Retired Microsoft co-founder and current philanthropist Bill Gates is an avid reader. He’s also known as an all-around smart guy with good taste in books. That’s why everyone wants to know what he’s reading.
Every year, Gates offers up his summer reading list, but you won’t find it full of easy-breezy thrillers and lightweight romances. Gates chooses books he loves that will also challenge you to think about the world around you.
Gates says some of the books on his 2018 list “wrestle with big questions,” but he says they’re still fun to read and none of them are too long. So get ready to explore everything from the life of famed inventor and artist Leonardo da Vinci to the history of the universe.
“Leonardo da Vinci,” by Walter Isaacson
Bill Gates actually owns one of Leonardo da Vinci’s 32 surviving journals, which he bought at auction. He calls it a scientific treasure. Gates’ long fascination with the Italian scholar continues with his recommendation of this biography on da Vinci. There have been many takes on da Vinci’s life, but this one comes from a writer who’s famous for well-received biographies on Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs. It’s an accessible and engaging look at da Vinci’s genius.
“Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved,” by Kate Bowler
Kate Bowler’s powerful memoir came about after she was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer, a devastating illness. The book is both dark and humorous as she confronts her mortality and how it ties in with her Christian upbringing.
“Lincoln in the Bardo,” by George Saunders
Not all of Gates’ summer reading picks are nonfiction. “Lincoln in the Bardo” mixes a bit of history with the supernatural as a variety of ghosts converse with each other. This isn’t your usual sort of page-turner. It follows the death of Abraham Lincoln’s son Willie and explores the president’s sorrow and pain. The book has 166 characters, so be prepared for a read unlike any other.
“Origin Story: A Big History of Everything,” by David Christian
Writing a history of everything is a tall order, but it’s something author and history professor David Christian manages to pull off. This book covers the history of the universe from the big bang to development of life on Earth and onward to our near future. It’s amazing how much information he packs into a not-too-hefty volume. Gates says this book “will leave you with a greater appreciation of humanity’s place in the universe.”
“Factfulness,” by Hans Rosling, with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Ronnlund
The subtitle for Factfulness is this provocative statement: “Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World-and Why Things Are Better Than You Think.” Hans Rosling, who died in 2017, was a celebrated doctor and educator. Gates calls this one of the best books he’s ever read. It will challenge how you think about the world and make you reassess your perceptions of progress. It shines a light on an overlooked perspective: that the world is actually improving in so many ways. Yes, these are big topics, but Rosling makes them readable.
Gates’ summer reading suggestions are always interesting. You don’t have to give up your mysteries, fantasy novels, or romances, but his recommendations can add a new dimension to your own personal summer reading list.
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