Bill Gates presents his seven top reads in 2013.
Commenting on the lack of novels on the list, Gates writes:
“It’s not that I don’t enjoy fiction. I’ve read The Catcher in the Rye a bunch of times — it’s one of my favourite books ever (and I enjoyed Salinger, the documentary that came out this year). I did read Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story, which was entertaining though it didn’t have as much science fiction as I expected.
But I read mostly nonfiction because I always want to learn more about how the world works. And reading is how I learn best.”
With that said, Gates is an excellent source of reading material for me. His top reads of 2012 led me to order Behind the Beautiful Forevers, a book I added to my antilibrary. And his summer reading list, along with the recommendations of readers, encouraged me to read The Box, a surprisingly enjoyable read on the history of the shipping container. This book shows up again on the end of year list of his top reads.
Here are his picks, in no particular order:
“You might think you don’t want to read a whole book about shipping containers… But he makes a good case that the move to containerized shipping had an enormous impact on the global economy and changed the way the world does business. And he turns it into a very readable narrative. I won’t look at a cargo ship in quite the same way again.”
“A bit like The Box, except it’s about steam engines… I’d wanted to know more about steam engines since the summer of 2009, when my son and I spent a lot of time hanging out at the Science Museum in London.”
“Here he gives as clear and as numeric a picture as is possible of how humans have altered the biosphere. The book is a bit dry and I had to look up a number of terms that were unfamiliar to me, but it tells a critical story if you care about the impact we’re having on the planet.”
“Diamond finds fascinating anecdotes about what life is like for hunter-gatherers and asks which ones might apply to our modern lifestyles. He doesn’t make some grand pronouncement or romanticize tribal life. He just wants to find the best practices and share them.”
“Jerven, an economist, spent four years digging into how African nations get their statistics and the challenges they face in turning them into GDP estimates. He makes a strong case that a lot of GDP measurements we thought were accurate are far from it.”
“The authors are good about not pointing fingers but instead talking about how America’s labour market affects the cost of college. My view is that as long as there’s a scarcity of college graduates, a college degree will be quite valuable. So people will pay more to get one. And if they will pay more, then colleges and universities — whose labour is provided mostly by people who paid a lot for their own degrees — can ask for more. Until you get an excess supply of graduates, then you don’t really get any price competition.”
“Sabin chronicles the public debate about whether the world is headed for an environmental catastrophe. He centres the story on Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon, who wagered $US1,000 on whether human welfare would improve or get worse over time. Without ridiculing either proponent, Sabin shows how their extreme views contributed to the polarised debate over climate change and other issues that continues today.”
Gates’ list is a happy addition to the 2013 collection of reading lists.
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