Mark Zuckerberg Book Recommendations
For many reasons, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and books simply go hand in hand, whether we’re talking his favorite business classics or those written about him.
“Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today,” he believes. “I’m looking forward to shifting more of my media diet towards reading books.” Furthermore, one could imagine this favorite educational activity of his has had a profound impact on shaping him as a person and must have had something to do with the spirited – and profitable for that matter – approach he takes to life.
Therefore, in order to get to the bottom of what inspired one of the world’s wealthiest men to the heights of financial prosperity, we’ve compiled this list of 20 inspirational books Mark Zuckerberg has read himself and would certainly recommend to others as well.
Zero to One by Peter Theil
The great secret of our time is that there are still uncharted frontiers to explore and new inventions to create. In Zero to One, legendary entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel shows how we can find singular ways to create those new things.
Thiel begins with the contrarian premise that we live in an age of technological stagnation, even if we’re too distracted by shiny mobile devices to notice. Information technology has improved rapidly, but there is no reason why progress should be limited to computers or Silicon Valley. Progress can be achieved in any industry or area of business. It comes from the most important skill that every leader must master: learning to think for yourself.
Doing what someone else already knows how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But when you do something new, you go from 0 to 1. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. Tomorrow’s champions will not win by competing ruthlessly in today’s marketplace. They will escape competition altogether, because their businesses will be unique.
Source: “This book delivers completely new and refreshing ideas on how to create value in the world,” Zuckerberg said in a review.
High Output Management by Andrew Grove
The essential skill of creating and maintaining new businesses – the art of the entrepreneur – can be summed up in a single word: managing. Born of Grove’s experiences at one of America’s leading technology companies, High Output Management is equally appropriate for sales managers, accountants, consultants, and teachers, as well as CEOs and startup founders.
Grove covers techniques for creating highly productive teams, demonstrating methods of motivation that lead to peak performance – throughout, his text serves as a practical field guide to navigating real-life business scenarios and a powerful management manifesto with the ability to revolutionize the way we work.
Source: One of the books Mark Zuckerberg says had “a big role” in shaping his management style.
The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley
Matt Ridley makes the case for an economics of hope, arguing that the benefits of commerce, technology, innovation, and change – what Ridley calls cultural evolution – will inevitably increase human prosperity.
For two hundred years the pessimists have dominated public discourse, insisting that things will soon be getting much worse. But in fact, life is getting better – and at an accelerating rate. Food availability, income, and life span are up; disease, child mortality, and violence are down all across the globe. Africa is following Asia out of poverty; the Internet, mobile phone, and container shipping are enriching people’s lives as never before.
An astute, refreshing, and revelatory work that covers the entire sweep of human history – from the Stone Age to the Internet – The Rational Optimist will change your way of thinking about the world for the better.
Source: “This book argues that economic progress is the greater force pushing society forward,” Zuckerberg explains.
Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull
For nearly twenty years, Pixar has dominated the world of animation, producing such beloved films as the Toy Story trilogy, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Up, WALL-E, and Inside Out, which have gone on to set box-office records and garner thirty Academy Awards. The joyousness of the storytelling, the inventive plots, the emotional authenticity: In some ways, Pixar movies are an object lesson in what creativity really is. Here, in this book, Catmull reveals the ideals and techniques that have made Pixar so widely admired – and so profitable.
As a young man, Ed Catmull had a dream: to make the first computer-animated movie. He nurtured that dream as a Ph.D. student at the University of Utah, where many computer science pioneers got their start, and then forged a partnership with George Lucas that led, indirectly, to his co-founding Pixar in 1986.
Source: “I love reading first-hand accounts about how people build great companies like Pixar and nurture innovation and creativity,” Zuckerberg shares. “This should be inspiring to anyone looking to do the same, and hopefully there will be lessons we can apply to connecting the world!”
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers, Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.
Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If the world survives, that is.
Source: Best-selling author Time Ferriss points out that there was a time when this was the only book listed on Zuckerberg’s Facebook page. “If it’s good enough to be the sole selection of the founder of Facebook, maybe there’s something to it,” he concludes.
The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore
New York, 1888. Gas lamps still flicker in the city streets, but the miracle of electric light is in its infancy. The person who controls the means to turn night into day will make history – and a vast fortune. A young untested lawyer named Paul Cravath, fresh out of Columbia Law School, takes a case that seems impossible to win. Paul’s client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over a billion-dollar question: Who invented the light bulb and holds the right to power the country?
In obsessive pursuit of victory, Paul crosses paths with Nikola Tesla, an eccentric, brilliant inventor who may hold the key to defeating Edison, and with Agnes Huntington, a beautiful opera singer who proves to be a flawless performer on stage and off. As Paul takes greater and greater risks, he’ll find that everyone in his path is playing their own game, and no one is quite who they seem.
