16 must-read books that Bill Gates recommended this year – Business Insider

Posted: December 22, 2019 at 6:42 am


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If Bill Gates bookshelf could talk, it would have a lot to say about how to create a better society.

The billionaires reading recommendations for 2019 offer lessons on how to sleep better, raise children to be successful, and empathize more often.

In true Gates fashion, the list also includes more than one book about American history though nonfiction books were surprisingly sparse this year compared to Gates previous reading lists.

This year, I picked up a bit more fiction than usual, Gates wrote on his blog, Gates Notes. It wasnt a conscious decision, but I seemed to be drawn to stories that let me explore another world.

Here are the books Gates has recommended in 2019.

Jared Diamonds nonfiction book Upheaval argues that personal crises, such as losing a loved one, can produce valuable lessons for nations as well. Using individual problem-solving tactics, Diamond develops 12 factors that could help countries navigate major challenges.

The book was panned in a New York Times review, which argued that Diamonds case studies were riddled with inaccuracies and tailored to meet his specific framework.

If younger writers were ever this sloppy, their career would be over before it had even begun, the reviewer, Anand Giridharadas, wrote.

But Gates had a different take when he recommended the book in May.

I admit that at first I thought it might be a little strange to borrow from a model of a single persons emotional turmoil to explain the evolution of entire societies, he wrote. But it isnt strange at all; its revealing.

Gates seems to be interested in blood lately. Last year, he recommended Bad Blood, the story of Theranos, the blood-testing startup that deceived investors, patients, and business partners into believing its technology actually worked. Gates has also invested money in blood tests designed to detect diseases like Alzheimers and cancer.

Over the summer, he recommended Nine Pints, a book about a woman with premenstrual dysphoric disorder, a condition that prompts severe pain and mental anguish before ones period. The book demonstrates how regressive some societies are when it comes to providing safe, sanitary conditions for menstruation, though it also takes note of innovative ways to diagnose people through blood tests.

Gates wrote in a blog post that some anecdotes in Nine Pints would capture your imagination and make your blood boil.

The Future of Capitalism identifies three major divides in our modern society: cities versus small towns, college-educated citizens versus those without a higher degree, and wealthier countries versus fragile states. Based on these problems, Collier devises a potential solution for a fairer version of capitalism.

Gates said that while he agrees with Collier that citizens need to feel obliged to help one another, he doesnt necessarily believe that companies would ever volunteer to improve their communities.

When we want companies to act a certain way for example to reduce pollution or pay a certain amount of taxes I think its more effective to have the government pass laws, Gates wrote.

Having just missed the cutoff to serve in the Vietnam War, Gates said he has often questioned how he might have performed in combat.

Would I have showed courage under fire? he wrote. Like many people who have not served, I have my doubts.

These questions prompted Gates to pick up Michael Beschloss Presidents of War, a nonfiction account of how US presidents handled major conflicts from the turn of the 19th century to the 1970s.

Gates said the book taught him that the US often goes to war based on wounded pride and that each war is connected to the one before it. He said he also learned how his favorite commanders, such as Abraham Lincoln, were wracked with anguish during wartime.

A Gentleman in Moscow is fiction, but it draws much of its inspiration from historical events. The book tells the story of a Russian count who is sentenced to house arrest in Moscows Metropol Hotel following the Bolshevik Revolution.

The book came out in 2016, but Gates got around to reading it this year, after his brother-in-law sent him a copy. Gates said he and his wife, Melinda, pored over the title at the same time. He added that he teared up at one of the plot lines while he was a few chapters ahead of Melinda, tipping her off that something bad was about to happen.

Gates said he thinks all readers will enjoy Towles quirky details and genre-bending storylines.

Gates oldest daughter, Jennifer recommended An American Marriage to him.

Jones is such a good writer that she manages to make you empathize with both of her main characters, even after one makes a difficult decision, Gates wrote on his blog. The subject matter is heavy but thought-provoking, and I got sucked into Roy and Celestials tragic love story.

