“Reading is my favorite way to indulge my curiosity,” Gates writes. “I still think books are the best way to explore new topics that interest you.”
Like most of us, Bill Gates probably doesn’t have quite as much time to read as he’d like. But the Microsoft co-founder, now co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, nonetheless discovered some new favorites this year, as he reveals in his annual reading list, posted Monday.
“Reading is my favorite way to indulge my curiosity,” Gates writes on his blog, Gates Notes. “Although I’m lucky that I get to meet with a lot of interesting people and visit fascinating places through my work, I still think books are the best way to explore new topics that interest you.”
Here are Gates’ picks for “5 amazing books” he read in 2017, with his comments:
“The Sympathizer,” by Viet Thanh Nguyen. This novel, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, “offers a much-needed Vietnamese perspective on the (Vietnamese) war,” Gates writes. “Nguyen doesn’t shy away from how traumatic the Vietnam War was for everyone involved. Nor does he pass judgment about where his narrator’s loyalties should lie. Most war stories are clear about which side you should root for — ‘The Sympathizer’ doesn’t let the reader off the hook so easily.”
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“Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” by Matthew Desmond. Also a Pulitzer Prize winner, “Evicted” is “a brilliant portrait of Americans living in poverty. . . . beautifully written, thought-provoking, and unforgettable.” Gates notes that he and his wife, Melinda, have been working to learn how Americans move up the economic ladder, and that “‘Evicted’ helped me understand one piece of that very complex question, and it made me want to learn more about the systemic problems that make housing unaffordable, as well as the various government programs designed to help.”
“The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir,” by Thi Bui. Bui, the daughter of Vietnamese refugees who came to America after the fall of Saigon, wrote this autobiographical graphic novel about her family’s journey. “I was struck by how the experiences Bui illustrates manage to be both universal and specific to their circumstances,” Gates writes. Both this book and “The Sympathizer” “helped me better understand how Vietnam’s history shaped its people.”
“Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens,” by Eddie Izzard. “I’ve recently discovered that I have a lot in common with a funny, dyslexic, transgender actor, comedian, escape artist, unicyclist, ultra-marathoner and pilot from Great Britain,” writes Gates. “Except all of the above.” Izzard’s book, in which he recounts his personal history, “provides not just laugh-out-loud moments but also a lot of touching insights into how little Edward Izzard, a kid with only a hint of performing talent, became an international star.”
“Energy and Civilization: A History,” by Vaclav Smil. “I wait for new Smil books the way some people wait for the next ‘Star Wars’ movie,” Gates writes. Smil, a Czech-Canadian professor emeritus at the University of Manitoba, here “goes deep and broad to explain how innovations in humans’ ability to turn energy into heat, light and motion have been a driving force behind our cultural and economic progress over the past 10,000 years.”