Source: “It’s about the competition to electrify the nation between Edison, Westinghouse and Tesla,” Zuckerberg notes. “Graham is a great storyteller.”
The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutch
Award-winning physicist David Deutsch argues that explanations have a fundamental place in the universe – and that improving them is the basic regulating principle of all successful human endeavor. Taking us on a journey through every fundamental field of science, as well as the history of civilization, art, moral values, and the theory of political institutions, Deutsch tracks how we form new explanations and drop bad ones, explaining the conditions under which progress – which he argues is potentially boundless – can and cannot happen.
Source: “It’s fitting to end the year with The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch, about how the way we explain things unlocks greater possibilities,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post.
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
Sandberg is chief operating officer of Facebook and coauthor of Option B with Adam Grant. In 2010, she gave an electrifying TED talk in which she described how women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers. Her talk, which has been viewed more than six million times, encouraged women to “sit at the table,” seek challenges, take risks, and pursue their goals with gusto.
Lean In continues that conversation, combining personal anecdotes, hard data, and compelling research to change the conversation from what women can’t do to what they can. Sandberg provides practical advice on negotiation techniques, mentorship, and building a satisfying career.
She describes specific steps women can take to combine professional achievement with personal fulfillment, and demonstrates how men can benefit by supporting women both in the workplace and at home.
Source: “For the past five years, I’ve sat at a desk next to Sheryl and I’ve learned something from her almost every day. She has a remarkable intelligence that can cut through complex processes and find solutions to the hardest problems,” Zuckerberg penned in a review. “Lean In combines Sheryl’s ability to synthesize information with her understanding of how to get the best out of people. The book is smart and honest and funny. Her words will help all readers – especially men – to become better and more effective leaders.”
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn
With The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn challenged long-standing linear notions of scientific progress, arguing that transformative ideas don’t arise from the day-to-day, gradual process of experimentation and data accumulation but that the revolutions in science, those breakthrough moments that disrupt accepted thinking and offer unanticipated ideas, occur outside of “normal science,” as he called it.
Though Kuhn was writing when physics ruled the sciences, his ideas on how scientific revolutions bring order to the anomalies that amass over time in research experiments are still instructive in our biotech age.
Source: “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,” Zuckerberg explains.
The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker
Believe it or not, today we may be living in the most peaceful moment in our species’ existence. In his gripping and controversial new work, New York Times bestselling author Steven Pinker shows that despite the ceaseless news about war, crime, and terrorism, violence has actually been in decline over long stretches of history.
Exploding myths about humankind’s inherent violence and the curse of modernity, this ambitious gem among books Mark Zuckerberg recommends continues Pinker’s exploration of the essence of human nature, mixing psychology and history to provide a remarkable picture of an increasingly enlightened world.
Source: “It’s a timely book about how and why violence has steadily decreased throughout our history, and how we can continue this trend,” Zuckerberg says. “A few people I trust have told me this is the best book they’ve ever read.”
The Muqaddimah by Ibn Khaldûn
The Muqaddimah, often translated as “Introduction” or “Prolegomenon,” is the most important Islamic history of the premodern world. Written by the great fourteenth-century Arab scholar Ibn Khaldûn (d. 1406), this monumental work established the foundations of several fields of knowledge, including the philosophy of history, sociology, ethnography, and economics.
Source: “It’s 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,” Zuckerberg shares. “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.”
Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu
Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson conclusively show that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or lack of it). Korea, to take just one of their fascinating examples, is a remarkably homogeneous nation, yet the people of North Korea are among the poorest on earth while their brothers and sisters in South Korea are among the richest. The south forged a society that created incentives, rewarded innovation, and allowed everyone to participate in economic opportunities.
Based on fifteen years of original research, Why Nations Fail marshall’s extraordinary historical evidence from the Roman Empire, the Mayan city-states, medieval Venice, the Soviet Union, Latin America, England, Europe, the United States, and Africa to build a new theory of political economy with great relevance for the big questions of today.
Source: “This one discusses why poverty exists and how to reduce it,” Zuckerberg determines.
The End of Power by Moises Naim
Power is shifting – from large, stable armies to loose bands of insurgents, from corporate leviathans to nimble start-ups, and from presidential palaces to public squares. But power is also changing, becoming harder to use and easier to lose. In this favorite among books Mark Zuckerberg recommends, award-winning columnist and former Foreign Policy editor Moises Naim illuminates the struggle between once-dominant mega players and the new micro powers challenging them in every field of human endeavor.
Drawing on provocative, original research and a lifetime of experience in global affairs, Naim explains how the end of power is reconfiguring our world.
Source: “It’s a 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,” Zuckerberg explains. “The trend towards giving people more power is one I believe in deeply.”
