10 Titles That Won’t Be On the Mark Zuckerberg Book Club Reading List
So if you don’t follow the comings and goings of Mark Zuckerberg on your Facebook feed—and you really should—you might not have noticed that the 30-year-old billionaire has started his own book club. Matter of fact, you should feel a little slighted, given that he invited 30 million users to join (and not you).
Kidding aside, the Facebook-based “A Year of Books” should prove highly interesting, considering Zuckerberg’s clear intelligence, demonstrated interest in issues like information technologies, freedom of expression and, yep, social media. Indeed, his first choice, Moisés Naím’s The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be, is a well-regarded entry on how non-state powers (terrorist groups, corporations, 30-year-old billionaires) are gaining the upper hand over traditional governments. With 90,000 eager readers already signed up on the “A Year of Books” page, the discussion in the comments section should be fascinating.
Now, while we can’t predict what will be next on the reading list, we can identify a few popular, highly respected publications on modern society that won’t be making the cut.
The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal, Ben Mezrich
Certainly, this is the easiest tech-relevant best-seller to cross off the list. Not only does this Ben Mezrich page-turner publicize and glamorize the less savory aspects of Zuckerberg’s meteoric rise to power in Silicon Valley, but it also served as the source material for David Fincher’s license-taking dramatization of the Facebook story, The Social Network. As reported elsewhere, The Social Network makes Mark Zuckerberg sad.
No Place to Hide, Glenn Greenwald
Like him or not, Greenwald has become the relevant expert (and often source) on pretty much every conversation about government surveillance of citizens in the last couple of years. Here, the crusader not only offers more revelations about the NSA’s various spying programs (thanks to whistle-blower Edward Snowden), but he also teases out the moral, social and security implications of these and other government initiatives. Even before the publication of No Place to Hide, Zuckerberg seemed to be aware of the problem, as it’s well-documented that he at least attempted to stand up against the NSA’s requests for the personal information of Facebook users. That said, asking Facebook users to read a book about the invasion of privacy would be a very bad look in the comments section, so it’s best to not even go there.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), Mindy Kaling
It almost seems unfair that a book this light and charming wouldn’t find place as a palate-cleanser between titles on a list that will undoubtedly include some very hard reads on some very hard subjects. Nonetheless, Kaling’s smart, smirky little collection of thoughts and essays on modern life is, without doubt, the authoritative read on FOMO (that is, fear of missing out). Nothing has been known to create more FOMO than Facebook. Banned!
Putin’s Kleptocracy, Karen Dawisha
Arriving just in December, this look into modern Russia is not only timely, but also terrifying. What we have here is an argument that Russia’s attempts at reform didn’t actually fail, but were merely a sort of smokescreen for an engineered rise of a new form of authoritarianism. It’s the kind of engaging, impactful read someone concerned about the free flow of information and thought might want to recommend. Then again, Zuckerberg’s company shut down the popular page of President Putin’s greatest opponent, Alexei Navalny, so…
Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty
In 2014, a firebrand French economist did the impossible and made a 700-page treatise of hard, socioeconomic theory into a buzzy beach read for people who didn’t know Keynes from Friedman. Capital not only picked up on the rising tide of anger against economic inequality, but it may have also given its biggest opponents some very eloquent ammunition. Good stuff, but it’ll never show up on the public reading list of a man whose value is currently estimated at $34.6 billion (and rising).
Rowing Blazers, Jack Carlson
Elle magazine tells us that within this glossy tome, “The meaning and rich tradition behind the oarsman jacket is investigated, giving semiotic significance to preppiness in its purest form.” Our first instincts tell us this would give Zuckerberg Winklevoss-related PTSD.
Dot, Randi Zuckerberg
While Facebook’s father has a longstanding history of helping out his sister whenever he can, this reading list is for engaging, provocative adult titles, so Randi Zuckerberg’s charming children’s book will never make the cut. Also, it centers around a young girl who finds out how much fun it is to play outside and away from technology once her mother takes away her smartphone and, with it, access to social media. We can’t have that, now can we?
All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
The New York Times offers this catchy plot description of the reportedly engrossing new novel by Anthony Doerr: “The lives of a blind French girl and a gadget-obsessed German boy before and during World War II, when their paths eventually cross.” Sounds good. Not only that, but it’s also topping the paper’s E-Book Best Sellers list. Regardless, this will never make the Facebook founder’s club. Mark Zuckerberg just doesn’t like historical fiction, thank you very much.
Alone Together, Sherry Turkle
Not only has this incisive, challenging pop-psychology look at the behavioral effects of social networking on human relationships made a bona-fide pundit out of M.I.T.’s Turkle, but it’s also inspired a small wave of similar books and studies about what some see as a growing crisis. But then again, social networking is a perfectly healthy pursuit with no possible side effects, so we have to put this in the “historical fiction” category. As noted, Mark Zuckerberg does not like historical fiction, thank you very much.
A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin, The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien, or anything else with swords, elves or people in vaguely medieval dress
Look, behind closed doors, Zuckerberg probably has the same literary tastes as many fellow tech nerds. Tomes on violent dynastic conflicts set against fantastical takes on the Middle Ages are probably never far from his night table. However, works by Martin, Tolkien and the like would certainly conjure up memories of his former Facebook partner Sean Parker’s much maligned wood-elf themed wedding ceremony. There’ll be no wizards and maidens fair on this reading list.