All the books Bill Gates has recommended over the last eight years

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Bill Gates has become a powerful influence on publishing. An endorsement from the philanthropist and Microsoft cofounder can cause tangible sales spikes, reminiscent of the golden ticket that once came with being picked for Oprah’s book club.

So just what does Gates read? Quartz manually compiled all 185 of the books recommended on his blog, which dates back to January 2010, and organized them by topic. We’ve included all titles, even those of which Gates was mostly critical, like Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist. But this is relatively rare; Gates usually only blogs about books he recommends.

We haven’t included books Gates has recommended in interviews but not on his blog, like the two books he thinks are essential to understanding AISuperintelligence by Nick Bostrom and The Master Algorithm, by Pedro Domingos.

Gates reads little fiction, as he readily admits, but will dabble in YA, comedic memoir, and graphic novels on occasion. As the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he is wont to recommend books on development, poverty, disease, and education on his blog.

Gates, of course, reads books on scientific topics like biology and physics, but he’s also a big fan of books that offer a scientific or mathematical framework for seeing the world, like What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, by xkcd’s Randall Munroe. Many of the books Gates endorses, especially those that focus on the long arc of human civilization, both its past and future, argue for an optimistic outlook. Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong about the World—and Why Things Are Better than You Think, a book by the late Hans Rosling, his son, and his daughter-in-law, does both: It argues for an optimism about the world through principles of sound scientific thinking, and it got a strong endorsement from Gates this year.

Vaclav Smil is the author Gates has mentioned the most on his blog. Smil is a highly prolific academic emeritus from the University of Manitoba in Canada, who writes about energy and public policy, among other things. Over the years Gates has recommended so many books by Smil that they warrant their own category.

In the scheme of things, Gates surprisingly does not frequently recommend books about business success or digital technology.

Here are all the books, with classification by Quartz:

Political history and biography
Human evolution and civilization
Big technology and invention
Math and science thinking
Books by Vaclav Smil
Development and foreign aid
Climate change and energy
Economics and wealth inequality
Disease and public health
Leadership and management
Happiness, psychology, and purpose

Political history and biography

  • A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety, by Jimmy Carter
  • Being Nixon: A Man Divided, by Evan Thomas
  • The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt and the Golden Age of Journalism, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, by Ezra Vogel
  • A Nation of Wusses: How America’s Leaders Lost the Guts to Make Us Great, by Ed Rendell
  • Titan II: A History of a Cold War Missile Program, by David K. Stumpf

Human evolution and civilization

  • Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, by Yuval Noah Harari
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari
  • The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life, by Nick Lane
  • Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, by Steven Pinker
  • The Better Angels of Our Nature, by Steven Pinker
  • The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert
  • The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?, by Jared Diamond
  • Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared Diamond
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond
  • Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think, by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler
  • Big History: From the Big Bang to the Present, by Cynthia Brown
  • Origin Story: A Big History of Everything, by David Christian
  • Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update, by Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, and Dennis Meadows

Big technology and invention

  • The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and our Energy Future, by Gretchen Bakke
  • Sustainable Materials with both Eyes Open, by Julian M. Allwood and Jonathan M. Cullen
  • The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry and Invention, by William Rosen
  • The Grid: A Journey Through the Heart of our Electrified World, by Phillip F. Schewe
  • The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914, by David McCullough
  • The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger, by Marc Levinson

Math and science thinking

  • How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking, by Jordan Ellenberg
  • The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s really True, by Richard Dawkins
  • What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, by Randall Munroe
  • How to Lie With Statistics, by Darrell Huff
  • Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words, by Randall Munroe
  • Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better than You Think, by Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, and Ola Rosling
  • The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—but Some Don’t, by Nate Silver


  • Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street, by John Brooks
  • Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike, by Phil Knight
  • Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything, by Carol J. Loomis
  • Poor Charlie’s Almanack, by Peter D. Kaufman and Ed Wexler
  • Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone, by Satya Nadella
  • Science Business: The Promise, the Reality, and the Future of Biotech, by Gary P. Pisano


  • Einstein, by Walter Isaacson
  • Broken Genius, by Joel Shurkin
  • Leonardo da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson
  • Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson


  • Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
  • The Best We Could Do, by Thi Bui
  • Believe Me, by Eddie Izzard
  • Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh
  • On Immunity: An Inoculation, by Eula Biss
  • When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi
  • Everything Happens for a Reason and other Lies I’ve Loved, by Kate Bowler
  • The Cost of Hope, by Amanda Bennett


