READING RAIN-BILL

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

Nerds rule.

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 AI: Superintelligence 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
Business
Biography
Memoir
Fiction
Books by Vaclav Smil
Development and foreign aid
Education
Science
Climate change and energy
Economics and wealth inequality
Disease and public health
Leadership and management
Happiness, psychology, and purpose
Tennis
Misc

Political history and biography

Human evolution and civilization

Big technology and invention

Math and science thinking

Business

Biography

Memoir

Fiction

Books by Vaclav Smil

Development and foreign aid

Education

Science

Climate change and energy

Economics and wealth inequality

Disease and public health

Leadership and management

Happiness, psychology, and purpose

Tennis

Misc

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.

Up Next

How Rihanna forced the beauty industry to acknowledge a world beyond the rich and the white

The iconic Glasgow School of Art building has been destroyed again by a fire—perhaps irreparably

The 17 most promising movies and TV shows to watch this summer

Home Our Picks Popular Obsessions