Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Facebook Book

I finally finished reading Ben Mezrich's The Accidental Billionaires last week. I say finally because it only took me, oh, about a year to do so. That's not indicative of how much I enjoyed the book. Rather, it's just that the book fell victim to my lack of reading time and my laziness about finding time to read. Actually, this summer, as I got more and more excited about seeing The Social Network, I made the time to read, and I spent a number of Sunday afternoons outside reading the book. And I'm glad I did.

You already know how much I enjoy social media, and how much I'm looking forward to seeing The Social Network, the movie that's based on The Accidental Billionaires, so I guess it's no surprise that I enjoyed the book as much as I did. A very quick read (all things considered), it tells the story of the founding of Facebook, and how Mark Zuckerberg single-mindedly pursued his vision of a website where people could connect with each other — in the process ostracizing not only some rich Harvard classmates, but also his best friend. Admittedly, it's hard to read the book without seeing folks like Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake in your head, but perhaps that's because Billionaires is more focused on story and less on character.

For example, we don't learn much about Zuckerberg due partly to the fact that he didn't cooperate with the book's writing, and also because there may not be much to learn. The kid's pretty focused on his programming for much of the book. (He seems like more of a jerk from the trailer.) On the other hand, Eduardo Saverin engenders much more sympathy, probably because he did help Mezrich and could tell the story from his (biased) point of view. Sean Parker, a public figure since the days of Napster, comes off as a fast-talking svengali — Dr. Landy to Zuckerberg's Brian Wilson — and I can't wait to see Timberlake play him on the big screen.

But what Accidental Billionaires lacks in character development, it makes up for in story — and what a great one it is. Billionaires is a real page-turner, one that I should have read much quicker and sooner. That said, I'm glad I did before the movie comes out. If you're a faster reader than I am (how can you not be?), then I recommend flipping through it before October 1.

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