5 summer book recommendations from Bill Gates

When Bill Gates finishes a book, there isn’t a formula for what he picks next.

But this year, the Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist’s annual summer reading list features titles that each tackle a similar concept: “what happens when people come into conflict with the world around them.”

The list, which he released in a blog post on GatesNotes Monday, doesn’t appear cohesive on the surface, spanning from a presidential memoir to a novel exploring nine people’s relationships with trees. But Gates wrote that this year he has found himself reading more about conflicts between humanity and nature.

“Maybe it’s because everyone’s lives have been upended by a virus,” Gates wrote in the post. “Or maybe it’s because I’ve spent so much time this year talking about what we need to do to avoid a climate disaster.”

Gates himself came out with a book this year, “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster,” that explores solutions to the world’s climate-related risks. He also emerged as a leading voice on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gates has been in the news in recent months after he and Melinda French Gates announced on May 2 that they were ending their marriage, including reports of his behavior toward female employees and an investigation into his “inappropriate” prior romantic relationship with a female Microsoft employee.

Here are Gates’ summer book recommendations:

Lights Out: Pride, Delusion and the Fall of General Electric by Thomas Gryta and Ted Mann

Gates said he’d often wondered how a company like GE could fail, and this book outlined the issues.

“The authors give you an unflinching look at the mistakes and missteps made by GE’s leadership,” Gates said. “If you’re in any kind of leadership role — whether at a company, a non-profit, or somewhere else — there’s a lot you can learn here.”

Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future by Elizabeth Colbert

Under a White Sky is the book on the list that most clearly addresses the theme Gates’ reading list follows. Colbert writes about people who intervene with nature in gene drive and geoengineering.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

The 44th president’s memoir recounts the early days of his presidency through the mission in 2011 which killed Osama bin Laden. It also addresses the Deep Water Horizon spill in 2010 and the challenges Obama faced.

“President Obama is unusually honest about his experience in the White House, including how isolating it is to be the person who ultimately calls the shots,” Gates wrote. “It’s a fascinating look at what it’s like to steer a country through challenging times.”

The Overstory by Richard Powers

The novel follows the lives of nine people, each examining their connection with trees. Some of the characters are connected but others stay on their own.

Gates called it “one of the most unusual novels I’ve read in years.”

An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System: A Tale in Four Lives, by Matt Richtel

The book was written before COVID-19, but it examines the human immune system and can serve as an interesting lens to consider the pandemic through. The book follows four patients forced to manage their immune system.

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Tech Bill gates Gates notes Summer reading