Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg Resolves to Read More Books

1-5-15 Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg takes audience questions in an onstage interview for The Atlantic magazine in Washington, D.C., on September 18, 2013. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

The new year opens the gate for a flood of resolutions. Some people swear they’ll hit the gym, quit smoking or spend less time on social media. On the list of New Year’s resolutions for Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg? Read more books.

“I've found reading books very intellectually fulfilling,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook note on Friday, sharing the challenge he has set for himself for 2015. “Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today.”

Zuckerberg will choose a new book to crack open every other week, “with an emphasis on learning about different cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies.” He’ll post his choices on a page he created, “A Year of Books,” so that people (Facebook is no longer calling them “users”) can follow along and discuss the selections—a Facebook book club, if you will. The page has already clocked tens of thousands of “likes.”

1-5-15 Year of Books Mark Zuckerberg has created "A Year of Books," a page to share and discuss the new books he’s challenged himself to read every other week in 2015. Facebook

The first title in a list of more than two dozen that will follow if Zuckerberg sticks to his resolution is a 2013 book by Moisés Naím, a former minister of trade and industry for Venezuela, the editor of Foreign Policy for 14 years and now a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The book “explores how the world is shifting to give individual people more power that was traditionally only held by large governments, militaries and other organizations,” Zuckerberg wrote when he announced his selection.

Naím’s 320-page The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States: Why Being in Charge Isn’t What It Used to Be, was described by The Washington Post as “a truly important contribution, persuasively portraying a compelling dynamic of change cutting across multiple game-boards of the global power matrix.”

The paperback version of Naím’s book is now “temporarily out of stock” on Amazon, while a few new and used copies of both the paperback and hardcover versions are available from Amazon partners, or as an e-book on Kindle. A snapshot from the end of October shows the book still in stock, with several outlets reporting that Amazon sold out of the book just a few days after Zuckerberg announced it as his first pick.

On New Year’s Eve, Zuckerberg wrote a Facebook note to crowdsource suggestions for what his challenge in 2015 ought to be:

Every year I take on a challenge to broaden my perspective and learn something about the world beyond my work at Facebook.

In past years, some of my challenges have been:

- Learning to speak Mandarin (Zuckerberg gave an interview in the language in October of 2014)

- Meeting one new person who doesn't work at Facebook every day

- Writing a thank you note each day to someone who made the world better

- Being a vegetarian (or only eating meat if I killed the animal myself)

- Wearing a tie every day

In the comments, people made suggestions that included:

  • “Spend an hour a week in a K-12 classroom teaching and learning about anything but Facebook!” —Michele Thomas

  • “Find the poorest countires [sic] on Earth and help them to become self sufficient through small business, you can sponsor and mentor them.” —Briar Wright

  • “Plant a tree for every user of Facebook.” —Keyla Rivas

  • “Do one menial task per week. I.e. take over a shift for your janitor, someone in the cafeteria, work a shift at Starbucks.” —Daniel Cooper

  • “Meet an immigrant family and tell their story to the public every week.” —Ilya Sukhar

  • “Read a new book every month BUT, someone else gets to choose the book.” —Cynthia Greco

To this last suggestion, Zuckerberg replied, “I really like this idea.” To Rachel Brown, who said he should read the Bible, he wrote, “Good idea. I’ve read it before, but I should read it again. There are lots of things I’d love to read.”

Three days later, Zuckerberg shared his resolution to read a new book every other week. His declaration comes at a time when there is a heavy emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects in K-12 as well as in higher education. The focus threatens to leave humanities and arts in the shadows, Emily Eckart wrote on the Post’s PostEverything Blog as 2014 drew to a close.

Zuckerberg, who has more than 30 million followers on Facebook, likely has a larger audience for his challenge than most do for their New Year’s resolutions. While he has encouraged increased STEM education and made donations in the past, and has also pushed for immigration reform for highly skilled tech workers, his focus on books this year could simultaneously inspire an interest in humanities and literature.

In less than three days, his Year of Books page has gotten more than 145,000 likes, with an additional 8,000 in the time it took to write this story.