Mark Zuckerberg Picks Harvard Professor’s Book for National Reading Challenge

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Image via Associated Press

Image via Associated Press

When you have billions of dollars at your disposal, it’s easy to find time to sit back, relax, pick up a new book, and read through it in two weeks time.

That’s what Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been doing as part of his New Year’s resolution, and his second book in the line up is one that was written by Harvard University professor Steven Pinker in 2011.

On Saturday, January 17, Zuckerberg announced on Facebook (because, where else?) that he would be diving into Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined as part of his newly launched project “A Year In Books,” in which he urges followers on the social media site to join him in reading a selected piece of literature, and discussing it on a Facebook page dedicated to that particular book.

“It’s a timely book about how and why violence has steadily decreased throughout our history, and how we can continue this trend,” Zuckerberg said in a post on his Facebook page. “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.”

Pinker, a professor in Harvard’s department of psychology who primarily researches language and cognition, said he was “glad” Zuckerberg decided to call attention to “major think-books” like his own.

“They are often passed over in the dwindling book review sections,” he said. “It may be the best thing for books since the Oprah Book Club, and with more intellectually rigorous choices. Needless to say, I’m honored that he selected The Better Angels of Our Nature, which I like to think provides a perspective on the world that’s hard to get from standard news reports of daily mayhem and violence.”

The Facebook CEO’s plan was to speed-read through each book selected in just two weeks, but because Pinker’s book is longer—it’s about 800 pages— than his first pick, Moises Naim’s The End of Power, he will spend an entire month sifting through it.

“A few people I trust have told me this is the best book they’ve ever read,” said Zuckerberg. “I’ll add a third book in two weeks that will be a shorter read to complement this.”

If his first selection was any indication, Pinker’s book will likely see a boost in sales online. According to the Associated Press, when Zuckerberg announced that he would be reading The End of Power earlier this month, it became a top-seller on Amazon.com. Zuckerberg has 31 million followers on Facebook, so titles are bound to garner interest when mentioned by the former Harvard student.

“It’s already happened,” said Pinker. “The Amazon rank of the book soared to [number] 236 in all books, and [number] one to three in several categories.”

Source URL: https://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/2015/01/19/mark-zuckerberg-book-challenge-harvard-professor/