Six Books (and One Blog) Bill Gates Wants You to Read This Summer

Bill Gates — Microsoft CEO turned phil­an­thropist, life­long learn­er and fan of The Great Cours­es — is rec­om­mend­ing sev­en texts you should read this sum­mer. They’re not exact­ly light beach read­ing. But you’ll learn a lot, and you’ll get more dialed into issues on Gates’ mind. On his web­site, the video above comes accom­pa­nied by rea­sons for read­ing each work.:

Hyper­bole and A Half , by Allie Brosh:The Book, based on Brosh’s wild­ly pop­u­lar web­site, con­sists of brief vignettes and com­ic draw­ings her young About Life. The adven­tures she recounts are most­ly inside her head, where we hear and see the kind of inner thoughts most of us are too timid to let out in pub­lic. You will rip through it in three hours, tops. But you’ll wish it went on longer, because it’s fun­ny and smart as hell. I must have inter­rupt­ed Melin­da a dozen times to read to her pas­sages that made ​​me laugh out loud.

The Mag­ic of Real­i­ty, by Richard Dawkins. Dawkins, an evo­lu­tion­ary biol­o­gist at Oxford, has a gift for mak­ing sci­ence enjoy­able. This Book is as acces­si­ble as the TV series Cos­mos is for Younger Audi­ences-and as Rel­e­vant for Old­Er Audi­ences. It’s an engag­ing, well-illus­trat­ed sci­ence text­book offer­ing com­pelling answers to big ques­tions, like “how did the uni­verse form?” And “what caus­es earth­quakes?” It’s also a plea for read­ers of all ages to approach mys­ter­ies with rig­or and curiosity.Dawkins’s antag­o­nis­tic (and, to me, overzeal­ous) view of reli­gion has earned him a lot of angry crit­ics, but I con­sid­er him to be one of the great sci­en­tif­ic writer / explain­ers of all time.

If what?, by Ran­dall Munroe. The sub­ti­tle of the book is “Seri­ous Sci­en­tif­ic Answers to Absurd Hypo­thet­i­cal Ques­tions,” and that’s exact­ly what it is. Peo­ple write Munroe with ques­tions that range over all fields of sci­ence: physics, chem­istry, biol­o­gy. Ques­tions like, “From what height would you need to drop a steak for it to be cooked when it hit the ground?” (The answer, it turns out, is “high enough that it would dis­in­te­grate before it hit the ground.”) Munroe’s expla­na­tions are fun­ny, but the sci­ence under­pin­ning his answers is very accu­rate. It’s an enter­tain­ing read, and you’ll also learn a bit about things like bal­lis­tics, DNA, the oceans, the atmos­phere, and light­ning along the way.

XKCD, by Ran­dall Munroe. A col­lec­tion of posts from Munroe’s Blog XKCD, which is made up of Car­toons he Draws mak­ing fun of things-Most­ly Sci­en­tists and Com­put­ers, But lots of Oth­er things too. There’s One About Sci­en­tists hold­ing A Press Con­fer­ence to Reveal Their dis­cov­ery That Life is arsenic-based. They research press con­fer­ences and find out that some­times it’s good to serve food that’s relat­ed to the sub­ject of the con­fer­ence. The last pan­el is all the reporters dead on the floor because they ate arsenic. It’s that kind of humor, which not every­body loves, but I do.

On Immu­ni­ty , by Eula Biss. When I stum­bled across this book on the Inter­net, I thought it might be a worth­while read. I had no idea what a plea­sure read­ing it would be. Biss, an essay­ist and uni­ver­si­ty lec­tur­er, exam­ines what lies behind peo­ple’s fears of vac­ci­nat­ing their chil­dren. Like many of us, she con­cludes that vac­cines are safe, effec­tive, and almost mirac­u­lous tools for pro­tect­ing chil­dren against need­less suf­fer­ing. But she is not out to demo­nize any­one who holds oppos­ing views. This is a thought­ful and beau­ti­ful­ly writ­ten book about a very impor­tant top­ic.

How to Lie With Sta­tis­tics , by Dar­rell Huff. I Picked up this Short, Easy-to-Read Book after See­ing it on A Wall Street Jour­nal list of good Books for Investors . I enjoyed it so much That it WAS One of A Hand­ful of Books I rec­om­mend­ed to every­one at TED this year. It was first pub­lished in 1954, but aside from a few anachro­nis­tic exam­ples (it has been a long time since bread cost 5 cents a loaf in the Unit­ed States), it does not feel dat­ed. One chap­ter shows you how visu­als can be used to exag­ger­ate trends and give dis­tort­ed comparisons‑a time­ly reminder, giv­en how often info­graph­ics show up in your Face­book and Twit­ter feeds these days. A use­ful intro­duc­tion to the use of sta­tis­tics, and a help­ful refresh­er for any­one who is already well versed in it.

Should We Eat Meat?, by Vaclav Smil. The rich­er the world gets, the more meat it eats. And the more meat it eats, the big­ger the threat to the plan­et. How do we square this cir­cle? Vaclav Smil takes his usu­al clear-eyed view of the whole land­scape, from meat’s role in human evo­lu­tion to hard ques­tions about ani­mal cru­el­ty. While it would be great if peo­ple want­ed to eat less meat, I do not think we can expect large num­bers of peo­ple to make dras­tic reduc­tions. I’m bet­ting on inno­va­tion, includ­ing high­er agri­cul­tur­al pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and the devel­op­ment of meat sub­sti­tutes, to help the world meet its need for meat. A time­ly book, though prob­a­bly the least beach-friend­ly one on this list.

You can get more ideas from Bill Gates at Gates Notes.

If you’re look­ing to do some more DIY edu­ca­tion this sum­mer, don’t miss the fol­low­ing rich col­lec­tions:

1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free.

800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kin­dle & Oth­er Devices.

1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

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Comments (8)
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  • Sandra says:

    how about adding Ani­mal Farm and 1984 to the list. Niw that would be efu­ca­tion­al read­ing!

  • michael says:

    Love his gun-shy, apolo­getic, half-assed pro­mo for “Should We Eat Meat”. Appar­ent­ly the mas­sive ass-chew­ing and beat-down he received from the PC Police Sci­ence-Deniers real­ly weak­ened his resolve to actu­al­ly help peo­ple achieve bet­ter health through good nutri­tion. Too bad, cause I thought his orig­i­nal will­ing­ness to present truth, backed with sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence, was quite brave. You’d think the rich­est guy on Earth would be less cow­ard­ly in the face of attacks by obvi­ous­ly idi­ot­ic zealots.

  • Lynne Miles says:

    The first Munroe book title is actu­al­ly _What If_. And a fun & clever book, too! Will Wheaton reads the audio­book ver­sion nice­ly. Love see­ing Allie Brosh’s book here…

  • Richard says:

    Sor­ry, Mr. Gates. Most of us are too busy work­ing two or three part-time jobs and just scrap­ing by. We don’t have time to read your book list. Cap­i­tal­ism is a fail­ure!

  • Bob says:

    @Richard, it’s not cap­i­tal­ism that failed, it’s your edu­ca­tion

  • Nate says:


  • modsiw says:

    you do real­ize our edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem pro­motes cap­i­tal­ism by pri­mar­i­ly only pro­vid­ing the basic tools need­ed for becom­ing a low lev­el par­tic­i­pant there­in, yes?

  • Vinit says:

    Thank you Sir for con­vey­ing the list.., we def­i­nite­ly read.., and if you found any good books in future, please share that.…,
    Thank You…

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