What Bill Gates is reading this summer

This is not Oprah’s book club.
This is not Oprah’s book club.
Image: AP Photo/Miguel Villagran
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If you’re in the market for a light, sunshine-friendly novel—something with an up tempo narrative and relatable characters—then Bill Gates’s summer reading list is not for you. But if you’re a non-fiction buff with a wide range of interests, then it might be the perfect place to look for a new book.

The list, which the Microsoft chairman posted on his blog Gates Notes, is his own personal reading agenda for the season—not a collection of books that he’s already read and feels inspired to promote (with the exception of one of them). It includes eight titles in all, and seven are non-fiction. “I don’t generally read a lot of fiction,” Gates writes next to the entry for Robert Cook’s Patriot & Assassin, the sole novel in the list.

Taken together, the lineup reveals Gates to be a total intellectual omnivore. Notably, there isn’t a single book about computing or technology. The non-fiction titles range from a psychologist’s exploration of stereotypes to a history of the shipping container and its impact on globalization. He’s already finished reading the first book on the list—Jared Diamond’s The World Until Yesterday—and has posted his own review of it. Here’s the list in full:

The Bill Gates summer reading list

  1. The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? by Jared Diamond, 2012
  2. The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger by Marc Levinson, 2008
  3. However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls by Aimee Molloy, 2013
  4. How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough, 2013
  5. Japan’s Dietary Transition and Its Impacts by Vaclav Smil and Kazuhiko Kobayashi, 2012
  6. Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing by Vaclav Smil, 2013
  7. Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do by Claude Steele, 2011
  8. Patriot & Assassin by Robert Cook, 2013

Gates is known to be a voracious reader. He traditionally would twice a year spend a week at a cottage in the Pacific Northwest (paywall), poring over proposals and technical papers from Microsoft employees, pausing to solve bridge challenges and swig Diet Orange Crush.

On the blog where he posted his summer reads, Gates also lists a catalogue of nearly 150 books, each of which contains a link to either a summary or a review by Gates himself, like the one he wrote of The World Until Yesterday. He categorizes them into five separate groups: education, energy, development, health, and personal. That last category includes books about history, science, and economics as well as some memoirs and two works of fiction—The Hunger Games and The Catcher in the Rye. By “personal” Gates must mean things that he’s interested in, but for which he doesn’t see an immediate practical application—few of us would think to classify a book like Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise that way.

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