The National Retail Federation is predicting that Americans will spend as much as $966.6 billion this holiday season, with Black Friday shopping helping drive at least a 3% increase over November and December sales in 2022. All that shopping will include everything from the purchase of discounted subscriptions to streamers like Hulu to Black Friday sales at major retailers like Amazon and Best Buy. Meanwhile, I’d like to recommend two new books for any readers you might be shopping for — readers who also have an interest in companies like Twitter and Netflix.
The two books — Breaking Twitter, and Pandora’s Box: How Guts, Guile and Greed Upended TV — are fascinating, scooplet-filled page-turners that go deep behind the scenes at major business brands undergoing profound change. The latter, by the way, is driven largely by Netflix but also explores the changing fortunes of its competitors like FX, AMC, Showtime, HBO, Amazon, and Disney.
We’ll take a closer look at each of these two books below.
Breaking Twitter, by Ben Mezrich
Ben Mezrich’s 317-page book presents a blow-by-blow account of the chaotic takeover of Twitter that Musk seemingly launched on a whim last year, and it’s written in such a way that I had a hard time putting it down.
Esther Crawford, Twitter’s former director of product management, is featured heavily throughout the book, in a portrayal that makes her come off as a much more interesting figure than the simp in a sleeping bag she was portrayed as by the media. There are also plenty of tidbits throughout that I don’t think I’ve seen reported anywhere before the publication of the book, such as Elon jumping up and exclaiming, “F–k Zuck!” when his acquisition of Twitter was finally official.
As for Mezrich, the thesis that he ultimately settles on I also found to be particularly astute and generally under-explored by the hot-take machine — it’s that Elon didn’t break Twitter. Twitter broke Elon.
Pandora’s Box, by Peter Biskind
As for this next book that I think would also make a great Black Friday purchase, it’s Pandora’s Box — a juicy, cinematic overview of the so-called Streaming Wars, the kind of reading material that nerds like me can’t get enough of.
We, of course, cover the ins and outs of the major streamers — from interviews with major players to news and reviews of new titles — but Biskind offers something much more comprehensive with Pandora’s Box.
From the official summary: “Through frank and shockingly intimate interviews with creators and executives, Pandora’s Box investigates the dynamic interplay of commerce and art through the lens the game-changing shows they aired—not only old warhorses like The Sopranos, but recent shows like The White Lotus, Succession, and Yellow– (both -stone and -jackets) — as windows into the byzantine practices of the players as they use money and guile to destroy their competitors.”