The novel follows the story of a black man and his wife after he is convicted and imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. It also chosen by Oprah for her book club in October 2018 and received praise from Barack Obama.

These Truths will teach even the most astute historians something new about American history, according to Gates. He praised Lepore for her use of diverse perspectives in the 800-page overview of the United States rise.

Its the most honest account of the American story Ive ever read, Gates wrote. But he wasnt a fan of the books final section, which he said reads like the work of a critic who is caught up in the passions of the moment.

Gates said University of Manitoba professor Vaclav Smil is one of his favorite authors.

Two years ago, I wrote that I wait for new Smil books the way some people wait for the next Star Wars movie. I stand by that statement, Gates wrote on his blog.

In his newest book, Smil explores societys obsession with growth, through the lens of everything from microorganisms to cities.

As always, I dont agree with everything Smil says, but he remains one of the best thinkers out there at documenting the past and seeing the big picture, Gates wrote.

Diane Tavenner founded the charter-school network Summit Public Schools. In Prepared, she uses her experience as an educator to explain how to raise children who can succeed in life after high school.

Gates called the book a helpful guidebook about how to make that process as smooth and fruitful as possible.

Gates described Why We Sleep as one of the most interesting and profound books on human behavior.

Walker, the director of UC Berkeleys Center for Human Sleep Science, explores both the physical purpose of sleep and how to improve your own shut-eye.

The book persuaded Gates to change his nighttime routine by getting to bed a bit earlier, he wrote on his Gates Notes blog.

Unsurprisingly, one of Gates top picks of the year was written by his wife. The debut New York Times bestseller shares the story of the inspiring women Melinda has met while traveling.

The message of her book is simple: Lifting up women can lift up entire societies. She has the data to prove it.

Gates isnt alone in his recommendation of Loonshots. It was the years most recommended book among CEOs and entrepreneurs, according to a Bloomberg survey. The books fans also include writer Malcolm Gladwell and organizational psychologist Adam Grant.

The book studies group behavior specifically, how it can change at the drop of a hat. In theory, that means companies can quickly adjust their structure to champion out-of-the-box ideas (what Bahcall refers to as loonshots). These ideas, he argues, lead to important breakthroughs not just in business, but in war and nature, too.

The Rosie Result is the third and final installment in Simsions trilogy. It picks up with Don Tillman, a geneticist, and his wife Rosie deciding whether to test their son for autism.

Gates said he sent the first book in the series, The Rosie Project, to about 50 friends. The second book, The Rosie Effect, taught Gates a lesson about relationships.

In the back of the mind, youre thinking about the relationships you have, Gates said in a conversation with Simsion, which he documented on Gates Notes. You get to laugh, but you also get to think, Hey, some people are good are this stuff. And some people are good at this stuff because they put the energy in.'

Gates hasnt tackled the 1,079-page Infinite Jest, but he does recommend a shorter read from David Foster Wallace. The short story collection, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, uses parody to critique toxic masculinity.

It was published in 1999 and adapted into a film in 2009, less than a year after Wallaces death. Savvy readers will hunt for a particular story, Brief Interviews With Hideous Men #6, which won the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction.

Cloud Atlas was first published in 2004; a 2012 movie version stars Tom Hanks.

The story begins in New Zealands Chatham Isles in 1850, flashes forward to Belgium in 1931, then sharply transitions to the West Coast in the 1970s all before jumping back to the place where it started.

Gates said hes trying to finish the book by the end of the year.

Its amazingly clever but a bit hard to follow, he wrote.

Gates owns two dogs, Oreo and Nilla, so it comes as no surprise that he was drawn to Sigrid Nunezs The Friend the story of a woman who inherits a Great Dane after her best friend passes away. The novel won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2018.

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16 must-read books that Bill Gates recommended this year - Business Insider

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December 22nd, 2019 at 6:42 am