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Why it matters that Mark Zuckerberg is reading books this year

Mark Zuckerbergfavicon Mark Zuckerberg is reading books this year.

Every year, Mr. Zuckerberg makes a self-improvement goal. They’ve been varied — everything from wearing a tie to meeting a new person every day to learning Chinese to eating meat only from animals he’d personally killed.

Mr. Zuckerberg’s goal to read a book every two weeks this year is a big deal. Obviously it’ll help several authors and publishers make tons of money. (Mr. Zuckerberg’s first book, The End of Power, jumped from #45,140 on Amazon to the Top 10. That’s pretty amazing.)

But I’m less interested in the book industry and more interested in how Mr. Zuckerberg, at least this year, will become the new Oprah.

Here’s what The New Yorker had to say about Mr. Zuckerberg:

Mark Zuckerberg New Yorker

Many of us (including author Jonathan Franzen) may have not always liked Oprah’s book choices, or even the idea of one extremely powerful person recommending what we should read. But Oprah got millions of people reading — and millions of people talking about the books they were reading.

That’s the problem with books — vs. movies, TV shows, and even podcasts. There are too many of them, and not enough people are reading the same books at the same time, and so therefore, a lot of times, this is what happens between friends.

Friend #1: Hey, did you read Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande?
Friend #2: No, but I heard about it.
Friend #1: You totally should read it.
Friend #2: OK, right. Yeah, so have you read All the Light We Cannot See?
Friend #1: No, but everyone else has. Is it good?
Friend #2: It’s amazing. You should read it.
Friend #1: OK.

This silly conversation happens all the time — and would never happen with a top movie, like Selma, or even a popular podcast, like Serial. With other forms of media, there are more shared experiences and shared conversations.

That’s not to say that I dismiss reading for its own sake. There are plenty of books I read that I love that don’t need to be talked about. Some books are just for me. Reading is wonderful as a solitary act of self-discovery.

But sometimes, I want to talk about a book. And even in book clubs, discussions sometimes stay on the surface. If books are meant to challenge our perspectives, to deepen our sense of meaning, and to build connection and empathy, then it would be nice if they’re talked about sometimes.

And that’s why I like that Mr. Zuckerberg is reading. Read on, Mr. Zuckerberg! favicon

6 comments

  1. Sarah from Utah

    Join a book club already! Or start one. Or just tell your readers which books you want to talk about and then invite anyone who has read the book to go out for coffee (or, if you live in Utah, a soda) with you.

  2. micheleg

    I’m excited about ANY good press for books. And I think there’s more conversation than what you describe. People often describe what they’ve read – the theme or the setting or the struggle – with their conversation partner in mind, and they make the connection: “You should read All the Light we Cannot See because I know you’re interested in historical stuff, or ham radio technology, or you really appreciate a beautiful turn of phrase.” That’s how I talk about books, at least. I often pick up a book that I know very little about because someone I respect (like you, Mark Isero!) has recommended it. Lots and lots of people respect Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah. They are great spokespeople for books. So YAY them!

    • Mark Isero

      You pick up books because of me? 🙂 That’s kind of you, Michele. Thank you. Yesterday on Muni I saw someone reading a Kindle and someone reading a physical book. It made me hopeful. (Everyone else was checking FB on their phones.)

  3. Zl!temovayob1

    “Are you guys following Mark Zuckerberg’s ‘A Year of Books’ challenge?
    You might want to check out my simple ‘A Year of Books’ app. It’s beta and has some bugs but I’m working on it.

    Download Android – http://bit.ly/ayearofbooksapp

    . Shows you the books read by Mark Zuckerberg.
    . Gives a notification once he announces the next book.
    . And also gives you all the important links about the book (Goodreads, Amazon, etc).

    If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear it!

    P.S. The iOS version will be released soon.”

    • Mark Isero

      Jason, thanks so much for letting us know about your app! I just downloaded it, and it’s a perfect resource. Several of my friends want to read more this year, and to talk about the books we read, and so this app is going to be very helpful. Thank you again!

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