The Zuckerberg Bump

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The second title in Mark Zuckerberg’s new Facebook book club, Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our NatureWhy Violence Has Declined, (Penguin/Viking, 2011; trade pbk, 2012; Brilliance Audio  OverDrive Sample), announced on Saturday, immediately moved up Amazon’s sales rankings, and is now at #307 from a lowly #7,514.

The selection may seem at odds with the times, but Zuckerberg insists, “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.” He adds, “A few people I trust have told me this is the best book they’ve ever read.”

As to the length, it is 800 pages. Zuckerberg admits he will need a month to finish it, so he promises to pick a shorter book in two weeks so club members can read both at the same time.

One of those people is Bill Gates, who has called The Better Angels of Our Nature his “favorite book of the last decade” and “a long but profound look at the reduction in violence and discrimination over time.”

The rise in sales was not quite as great as for the first selection, Moisés Naím’s The End of Power, which climbed to #10 on Amazon’s rankings and also just debuted at #14 on the Jan. 25 New York Times combined nonfiction best seller list. Ironically, as The Washington Post reported, Facebook proved to not be a conducive platform for the book discussion.

The attention also generated holds in libraries. Given the brief two-week window for these selections, however, it will be a losing proposition for libraries to try to meet the demand. We can just hope Zuckerberg’s discovery that books can be “very intellectually fulfilling … in a deeper way than most media today” has resonance.


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