Finding gifts for loved ones during the holidays is always a bit of a challenge. But this year is different: Mark Zuckerberg has given you a gift with his “Year Of Books” reading list, carefully curated by the Facebook CEO to “emphasize learning about new cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies.”
Throughout 2015, Zuckerberg challenged members of his public Facebook group to read one new book every two weeks along with him, and his year-long list is fascinating and thought-provoking. The books are varied in scope and interest, just like Zuckerberg, and will surely catch the interest of any entrepreneurs on your holiday list. Here’s the Year of Books in its entirety, for you and your loved ones to enjoy.
1. The End of Power by Moises Naim.
The End of Power - What Mark says: "This book that explores how the world is shifting to give individual people more power that was traditionally only held by large governments, militaries and other organizations. The trend towards giving people more power is one I believe in deeply, and I'm looking forward to reading this book and exploring this in more detail.''
Moises Naim, editor-In-chief for Foreign Policy magazine for 14 years, argues that a shift to individual power creates opportunity for more growth, but also creates global instability, requiring more insight and forethought from individuals, before bad ideas and bad leaders become the norm.
2. The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker.
The Better Angels of Our Nature -What Mark says: "Recent events might make it seem like violence and terrorism are more common than ever, so it's worth understanding that all violence -- even terrorism -- is actually decreasing over time. If we understand how we are achieving this, we can continue our path towards peace. A few people I trust have told me this is the best book they've ever read.
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Steven Pinker’s fascinating book mines the essence of human nature, challenging common thought to provide a surprising and well-researched picture of an increasingly nonviolent world.
3. Gang Leader For a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh.
Gang Leader For a Day -What Mark says: "I see a lot of Facebook's work in [the themes of The Better Angels and Gang Leader For A Day]. 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. Similarly, the more we benefit from global commerce and the services others provide us, the greater our incentive is to keep each other safe as it improves our lives.''
Gang Leader for a Day is the mesmerizing story of how Sudhir Venkatesh, a young sociology grad student, managed to gain entrance into one of Chicago’s most notorious gangs for seven years, and how he took his findings and made them into a method that revolutionized the academic establishment.
Related: Books Are the New Business Card
4. On Immunity by Eula Bliss.
On Immunity -What Mark says: "Vaccination is an important and timely topic. The science is completely clear: vaccinations work and are important for the health of everyone in our community. This book was recommended to me by scientists and friends who work in public health. It’s also relatively short — one that you should be able to read in a few hours.''
Eula Bliss, a Northwestern professor, explores the facets of immunity in this beautiful book, prying apart the reasons why some people question vaccines. At once a history, a biography of motherhood, a parenting guide, and a sociological study, Bliss gives crucial insight into why vaccinations are necessary for the continued health of humankind.
5. Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull.
Creativity, Inc. -What Mark says: "I love reading first-hand accounts about how people build great companies like Pixar and nurture innovation and creativity. This should be inspiring to anyone looking to do the same, and hopefully there will be lessons we can apply to connecting the world!''
Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, has written a methodical philosophy book for managers, utilizing all of the skill and insight that created the pioneering culture of Pixar.
6. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions -What Mark says: "It's a history of science book that explores the question of whether science and technology make consistent forward progress or whether progress comes in bursts related to other social forces. I tend to think that science is a consistent force for good in the world. I think we'd all be better off if we invested more in science and acted on the results of research.''
First published in 1962, Kuhn’s book has been updated with an introduction by Ian Hacking, who explains how the scientific theories posited therein can be applied to modern scientific and philosophical issues.
7. Rational Ritual by Michael Suk-Young Chwe.
Rational Ritual - What Mark says: ''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. This is an important idea for designing social media, as we often face tradeoffs between creating personalized experiences for each individual and crafting universal experiences for everyone. I'm looking forward to exploring this further.''
Applying game theory to a broad spectrum of problems, Chwe examines rituals across time and geography, showing how they create census, meaning, and common knowledge and what that means for modern economics.
8. Dealing With China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower by Hank Paulson.
Dealing With China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower - What Mark says: "Over the last 35 years, China has experienced one of the greatest economic and social transformations in human history. 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. I've been personally interested as a student of Chinese culture, history and language. I'm looking forward to reading Paulson's perspective on what China's rise means for the world.''
This book is about Paulson's experience working with Chinese leaders over two decades as US Secretary of the Treasury and as head of Goldman Sachs. Dealing With China takes the reader behind closed doors to witness the creation and evolution and future of China's state-controlled capitalism.
9. Orwell’s Revenge by Peter Huber.
Orwell’s Revenge - What Mark says: "Many of us are familiar with George Orwell's book 1984: its ideas of Big Brother, surveillance and doublespeak have become pervasive fears in our culture. Orwell's Revenge is an alternate version of 1984. 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.''
Incredibly, in a dazzling turn which sets the computer against Orwell's own text, Peter Huber scanned all of Orwell's writings and used the computer to rewrite 1984 completely, using Orwell's own language.
10. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.
The New Jim Crow - What Mark says: "This social justice book outlines the many ways the US criminal justice system discriminates against minorities, disadvantages them and prevents everyone from having equal opportunity. I've been interested in learning about criminal justice reform for a while, and this book was highly recommended by several people I trust.''
Arguably one of the most important books on modern US race relations and mass incarceration ever published, Alexander has written a comprehensive, well-cited book on the continued use of outdated Jim Crow law to justify the largest incarcerated population on the planet.
