10 of Mark Zuckerberg’s Top Reads for 2016

10 of Mark Zuckerberg’s Top Reads for 2016

Mark Zuckerberg has a single mission: to connect people around the world.

It’s one reason why he decided to launch a Facebook-based book club last year, with a reading list that focused on “different cultures, beliefs, histories, and technologies.”

Although the birth of his daughter Max kept him from hitting his goal of a book every two weeks, he ended the year with 23 selections in his “A Year of Books” reading group, of which we’ve picked 10 of his suggested reads and why he thinks everyone should read them.

Want the full list of 23 books? Check out this article, which we’ve borrowed from to make this short list.

1. Why Nations Fail by Daren Acemoğlu and James Robinson

‘Why Nations Fail’ is an overview of 15 years of research by MIT economist Daren Acemoğlu and Harvard political scientist James Robinson, and was first published in 2012.

The authors argue that ‘extractive governments’ use controls to enforce the power of a select few, while ‘inclusive governments’ create open markets that allow citizens to spend and invest money freely, and that economic growth does not always indicate the long-term health of a country.

Zuckerberg’s interest in philanthropy has grown alongside his wealth in recent years, and he writes that he chose this book to better understand the origins of global poverty.

2. The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley

‘The Rational Optimist,’ first published in 2010, is the most popular and perhaps the most controversial of popular science writer Matt Ridley’s books.

In it, he argues that the concept of markets is the source of human progress, and that progress is accelerated when they are kept as free as possible. The resulting evolution of ideas will consistently allow humankind to improve its living conditions, despite the threats of climate change and overpopulation.

Zuckerberg says that he picked up this book because it posits the inverse theory of ‘Why Nations Fail,’ which argues that social and political forces control economic forces. ‘I’m interested to see which idea resonates more after exploring both frameworks,’ Zuckerberg writes.

3. Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

‘Creativity, Inc.’ is the story of Pixar, written by one of the founders.

Catmull intersperses his narrative with valuable wisdom on management and entrepreneurialism, and argues that any company should consciously avoid hampering their employees’ natural creativity.

‘I love reading first-hand accounts about how people build great companies like Pixar and nurture innovation and creativity,’ Zuckerberg writes.

4. The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch

Oxford physicist David Deutsch’s ‘The Beginning of Infinity,’ a sprawling look at the progress of humanity following the Scientific Revolution. It touches on everything from art to science, from politics to philosophy.

Deutsch concludes that human potential is infinite, perhaps the purest expression of the optimism regarding the fate of humanity that connects all of the selections in ‘A Year of Books.’

5. The End of Power by Moisés Naím

Zuckerberg launched his book club with this lofty title from Naím, former executive director of the World Bank and senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

It’s a historical investigation of the shift of power from authoritative governments, militaries, and major corporations to individuals. This is clearly seen in what’s now become a Silicon Valley cliché: the disruptive startup.

‘The trend towards giving people more power is one I believe in deeply,’ Zuckerberg writes.

6. The Idea Factory by Jon Gertner

Fast Company editor Jon Gertner’s 2012 book ‘The Idea Factory’ tells the history of Bell Labs from the 1920s through the 1980s, in which the invention of the transistor revolutionised the world of technology and the innovation-fostering management style that rules Silicon Valley was first developed.

Bell Labs’ research has won it the most Nobel Prizes of any laboratory in history, with seven in Physics and another in Chemistry.

Zuckerberg writes that he chose the book because he’s ‘very interested in what causes innovation — what kinds of people, questions, and environments.’

7. The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin

‘The Three-Body Problem’ was first published in China in 2008, and the English translation that came out last year won the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel, an award for sci-fi book of the year.

It’s set during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, and kicks off when an alien race decides to invade Earth after the Chinese government covertly sends a signal into space. It’s notable because it’s been reported to be indicative of a cultural shift in China, where rapid modernization and progress have captured the public’s imagination.

Zuckerberg writes that it’s a fun break from some of the heavier material he’s been reading in his book club.

8. Orwell’s Revenge by Peter Huber

Huber, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, published this unofficial sequel to George Orwell’s ‘1984’ in 1994, a time when internet and telecommunications technology was opening up new methods of communication. The novel imagines a world in which citizens use the technology that once enslaved them to liberate themselves.

‘After seeing how history has actually played out, Huber’s fiction describes how tools like the internet benefit people and change society for the better,’ Zuckerberg writes.

9. Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh

Venkatesh is a Columbia University sociology professor who, in a radical sociological experiment, embedded himself into a Chicago gang in the ’90s.

Zuckerberg says that Venkatesh’s story is an inspiring one of communication and understanding across economic and cultural barriers.

‘The more we all have a voice to share our perspectives, the more empathy we have for each other and the more we respect each other’s rights,’ Zuckerberg writes.

10. Portfolios of the Poor by Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford, and Orlanda Ruthven

Researchers Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford, and Orlanda Ruthven spent 10 years studying the financial lives of the lowest classes of Bangladesh, India, and South Africa.

A fundamental finding that they include in ‘Portfolios of the Poor’ is that extreme poverty flourishes in areas not where people live dollar to dollar or where poor purchasing decisions are widespread, but instead arises where they lack access to financial institutions to store their money.

‘It’s mind-blowing that almost half the world — almost 3 billion people — live on $2.50 a day or less. More than one billion people live on $1 a day or less,’ Zuckerberg writes. ‘I hope reading this provides some insight into ways we can all work to support them better as well.’

Sacha Loutkovsky
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