Mark Zuckerberg is a busy guy, but he still finds time to read. In fact, in an effort to make sure he feeds his mind a steady diet of good books this year, he has vowed to read something new every two weeks, starting an online book club to keep himself on track and inspire others.
Lots of his picks are pretty heavy going, dealing with economics, pressing social issues, or weighty questions of history. But not his latest — his most recent recommendation is very different.
This time around he’s chosen a Chinese sci-fi phenomenon. Now translated into English, Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem won the 2015 Hugo Award for best novel and is in the process of being made into a Hollywood movie. “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,” Business Insider explains.
Not as light and frothy as it first appears
Hmmm, you might say, that sounds like perfect beach reading for geeks. Good thing Mark Zuckerberg has enough time to kick back and get absorbed in something so light and frothy.
And even Zuckerberg concedes that the book is a lot less obviously educational that previous recommendations. “This will also be a fun break from all the economics and social science books I’ve read recently,” he wrote on his personal Facebook page, commenting on his latest choice.
But Zuckerberg is both super busy and super smart, so he probably knows that though devouring a page turner might feel like pointless fun, reading for pleasure in this way has been shown to have big benefits.
The science of the page turner
Even if you learn nothing new from a novel (and who says you won’t be led to thoughtfully consider the current course of technology or politics by great sci-fi?), science clearly indicates that reading purely for pleasure pays off. Just a little time spent reading every week is correlated with higher life satisfaction, greater creativity, more empathy, and less loneliness.
What’s more, immersing yourself in a book the old-fashioned way — without any links, screens or devices distracting you — might be even better still. “Advocates recommend setting aside at least 30 to 45 minutes in a comfortable chair far from cellphones and computers,” said one Wall Street Journal article rounding up the research on the benefits of surrendering yourself completely to the grip of a good book.
Still not convinced? Even President Obama is a fan of novels (speaking of people who are super busy…). “When I think about how I understand my role as citizen, setting aside being president, and the most important set of understandings that I bring to that position of citizen, the most important stuff I’ve learned I think I’ve learned from novels,” he recently told the New York Review of Books.
So maybe it’s time you follow Zuckerberg’s lead — if not necessarily his specific book selection — and set aside some time to take a break from the busyness and let yourself be absorbed in some good fiction just because both you and your brain will like it.
What’s the last page turner you devoured just for pleasure?
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.