11. The Muqaddimah by Ibn Khaldoun.
The Muqaddimah - What Mark says: "This book is a history of the world written by an intellectual who lived in the 1300s. It focuses on how society and culture flow, including the creation of cities, politics, commerce and science. 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.''
Ibn Khaldoun is considered the founder of sociology. He is the first who described history based on rules on which human societies are built, and this book is considered the most important Islamic history in the pre-modern world, setting the foundations for the philosophy of history, sociology, ethnography, and economics.
12. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Harari.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind - What Mark says: "This book is a big history narrative of human civilization -- from how we developed from hunter-gatherers early on to how we organize our society and economy today.''
Examining the three great revolutions of human history -- cognitive, agricultural, and scientific -- Harari asks the question: is the ability to control nature and use it for the will of humanity an advantage or a hindrance?
13. The Player of Games by Iain Banks.
The Player of Games - What Mark says: "This is a change of pace from all the recent social science books. Instead, it's a science fiction book about an advanced civilization with AI and a vibrant culture.''
“The Culture,” a society where no one gets sick and no one dies, produces the greatest game player who ever lived. Jurnau Gurgeh travels to a far-reaching arcane empire to play the emperor -- and the winner may settle the fate of the two nations.
14. Energy: A Beginner’s Guide by Vaclav Smil.
Energy: A Beginner’s Guide - What Mark says: "This book is about physical rather than social sciences. It explores important topics around how energy works, how our production and use might evolve, and how this affects climate change.Vaclav Smil's works have been highly recommended by Bill Gates and others.''
A clear, comprehensive, and insightful guide written in beautiful prose exploring how we use and abuse energy, and the consequences of those choices on climate change and the future of the human race.
15. Genome by Matt Ridley.
Genome - What Mark says: "This book aims to tell a history of humanity from the perspective of genetics rather than sociology. This should complement the other broad histories I've read this year, as well as follow Energy well in focusing on science.''
Ridley writes a compelling and easy to understand book about how the Human Genome Project (the mapping of all 23 chromosomes) is as important a scientific discovery as the splitting of the atom. He pulls apart single chromosomes and tells their story, exploring sex, cancer, intelligence, and so much more.
16. The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James
The Varieties of Religious Experience - What Mark says: "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. William James was a philosopher in the 1800s who shaped much of modern psychology.''
A classic and still-relevant part of the catalog of modern philosophy and psychology, every library should have an edition of James’ renowned series that examines the nature of religion and religious experience.
17. Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 a Day by Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford & Orlanda Ruthven.
Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 a Day - What Mark says: "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. This book explains how these families invest their money to best support themselves. I hope reading this provides some insight into ways we can all work together to support them better as well.''
Most people have no idea what it’s like to live at the level of poverty at which nearly 40 percent of the world’s population must live every day. Portfolios of the Poor explores how billions of people make their money stretch past what economically fat countries can fathom.
18. Why Nations Fall by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson.
Why Nations Fall - What Mark says: "This book explores the different kinds of social institutions and incentives that nations have applied to encourage prosperity, economic development and elimination of poverty. This is a good complement to our last book, Portfolios of the Poor, which focused on how people live in poverty. This one discusses why poverty exists and how to reduce it.''
This logical, no-nonsense eye-opener explores how political and economic institutions evolve and mature over the years to make nations what they are currently. Based on 15 years of research, Why Nations Fall will make you understand the world in a very different way.
19. The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley.
The Rational Optimist - What Mark says: "Two of the books I've read this year -- The Better Angels of Our Nature: and Why Nations Fail -- have explored how social and economic progress work together to make the world better. This book argues that economic progress is the greater force is pushing society forward. I'm interested to see which idea resonates more after exploring both frameworks.''
The world is constantly getting better: overall violence is down (contrary to what the news media would have us believe), life span is up, food availability is up, mortality rates are plummeting. The Rational Optimist argues that because of the unending capacity for human innovation, and despite the coming inevitable disasters, the human race will continue to thrive into the 21st century.
20. The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu.
The Three Body Problem - What Mark says: "This Chinese science fiction book that has gotten so popular there's now a Hollywood movie being made based on it. This will also be a fun break from all the economics and social science books I've read recently.''
This widely acclaimed Chinese science fiction book is a Hugo Award winner and Nebula Award nominee. In this phenomenal book, a secret military operation contacts aliens, who then plan to invade Earth. On Earth, humans divide into factions that either welcome the aliens as an alternative to their corrupt government, or warriors set on fighting the invasion.
21. The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation by Jon Gertner.
The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation - What Mark says: "I'm very interested in what causes innovation -- what kinds of people, questions and environments. This book explores that question by looking at Bell Labs, which was one of the most innovative labs in history.''
Over it’s sixty-plus year reign as one of the biggest and (arguably) best laboratories in the world, Bell Labs -- the R&D arm of AT&T -- created some of the most important innovations known to mankind. This book explores the lives and inventions of the brilliant men who worked in the lab, and how today’s incredible explosion of technological creation can be understood through the context of the foundation they built.
22. World Order by Henry Kissinger.
World Order - What Mark says: "This book is important for creating the world we all want for our children, and that's what I'm thinking about these days.''
Kissinger, one of the most notable statesman of his era, has written a deeply rooted treatise on global disorder and international peace based on observations made while he advised presidents and shaped some of the largest foreign policy decisions in recent decades.