The founder of Facebook is giving Amazon a leg-up. Over the weekend, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that his New Year’s resolution was to read a book every two weeks in 2015, and he invited his 30 million followers to join him. His first selection had sold out on Amazon.com within 24 hours.
The 30-year-old billionaire is known for making New Year’s resolutions that are by turns banal and bizarre. In the past he has undertaken to meet a new person every day for a year, to write a daily thank-you note, and to wear a tie every day. One year, Mr Zuckerberg vowed to learn Mandarin. Another, he announced that he would only eat meat from animals that he had killed himself, and enlisted a local chef and butcher to facilitate the process.
The Facebook boss said that this year, he had received suggestions for his resolution from some 50,000 people. In the end, he decided to create what could become the world’s largest book club, to read titles that, he says, will “emphasise learning about new cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies”. Mr Zuckerberg set up a “Year of Books” Facebook group, which, as of Monday afternoon, had almost 150,000 likes.
Members will read the books alongside Mr Zuckerberg, and discuss them in the group’s comment threads. “I’ve found reading books very intellectually fulfilling,” Mr Zuckerberg wrote in a post. “Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today. I’m looking forward to shifting more of my media diet towards reading books.”
His followers have already made thousands of suggestions for future reading material, including votes for the Bible and the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and Revolution by Russell Brand. Instead, Mr Zuckerberg has opened proceedings with The End of Power, a 320-page non-fiction tome by Moisés Naím, the former editor of Foreign Policy magazine.
According to its blurb, the book explores the global shift in influence “from West to East and North to South, from presidential palaces to public squares, from once formidable corporate behemoths to nimble start-ups and, slowly but surely, from men to women”.
Mr Zuckerberg wrote that 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 organisations. 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.”
Yet prospective members of Mr Zuckerberg’s “Year of Books” group may have difficulty in acquiring a copy of Mr Naím’s book within two weeks, let alone reading it. The title, which was originally published in 2013, was still out of stock on Amazon.com on Monday, and ranked No 73 in sales. It is also available as an e-book.
Though several US media outlets have hosted book groups, until now none has enjoyed the reach and influence of Oprah’s Book Club, which Oprah Winfrey hosted as part of her talk show from 1996 until the final episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2011. “The Oprah Effect” could turn minor works into million-sellers. Mr Zuckerberg may just do the same.
Next on the list? Our suggestions
The Circle by Dave Eggers
This 2013 novel features an increasingly sinister web firm known as The Circle.
You Are Not A Gadget by Jared Lanier
A 2010 polemic against networked culture by one of its originators.
Microserfs by Douglas Coupland
Written in 1995, this satire’s principal characters are Microsoft workers.
Walden by Henry Thoreau
Thoreau’s 1854 account of a year spent living alone in the Massachusetts wilderness.
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
A dystopian sci-fi novel written in 1948 about a world of omnipresent surveillance.
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