Dec. 13, 2019
Every December, Bill Gates likes to take stock of the past year’s accomplishments—including all the books he’s read. In keeping with this holiday tradition, the world’s second-richest person just released his top five picks for 2019 on GatesNotes, his personal blog.
“This year, I picked up a bit more fiction than usual,” the billionaire bookworm wrote. “It wasn’t a conscious decision, but I seemed to be drawn to stories that let me explore another world.” The final five includes just one novel but covers topics ranging from public health to American history (including one book on “everything”).
These are the selections that’ll make us better sleepers, better parents and, most importantly, better readers:
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. Set in the American South, this novel tells the deeply moving story of a black couple dealing with incarceration and its effects on their relationship. For readers looking for something thought-provoking, Gates promises “you’ll find yourself sucked into it despite the heavy subject matter.”
These Truths by Jill Lepore. This 800-page history of the United States is described by Gates as “the most honest and unflinching account of the American story I’ve ever read.” Unlike other historians in the genre, Lepore wields diverse viewpoints to expose all of our country’s deep contradictions. This book fills in all the tidbits of U.S. history not taught in school.
Growth by Vaclav Smil. Bill Gates has said he waits for a new Vaclav Smil release “the way some people wait for the next Star Wars movie.” Smil’s 39th book explores an urgent question: How should we reconcile future growth with the long-term preservation of our planet? Not only does Gates challenge Smil’s analysis at times, but he also warns that some sections read like an engineering manual—science nerds rejoice!
Prepared by Diane Tavenner. For anxious parents looking for a how-to guide, Gates recommends Prepared. Through the story of top-performing Summit Public Schools, Tavenner shares tips for how parents can teach kids how to live a good life, not just get into a good college.
Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. Gates recounts his caffeine-fueled all-nighters during the early days of Microsoft, back when he thought “sleeping a lot was lazy.” Walker, the director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Human Sleep Science, convinced Gates that his sleep deprivation may have taken a toll. The book even prompted the billionaire to change his bedtime habits. For readers looking to live a healthier 2020, Why We Sleep is a great start.
One book that surprisingly didn’t make the list? His wife’s. This past spring, Melinda Gates released The Moment of Lift , an empowering call for gender equality. (Don’t worry, Gates still gave it a glowing review earlier.)
For more of what Bill Gates is reading in 2019 and beyond, visit the GatesNotes book blog.
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