5 Books That Bill Gates Thinks You Should Read

Work Life

Dec 23
Bill Gates at University of Waterloo event

The books that successful people read can provide an insight into their thoughts with their choice of literature giving us a peek into their world.

William Henry Gates is an American business magnate, investor, author, philanthropist, and co-founder of the Microsoft Corp.  Gates is one of the best-known entrepreneurs of the personal computer revolution and has been criticized for his business tactics, which have been considered anti-competitive. Later in his career, Gates pursued a number of philanthropic endeavors, donating large amounts of money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

He has written two books

The Road Ahead, written with Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold and journalist Peter Rinearson, was published in November 1995. It summarized the implications of the personal computing revolution and described a future profoundly changed by the arrival of a global information superhighway.

Business @ the Speed of Thought was published in 1999, and discusses how business and technology are integrated, and shows how digital infrastructures and information networks can help getting an edge on the competition.

Here are five books that that Bill Gates thinks you should read in the summer.

Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah.

Gates wrote that  as a longtime fan of The Daily Show, he loved reading this memoir about how its host honed his outsider approach to comedy over a lifetime of never quite fitting in.

Born to a black South African mother and a white Swiss father in apartheid South Africa, he entered the world as a biracial child in a country where mixed race relationships were forbidden. Much of Noah’s story of growing up in South Africa is tragic. Yet, as anyone who watches his nightly monologues knows, his moving stories will often leave you laughing, Gates said.

The Heart, by Maylis de Kerangal.

While you’ll find this book in the fiction section at your local bookstore, what de Kerangal has done here in this exploration of grief is closer to poetry than anything else. At its most basic level, she tells the story of a heart transplant: a young man is killed in an accident, and his parents decide to donate his heart. But the plot is secondary to the strength of its words and characters. The book uses beautiful language to connect you deeply with people who may be in the story for only a few minutes. For example, de Kerangal goes on for pages about the girlfriend of the surgeon who does the transplant even though you never meet that character.

He also added that his wife recommended this book. “I’m glad Melinda recommended this book to me, and I recently passed it along to a friend who, like me, sticks mostly with nonfiction,” he said.

Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance.

“The disadvantaged world of poor white Appalachia described in this terrific, heartbreaking book is one that I know only vicariously,” Gates writes of his experience with this book.

The books main character Vance was raised largely by his loving but volatile grandparents, who stepped in after his father abandoned him and his mother showed little interest in parenting her son. Against all odds, he survived his chaotic, impoverished childhood only to land at Yale Law School.

While the book offers insights into some of the complex cultural and family issues behind poverty, the real magic lies in the story itself and Vance’s bravery in telling it, He said.

Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari.

Bill Gates recommended Harari’s previous book Sapiens in last summer’s reading list, and claims that this provocative follow-up is just as challenging, readable, and thought-provoking.

Homo Deus argues that the principles that have organized society will undergo a huge shift in the 21st century, with major consequences for life as we know it. So far, the things that have shaped society—what we measure ourselves by—have been either religious rules about how to live a good life, or more earthly goals like getting rid of sickness, hunger, and war.

“What would the world be like if we actually achieved those things? I don’t agree with everything Harari has to say, but he has written a smart look at what may be ahead for humanity,” Gates said.

A Full Life, by Jimmy Carter.

Even though the former President has already written more than two dozen books, he somehow managed to save some great anecdotes for this quick, condensed tour of his fascinating life, Gates writes.

“I loved reading about Carter’s improbable rise to the world’s highest office,” Gates said adding that the book will help you understand how growing up in rural Georgia in a house without running water, electricity, or insulation shaped his time in the White House. Although most of the stories come from previous decades, A Full Life feels timely in an era when the public’s confidence in national political figures and institutions is low.

“Some of these books helped me better understand what it’s like to grow up outside the mainstream: as a child of mixed race in apartheid South Africa, as a young man trying to escape his impoverished life in rural Appalachia, or as the son of a peanut farmer in Plains, Georgia,” Gates wrote on his blog.

I hope you’ll find that others make you think deeper about what it means to truly connect with other people and to have purpose in your life. And all of them will transport you somewhere else—whether you’re sitting on a beach towel or on your own couch, he said.