  • The Heart, by Maylis de Kerangal
  • The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson
  • The Rosie Effect, by Graeme Simsion
  • The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion
  • Patriot and Assassin, by Robert Cook
  • Turtles All the Way Down, by John Green
  • The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
  • The Cat’s Table, by Michael Ondaatje
  • The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger
  • A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
  • Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders

Books by Vaclav Smil

  • Energy and Civilization: A History, by Vaclav Smil
  • Should We Eat Meat?, by Vaclav Smil
  • Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization, by Vaclav Smil
  • Harvesting the Biosphere, by Vaclav Smil
  • Energy Myths and Realities, by Vaclav Smil
  • Japan’s Dietary Transition and Its Impacts, by Vaclav Smil and Kazuhiko Kobayashi
  • Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing, by Vaclav Smil
  • Prime Movers of Globalization, by Vaclav Smil
  • The Earth’s Biosphere, by Vaclav Smil
  • Energy at the Crossroads, by Vaclav Smil
  • Energies: An Illustrated Guide to the Biosphere and Civilization, by Vaclav Smil
  • Global Catastrophes and Trends, by Vaclav Smil
  • Enriching the Earth, by Vaclav Smil
  • Why America is Not a New Rome, by Vaclav Smil
  • Transforming the Twentieth Century, by Vaclav Smil
  • Energy Transitions: History, Requirements, Prospects, by Vaclav Smil
  • Creating the Twentieth Century, by Vaclav Smil

Development and foreign aid

  • Poor Numbers: How We are Misled by African Development Statistics and What to Do About it, by Morten Jerven
  • Getting Better: Why Global Development is Succeeding—and How We Can Improve the World Even More, by Charles Kenny
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, by Katherine Boo
  • The Man Who Fed the World: Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug and His Battle to End World Hunger, by Leon Hesser
  • The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change, by Roger Thurow
  • However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph, by Aimee Molloy
  • In the Company of the Poor, by Paul Farmer and Gustavo Gutierrez
  • Mighty be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War, by Leymah Gbowee
  • One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?, by Gordon Conway
  • Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty , by Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee and Esther Duflo
  • How to Spend $50 Billion to Make the World a Better Place, by Bjørn Lomborg
  • The Foundation: How Private Wealth Is Changing the World, by Joel L. Fleishman
  • Give Smart: Philanthropy that Gets Results, by Thomas J. Tierney and Joel L. Fleishman
  • Jim Grant—UNICEF Visionary, by Richard Jolly (Ed.)
  • Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food, by Pamela Ronald and Raoul Adamchak
  • The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality, by Angus Deaton
  • The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty, by Nina Munk
  • Interventions: A Life in War and Peace, by Kofi Annan


  • Why Does College Cost So Much?, by Robert B. Archibald and David H. Feldman
  • A World-Class Education: Learning from International Models of Excellence and Innovation, by Vivien Stewart
  • Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, by Richard Arum and Joshipa Roksa
  • Why Don’t Students Like School? A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions about how the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom, by Dan T. Willingham
  • Rebooting for the New Talent Economy, by Andrew Rosen
  • Unlocking the Gates, by Taylor Walsh
  • Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools, by Steven Brill
  • Who’s Teaching your Children?, by Vivian Troen and Katherine C. Boles
  • Stretching the School Dollar: How Schools and Districts Can Save Money while Serving Students Best, by Frederick M. Hess and Eric Osberg (Eds.)
  • Where Do School Funds Go?, by Marguerite Roza
  • Liberating Learning: Technology, Politics, and the Future of American Education, by Terry M. Moe and John E. Chubb
  • Work Hard. Be Nice: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America, by Jay Mathews
  • Value-Added Measures in Education: What Every Educator Needs to Know, by Douglas N. Harris


  • The Gene: An Intimate History, by Siddhartha Mukherjee
  • For the Love of Physics: From the End of the Rainbow to the Edge of Time, a Journey through the Wonders of Physics, by Walter Lewin
  • Feynman Lectures on Physics, Vol. 1: Mainly Mechanics, Radiation, and Heat, by Richard P. Feynman, Robert B. Leighton, and Matthew Sands
  • Feynman Lectures on Physics, Vol 2: Mainly Electromagnetism and Matter, by Richard P. Feynman, Robert B. Leighton, and Matthew Sands
  • Feynman Lectures on Physics, Vol 3: Quantum Mechanics, by Richard P. Feynman, Robert B. Leighton, and Matthew Sands
  • The New Science of Strong Materials, by J.E. Gordon
  • The Hair of the Dog and Other Scientific Surprises, by Karl Sabbagh
  • 13 Things that Don’t Make Sense: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of our Time, by Michael Brooks
  • Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, by Nathan Myhrvold
  • The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee
  • I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes within Us and a Grander View of Life, by Ed Yong
  • Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials that Shape our Man-Made World, by Mark Miodownik

