Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a single mission: to connect people around the world. We’ve put together a list of his picks and why he thinks everyone should read them.
Here are the 23 books that Mark Zuckerberg wants you to read,
When first-year graduate student Sudhir Venkatesh walked into an abandoned building in one of Chicago’s most notorious housing projects, he hoped to find a few people willing to take a multiple-choice survey on urban poverty–and impress his professors with his boldness. He never imagined that as a result of this assignment he would befriend a gang leader named JT and spend the better part of a decade embedded inside the projects under JT’s protection.
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.
The Player of Games. Master of every board, computer and strategy. Bored with success, Gurgeh travels to the Empire of Azad, cruel and incredibly wealthy, to try their fabulous game…a game so complex, so like life itself, that the winner becomes emperor.
Zuckerberg writes that he went with a sci-fi pick as a “change of pace.” The novel is also one of Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s favorite books due to its entertaining way of exploring plausible advancements in technology.
Zuckerberg says that Biss’ investigation into the benefits of vaccination is necessary to read, considering the anti-vaccination movement in the US and parts of Europe.
“The science is completely clear: Vaccinations work and are important for the health of everyone in our community,” Zuckerberg writes, adding that this book was highly recommended to him by scientists and public-health workers.
“This book explores the reasons why some people question vaccines, and then logically explains why the doubts are unfounded and vaccines are in fact effective and safe,” he says.
Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation—into the meetings, postmortems, and “Braintrust” sessions where some of the most successful films in history are made. It is, at heart, a book about how to build a creative culture—but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, “an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.”
“I love reading first-hand accounts about how people build great companies like Pixar and nurture innovation and creativity,” Zuckerberg writes.
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 revolutionized 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.”
Zuckerberg has been intensely fascinated with Chinese culture over the past several years. He’s been learning to speak Mandarin Chinese and has stated that one of his long-term goals is convincing the Chinese government to let its people use Facebook.
“Dealing with China” by the former US Treasury secretary explores China’s recent rise in global influence and how it affects the entire world.
“Over the last 35 years, China has experienced one of the greatest economic and social transformations in human history,” Zuckerberg writes. “Hundreds of millions of people have moved out of poverty. By many measures, China has done more to lift people out of poverty than the whole rest of the world combined.”
In this groundbreaking book, award-winning physicist David Deutsch argues that explanations have a fundamental place in the universe—and that improving them is the basic regulating principle of all successful human endeavor. Taking us on a journey through every fundamental field of science, as well as the history of civilization, art, moral values, and the theory of political institutions, Deutsch tracks how we form new explanations and drop bad ones, explaining the conditions under which progress—which he argues is potentially boundless—can and cannot happen.
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.”
“Why Nations Fail” is an overview of 15 years of research by MIT economist Daren Acemoglu 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.
George Orwell’s 1984 and it’s bleak vision of the future has long haunted the imagination. In a move which turns the computer against Orwell’s own text, Peter Huber scanned all of Orwell’s writings into a computer, using the machine to rewrite the book completely, using Orwell’s own language.
“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.
The Muqaddimah, often translated as “Introduction” or “Prolegomenon,” is the most important Islamic history of the premodern world. Written by the great fourteenth-century Arab scholar Ibn Khaldûn (d. 1406), this monumental work established the foundations of several fields of knowledge, including the philosophy of history, sociology, ethnography, and economics.
“While much of what was believed then is now disproven after 700 more years of progress, it’s still very interesting to see what was understood at this time and the overall worldview when it’s all considered together,” Zuckerberg writes.
Once in a great while a book comes along that changes the way we see the world and helps to fuel a nationwide social movement. The New Jim Crow is such a book. Praised by Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier as “brave and bold,” this book directly challenges the notion that the election of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness.
“I’ve been interested in learning about criminal justice reform for a while, and this book was highly recommended by several people I trust,” Zuckerberg writes.
In a bold and provocative interpretation of economic history, Matt Ridley, the New York Times-bestselling author of Genome and The Red Queen, makes the case for an economics of hope, arguing that the benefits of commerce, technology, innovation, and change—what Ridley calls cultural evolution—will inevitably increase human prosperity.
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.
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.”
In former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s 2014 book “World Order,” the 91-year-old Kissinger analyzes the ways different parts of the world have understood the concept of empire and political power for centuries, and how the modern global economy has brought them together in often tense or violent ways.
“[It’s] about foreign relations and how we can build peaceful relationships throughout the world,” Zuckerberg writes. “This is important for creating the world we all want for our children, and that’s what I’m thinking about these days.”
The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature is a book by the Harvard psychologist and philosopher William James comprising 20 lectures given at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. These lectures concerned the nature of religion and the neglect of science, in James’ view, in the academic study of religion.
“When I read ‘Sapiens,’ I found the chapter on the evolution of the role of religion in human life most interesting and something I wanted to go deeper on,” Zuckerberg writes.
First published in 2014, “Sapiens” is a critically acclaimed international best seller by Hebrew University of Jerusalem historian Harari. He uses his book to track the evolution of Homo sapiens from hunter-gatherers into self-empowered “gods” of the future.
“Following the Muqaddimah, which was a history from the perspective of an intellectual in the 1300s, ‘Sapiens’ is a contemporary exploration of many similar questions,” Zuckerberg writes.
With The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn challenged long-standing linear notions of scientific progress, arguing that transformative ideas don’t arise from the day-to-day, gradual process of experimentation and data accumulation but that the revolutions in science, those breakthrough moments that disrupt accepted thinking and offer unanticipated ideas, occur outside of “normal science,” as he called it.
Kuhn’s book is best known for introducing the phrase “paradigm shift,” representing instances in scientific history when a perspective was fundamentally shifted, like when quantum physics replaced Newtonian mechanics.
Zuckerberg admits that this 800-page, data-rich book from a Harvard psychologist can seem intimidating.
But the writing is actually easy to get through, and he thinks that Pinker’s study of how violence has decreased over time despite being magnified by a 24-hour news cycle and social media is something that can offer a life-changing perspective.
It should be noted that Bill Gates also considers this one of the most important books he’s ever read.
Ridley is the only author to appear on Zuckerberg’s list twice.
Arguably the most significant scientific discovery of the new century, the mapping of the twenty-three pairs of chromosomes that make up the human genome raises almost as many questions as it answers. Questions that will profoundly impact the way we think about disease, about longevity, and about free will. Questions that will affect the rest of your life.
“This book aims to tell a history of humanity from the perspective of genetics rather than sociology,” Zuckerberg writes. “This should complement the other broad histories I’ve read this year.”
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
“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.
Originally published in 2006, “Energy” starts with a basic explanation of what energy is and then moves on to more complex subjects, including the quest to create more efficient and environmentally friendly fuels. It’s by University of Manitoba professor Vaclav Smil, one of Bill Gates’ favorite authors.
“It explores important topics around how energy works, how our production and use might evolve, and how this affects climate change,” Zuckerberg writes, noting he also plans on reading Smil’s book “Making the Modern World.”
Zuckerberg thinks this book by UCLA economist Michael Suk-Young Chwe can help its readers learn how to best use social media.
Why do Internet, financial service, and beer commercials dominate Super Bowl advertising? How do political ceremonies establish authority? Why does repetition characterize anthems and ritual speech? Why were circular forms favored for public festivals during the French Revolution? This book answers these questions using a single concept: common knowledge.
“The book is about the concept of ‘common knowledge’ and how people process the world not only based on what we personally know, but what we know other people know and our shared knowledge as well,” Zuckerberg writes.