ron Howard has directed and debuts on Netflix in November.
Do you count any books as comfort reads or guilty pleasures?
I’m not that sophisticated in my taste, I usually find what’s popular. I just read “Where the Crawdads Sing.” It was enjoyable but I didn’t find the ending credible — it was too over the top.
What writers are especially good on the workings of the entertainment industry?
Ken Auletta for journalism and writing, Neal Gabler for historical perspective, Bob Iger for the inside view.
What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?
The interconnectedness of trees, from “The Overstory.”
Which subjects do you wish more authors would write about?
Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?
Intellectually — I generally turn more to television and film for emotional nourishment.
Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?
I particularly enjoy big history, for example “Sapiens” (Yuval Harari). I avoid: nothing. You never know what you might enjoy and learn from, or from where. It’s interesting, in books, the idea that a great story can come from anywhere in the world and be loved by anyone is not new or surprising. But it’s revolutionary in television, and some of the most exciting programming on Netflix is now coming from all over the world, not just Hollywood, and being seen far beyond their country of creation. Thanks to better dubbing, subtitling and making it easier for people to access all these stories, we’re finally catching up.
How do you organize your books?
They’re all on Kindle. Although I have to admit as a first-time author, when the hardcover book arrived, it felt really good to hold in my hands.
What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t?
“SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome.”
What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?
What do you plan to read next?
“Shoe Dog,” the memoir by Phil Knight, who created Nike — and yes, we’re also adapting it for Netflix.
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