10 books Bill Gates recommends for you

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Microsoft made Bill Gates a household name but it’s his work beyond tech that keeps him in the headlines. Through various foundations he funds poverty reduction efforts and research into healthcare and clean energy. He’s also a keen advocate of self-education and has, over the years, recommended circa 185 titles that he thinks are worth your time. The following 10 are available on Amazon.

Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future

By Elizabeth Kolbert

Under a White Sky is the book on the list that most clearly addresses the theme Gates’ reading list follows. Colbert writes about people who intervene with nature in gene drive and geoengineering.

A Promised Land

By Barack Obama

The 44th president’s memoir recounts the early days of his presidency through the mission in 2011 which killed Osama bin Laden. It also addresses the Deep Water Horizon spill in 2010 and the challenges Obama faced.

“President Obama is unusually honest about his experience in the White House, including how isolating it is to be the person who ultimately calls the shots,” Gates wrote. “It’s a fascinating look at what it’s like to steer a country through challenging times.”

The Overstory

By Richard Powers

The novel follows the lives of nine people, each examining their connection with trees. Some of the characters are connected but others stay on their own.

Gates called it “one of the most unusual novels I’ve read in years.”

Homo Deus

by Yuval Noah

Find out how humans evolved to become the most dominant species and how technology will certainly play an enormous role in our future development. Yuval Noah Harari threads together the influences of religion, politics, and anthropological development into a unique theory that shows us why we’ve got to where we have, and pushes us to question where it is that we want humanity to be going.

An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System: A Tale in Four Lives

by Matt Richtel

The book was written before COVID-19, but it examines the human immune system and can serve as an interesting lens to consider the pandemic. The book follows four patients forced to manage their immune systems.

The Box

by Mark Levinson

Combining economic strategy with a historical perspective, Mark Levinson looks at how the invention of the shipping container was a major catalyst for globalization. Containerization pushed down goods prices and revolutionized international trade, making it a significant cornerstone in the development of humankind.

Lights Out: Pride, Delusion and the Fall of General Electric 

by Thomas Gryta and Ted Mann

Gates said he’d often wondered how a company like GE could fail, and this book outlined the issues.

“The authors give you an unflinching look at the mistakes and missteps made by GE’s leadership,” Gates said. “If you’re in any kind of leadership role — whether at a company, a non-profit, or somewhere else — there’s a lot you can learn here.”

What If?

by Randall Munroe

When Breath Becomes Air

by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air is a profoundly moving memoir by a brain surgeon and writer Paul Kalanithi. Kalanithi reflects on the meaning of life as he witnesses his transformation from doctor to terminal patient, and faces his own death with a deeply philosophical outlook.

How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking

by Jordan Ellenburg

Sold on the title? Me, too. Learn why maths is an extension of common sense, and how it underpins our daily lives. Engaging with mathematical thinking will help you live a little more astutely.


What is Bill Gates summer reading list?

Lights Out
Under a White Sky
A Promised Land
The Overstory
An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System: A Tale in Four Lives