- Bill Gates recently announced his top book picks for the summer.
- All five focus on the theme of upheaval, either in our current political climate or at some point in history.
- Only one book is fiction – “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles – and Gates said it made him cry.
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America’s wealthiest people generally read more than the average person, and Bill Gates is no exception. The billionaire Microsoft founder says he tackles roughly one book a week, or 50 titles a year.
His diligence as a reader has made Gates a trusted source of book recommendations, which he often releases on his blog, Gates Notes. This summer, Gates has chosen five titles to take with you on vacation.
His newest set of recommendations, released Monday, centres on the theme of upheaval or sudden change.
Because of this, Gates said, none of the five titles he chose could be considered a “light read.” One even caused him to tear up.
Take a look at Gates’ top picks for your summer reading list.
“Upheaval” by Jared Diamond
The premise of Jared Diamond’s nonfiction book “Upheaval” is that personal crises such as losing a loved one can produce valuable lessons for nations as well. Using individual problem-solving tactics, Diamond develops 12 factors to help countries navigate major challenges.
The book was recently panned in a New York Times review, which argued that Diamond’s case studies were riddled with inaccuracies and tailored to meet his specific framework.
If younger writers “were ever this sloppy, their career would be over before it had even begun,” the reviewer, Anand Giridharadas, wrote.
Gates had a different take in his write-up on Monday.
“I admit that at first I thought it might be a little strange to borrow from a model of a single person’s emotional turmoil to explain the evolution of entire societies,” he wrote. “But it isn’t strange at all; it’s revealing.”
“Nine Pints” by Rose George
Gates seems to be interested in blood lately. Last year, he recommended “Bad Blood,” the story of Theranos, the blood-testing startup that deceived investors, patients, and business partners into believing its technology actually worked. Gates has also invested money in blood tests designed to detect diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer.
This summer, he’s recommending “Nine Pints,” a book about a woman with premenstrual dysphoric disorder, a condition that prompts severe pain and mental anguish before one’s period. The book demonstrates how regressive certain societies are when it comes to providing safe, sanitary conditions for menstruation, but it also takes note of innovative ways to diagnose people through blood tests.
While the book may lack the drama of the Theranos tale, Gates said its anecdotes would “capture your imagination” and “make your blood boil.”
“The Future of Capitalism” by Paul Collier
“The Future of Capitalism” identifies three major divides in our modern society: cities versus small towns, college-educated citizens versus those without a higher degree, and wealthier countries versus fragile states. Based on these problems, Collier helps devise a solution for a fairer version of capitalism.
Gates said that while he agreed with Collier that citizens need to feel obliged to help one another, he didn’t necessarily believe that companies would volunteer to improve their communities.
“When we want companies to act a certain way – for example to reduce pollution or pay a certain amount of taxes – I think it’s more effective to have the government pass laws,” Gates wrote.
“Presidents of War” by Michael Beschloss
Having just missed the cutoff to serve in the Vietnam War, Gates said he has often questioned how he might have performed in combat.
“Would I have showed courage under fire?” he wrote. “Like many people who have not served, I have my doubts.”
These questions prompted Gates to pick up Michael Beschloss’ “Presidents of War,” a nonfiction account of how US presidents have handled major conflicts from the turn of the 19th century to the 1970s.
Gates said the book taught him that the US often “goes to war based on wounded pride” and that each war is connected to the one before it. He said he also learned how his favourite commanders, such as Abraham Lincoln, were wracked with anguish during wartime.
“A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles
“A Gentleman in Moscow” is the only fiction title on Gates’ summer reading list, but it draws much of its inspiration from historical events. The book tells the story of a Russian count who is sentenced to house arrest in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel following the Bolshevik Revolution.
The book came out in 2016, but Gates finally got around to reading it after his brother-in-law sent him a copy. Gates said he and his wife, Melinda, pored over the title at the same time. Gates, who was a few chapters ahead, said he teared up at one of the plot lines, tipping off Melinda that something bad was about to happen.
Gates said he has read everything Dostoyevsky ever wrote, so the book is a fairly obvious choice for him. But Gates said he thinks all readers will enjoy Towles’ “quirky details” and genre-bending storylines.
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