In need of summer reading? Bill Gates has some recommendations for you.
In what’s become an annual tradition, the Microsoft co-founder, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and avid reader has released a list of books he’s recently enjoyed. They’re all, he admits on his blog, not exactly light reads; if you want something more traditionally summery, Gates suggests Graeme Simsion’s lighthearted novel “The Rosie Result.” And he also makes an obvious suggestion: “The Moment of Lift,” by his wife Melinda Gates. (“I know I’m biased, but it’s one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.”)
“Upheaval” by Jared Diamond. A fan of Diamond’s book “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies,” Gates describes the author’s latest as a “discipline-bending book that uses key principles of crisis therapy to understand what happens to nations in crisis.” Though some of Diamond’s previous books have been less than optimistic, Gates writes on his blog that this one is more positive, with the author reminding us that some countries have creatively solved big problems.
“In ‘Upheaval,’ though, he reminds us that some countries have creatively solved their biggest problems. Jared doesn’t go so far as to predict that we’ll successfully address our most serious challenges, but he shows that there’s a path through crisis and that we can choose to take it.”
“A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles. The only work of fiction on this list, Towles’ 2016 novel was a longtime best-seller, just now out in paperback. The book is, writes Gates, “a fun, clever, and surprisingly upbeat look at Russian history through the eyes of one man” — a count, sentenced in 1922 to house arrest in an elegant Moscow hotel.
Though Gates has a special interest in Russian history, he thinks the book provides something for everyone. “There’s fantastical romance, politics, espionage, parenthood and poetry. The book is technically historical fiction, but you’d be just as accurate calling it a thriller or a love story.”
“9 Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood” by Rose George. Gates, who’s long been interested in blood and diagnostic tools involving blood, was immediately drawn to this book by British author George — its title refers to the amount of blood in the average adult.
George traveled the world researching the topic, packing the book with “super-interesting facts that I had to work very hard not to share with unsuspecting friends and colleagues during social occasions.” Though some of its anecdotes are deeply upsetting (such as an African slum in which young women turn to prostitution in order to afford sanitary pads), it’s also informative and uplifting. “I think everyone wants to know at least a little more about this topic,” writes Gates. “After all, there is nothing that more people have in common than blood.”
“Presidents of War: The Epic Story, From 1807 to Modern Times” by Michael Beschloss. “It is hard to read about today’s conflicts without thinking about how they might connect to the past and what impact they might have on the future,” writes Gates.
His interest in the Vietnam War led him to this book, in which the author examines how presidents have handled eight major conflicts: the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. “Looking at each president and each conflict with a similar lens is what makes the book a worthwhile read,” Gates writes, recommending it “whether you are one of the nation’s leaders or just an armchair historian.”
“The Future of Capitalism: Facing the New Anxieties” by Paul Collier. Collier, an Oxford economist, spent his career trying to understand and alleviate global poverty, so Gates was surprised that his latest book was about a different topic: economic polarization. Gates writes, “Although I don’t agree with him about everything — I think his analysis of the problem is better than his proposed solutions — his background as a development economist gives him a smart perspective on where capitalism is headed.”