Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s 2015 New Year’s resolution was to read a book every two weeks and get the Facebook community involved in the discussion.
He announced earlier this week that the third selection for his “A Year of Books” book club is the 2008 book “Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets” by Sudhir Venkatesh.
Venkatesh is a Columbia University sociology professor who in the ’90s became interested in Chicago’s urban poor as a graduate student at the University of Chicago. One day, when he asked gang members in the Robert Taylor Homes about their crack dealing business, they took him hostage, convinced he was a rival gang member pretending to be an academic.
Venkatesh says that when they finally realised he wasn’t a threat, one member told him, “You really need to live with people. You can’t ask them silly questions and hope you’re going to get the real answers to life around here.” He took that as an invitation, and soon found himself trailing the gang leader, JT, for seven to eight years.
“Gang Leader for a Day” is his recollection of his time embedded in JT’s gang, and includes a description of the day JT had him run his gang of 250 people.
Zuckerberg explains his choice on his personal Facebook page:
I’m still working my way through The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, which is an amazing book so far — about how violence has declined throughout history due to effective governance, the growth of commerce and the spread of ideas.
I see a lot of Facebook’s work in these themes. 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 loosely related to the themes Better Angels in that it explores what life is like for those who don’t live under effective governance. I’m looking forward to reading this and finishing up Better Angels.
“A Year in Books” so far:
- “The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isnt What It Used to Be” by Moisés Naím
- “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” by Steven Pinker
- “Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets” by Sudhir Venkatesh
For more information on Zuckerberg’s latest pick, check out this short video from Venkatesh on his experience:
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