Climate change and energy

  • The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World, by Daniel Yergin
  • Sustainable Energy—without the Hot Air, by David J.C. MacKay
  • Unlocking Energy Innovation, by Richard K. Lester and David M. Hart
  • World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse, by Lester R. Brown
  • Global Warming: The Complete Briefing, by John Houghton
  • Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: Climate Change and Energy in the 21st Century, by Burton Richter
  • Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution—and How it Can Renew America, by Thomas Friedman
  • Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era, by Amory B. Lovins and Rocky Mountain Institute

Economics and wealth inequality

  • Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance
  • Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond
  • The Power to Compete: An Economist and an Entrepreneur on Revitalizing Japan in the Global Economy, by Hiroshi Mikitani and Ryoichi Mikitani
  • The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living since the Civil War, by Robert Gordon
  • How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World’s Most Dynamic Region, by Joe Studwell
  • Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Piketty
  • Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises, by Timothy F. Geithner
  • The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and our Gamble over Earth’s Future, by Paul Sabin
  • The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers our Future, by Joseph E. Stiglitz
  • Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson
  • This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff
  • Beyond the Crash: Overcoming the First Crisis of Globalization, by Gordon Brown
  • Too Big to Fail, by Andrew Ross Sorkin
  • The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, by Thomas Friedman
  • That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World it Invented and How We Can Come Back, by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum
  • The End of Poverty, by Jeffrey Sachs
  • In Fed We Trust: Ben Bernanke’s War on the Great Panic, by David Wessel
  • SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
  • The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, by Matt Ridley

Disease and public health

  • Eradication: Ridding the World of Diseases Forever?, by Nancy Leys Stepan
  • The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years, by Sonia Shah
  • House on Fire: The Fight to Eradicate Smallpox, by William H. Foege
  • Smallpox: The Death of a Disease, by D.A. Henderson
  • Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues, by Paul Farmer
  • Reinventing American Health Care: How the Affordable Care Act Will Improve our Terribly Complex, Blatantly Unjust, Outrageously Expensive, Grossly Inefficient, Error Prone System, by Ezekiel Emanuel
  • The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, by Atul Gawande
  • Global Health: An Introductory Textbook, by A. Lindstrand, et al.
  • Health Care Will Not Reform Itself, by George Halvorson
  • Dirt and Disease: Polio before FDR, by Naomi Rogers
  • The Making of a Tropical Disease: A Short History of Malaria, by Randall M. Packard
  • Priorities in Health, by Dean T. Jamison and Joel G. Breman
  • Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine’s Greatest Lifesaver, by Arthur Allen
  • Tropical Infectious Diseases, by Richard L. Guerrant and David H. Walker
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man who Would Cure the World, by Tracy Kidder
  • Polio: An American Story, by David Oshinsky
  • Epic Measures: One Doctor. Seven Billion Patients, by Jeremy Smith

Leadership and management

  • The Myth of the Strong Leader, by Archie Brown
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck
  • How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, by Paul Tough
  • The Art of Being Unreasonable: Lessons in Unconventional Thinking, by Eli Broad
  • Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World With OKRs, by John Doerr
  • Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation, by Tim Brown

Happiness, psychology, and purpose

  • The Road to Character, by David Brooks
  • Where Good Ideas Come from, by Steven Johnson
  • Awakening Joy, by James Baraz and Shoshana Alexander
  • Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do, by Claude Steele
  • Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Showing up for Life, by Bill Gates Sr.
  • Life Is What You Make It, by Peter Buffett


  • String Theory, by David Foster Wallace
  • A Champion’s Mind, by Pete Sampras
  • Open, by Andre Agassi


  • Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, by Joshua Foer
  • The City that Became Safe: New York’s Lessons for Urban Crime and Its Control, by Franklin Zimring
  • Frank Stewart’s Bridge Club, by Frank Stewart

Correction: The post has been updated to clarify its methodology, and has been corrected to include three books previously omitted and to account for duplicates.