The Idea Factory by Jon Gertner
From its beginnings in the 1920s until its demise in the 1980s, Bell Labs – officially, the research and development wing of AT&T – was the biggest, and arguably the best, laboratory for new ideas in the world. From the transistor to the laser, from digital communications to cellular telephony, it’s hard to find an aspect of modern life that hasn’t been touched by Bell Labs.
In The Idea Factory, Jon Gertner traces the origins of some of the twentieth century’s most important inventions and delivers a riveting and heretofore untold chapter of American history. At its heart, this is a story about the life and work of a small group of brilliant and eccentric men – Mervin Kelly, Bill Shockley, Claude Shannon, John Pierce, and Bill Baker – who spent their careers at Bell Labs.
Source: “I’m very interested in what causes innovation – what kinds of people, questions and environments,” Zuckerberg divulges. “This book explores that question by looking at Bell Labs, which was one of the most innovative labs in history.”
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution – a #1 international bestseller – that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.”
From examining the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, Sapiens integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas.
Dr. Harari also compels us to look ahead, because over the last few decades humans have begun to bend laws of natural selection that have governed life for the past four billion years. We are acquiring the ability to design not only the world around us, but also ourselves. Where is this leading us, and what do we want to become?
Source: “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,” Zuckerberg writes.
Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! by Richard Feynman
Richard Feynman, winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, thrived on outrageous adventures. Here he recounts in his inimitable voice his experience trading ideas on atomic physics with Einstein and Bohr and ideas on gambling with Nick the Greek; cracking the uncrackable safes guarding the most deeply held nuclear secrets; accompanying a ballet on his bongo drums; painting a naked female toreador. In short, here is Feynman’s life in all its eccentric, combustible mixture of high intelligence, unlimited curiosity, and raging chutzpah.
Source: One of the books Mark Zuckerberg added to his Facebook page.
Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
Based on newly released personal letters of Einstein, this book explores how an imaginative, impertinent patent clerk – a struggling father in a difficult marriage who couldn’t get a teaching job or a doctorate – became the mind reader of the creator of the cosmos, the locksmith of the mysteries of the atom, and the universe. His success came from questioning conventional wisdom and marveling at mysteries that struck others as mundane. This led him to embrace a morality and politics based on respect for free minds, free spirits, and free individuals.
These traits are just as vital for this new century of globalization, in which our success will depend on our creativity, as they were for the beginning of the last century, when Einstein helped usher in the modern age.
Source: One of the books Mark Zuckerberg added to his Facebook page.
American Lion by Jon Meacham
Beloved and hated, venerated and reviled, Andrew Jackson was an orphan who fought his way to the pinnacle of power, bending the nation to his will in the cause of democracy. Jackson’s election in 1828 ushered in a new and lasting era in which the people, not distant elites, were the guiding force in American politics. Democracy made its stand in the Jackson years, and he gave voice to the hopes and the fears of a restless, changing nation facing challenging times at home and threats abroad.
To tell the saga of Jackson’s presidency, acclaimed author Jon Meacham goes inside the Jackson White House. Drawing on newly discovered family letters and papers, he details the human drama–the family, the women, and the inner circle of advisers – that shaped Jackson’s private world through years of storm and victory.
Source: One of the books Mark Zuckerberg added to his Facebook page.
Rational Ritual by Michael Suk-Young Chwe
Michael Suk-Young Chwe shows that public ceremonies are powerful not simply because they transmit meaning from a central source to each audience member but because they let audience members know what other members know. For instance, people watching the Super Bowl know that many others are seeing precisely what they see and that those people know in turn that many others are also watching. This creates common knowledge, and advertisers selling products that depend on consensus are willing to pay large sums to gain access to it.
Remarkably, a great variety of rituals and ceremonies, such as formal inaugurations, work in much the same way. This insightful gem among books Mark Zuckerberg recommends illustrates how game theory can be applied to an unexpectedly broad spectrum of problems.
Source: “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,” Zuckerberg explains. “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.”
Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi
Andre Agassi had his life mapped out for him before he left the crib. Groomed to be a tennis champion by his moody and demanding father, by the age of twenty-two Agassi had won the first of his eight grand slams and achieved wealth, celebrity, and the game’s highest honors. But as he reveals in this searching autobiography, off the court he was often unhappy and confused, unfulfilled by his great achievements in a sport he had come to resent.
Agassi writes candidly about his early success and his uncomfortable relationship with fame, his marriage to Brooke Shields, his growing interest in philanthropy, and – described in haunting, point-by-point detail – the highs and lows of his celebrated career.
Source: One of the books Mark Zuckerberg added to his Facebook page.
If you enjoyed this guide to books Mark Zuckerberg recommends, be sure to check out our list of 20 Inspirational Books Jeff Bezos Recommends Reading!