Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s 2015 New Year’s resolution was to read an important book every two weeks and discuss it with the Facebook community.
Zuckerberg’s book club, A Year of Books, has focused on big ideas that influence society and business. He’s broken up these heavy books with some lighter science fiction, as he’s done with his 20th pick, Liu Cixin’s “The Three-Body Problem.”
It was first published in China in 2008, and the English translation that came out last year won the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel, an award for sci-fi book of the year.
It’s set during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, and kicks off when an alien race decides to invade Earth after the Chinese government covertly sends a signal into space.
Zuckerberg’s sci-fi picks may be lighter fare than his other selections, but they all have some cultural relevance he’s trying to tap into. With “The Three Body Problem,” it’s notable that it became a bestselling sensation and soon-to-be blockbuster in China, since science fiction has typically had a weak presence in Communist China, according to a 2014 New York Times profile of Liu.
The growing popularity of the genre, led by Liu, is indicative of changes in the culture.
“China is on the path of rapid modernization and progress, kind of like the U.S. during the golden age of science fiction in the ’30s to the ’60s,” Liu told the Times. “The future in the people’s eyes is full of attractions, temptations and hope. But at the same time, it is also full of threats and challenges. That makes for very fertile soil.”
Zuckerberg, who taught himself Mandarin, has been a student of Chinese culture over the past few years as he’s tried to persuade the Chinese government to grant its 1.4 billion citizens access to his social network.
On his personal Facebook page, he said “The Three-Body Problem” will be “a fun break from all the economics and social science books I’ve read recently.”
He added that he apologizes for the week-long delay with this “A Year of Books” selection, and that he’ll accelerate the pace of his book picks to make up for lost time.
A Year of Books so far:
- “The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn’t 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
- “On Immunity: An Inoculation” by Eula Biss
- “Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration” by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
- “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas S. Kuhn
- “Rational Ritual: Culture, Coordination, and Common Knowledge” by Michael Chwe
- “Dealing with China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower” by Henry M. Paulson
- “Orwell’s Revenge: The 1984 Palimpsest” by Peter Huber
- “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander
- “The Muqaddimah” by Ibn Khaldun
- “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari
- “The Player of Games” by Iain M. Banks
- “Energy: A Beginner’s Guide” by Vaclav Smil
- “Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters” by Matt Ridley
- “The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature” by William James
- “Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $US2 a Day” by Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutherford, and Orlanda Ruthven
- “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty” by Daren Acemoğlu and James Robinson
- “The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves” by Matt Ridley
- “The Three-Body Problem” by Liu Cixin