Bill Gates' Top Five Holiday Book Picks

Posted by Cybil on December 10, 2019


Tech pioneer, cofounder of Microsoft, cochair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and author Bill Gates is an avid reader who has become known for his excellent book recommendations. As the year wraps up, he's sharing some of his favorite books of 2019.

Get Bill's book recommendations throughout the year and see all the other books on his shelf by following him here.

As the clock ticks closer to midnight on New Year’s Eve, it’s fun to look back at what you’ve accomplished this year. December is a great time to take stock of everything you’ve done over the last 12 months—including all of the books you’ve read.

Because I’m a data guy, I like to look at my reading list and see if any trends emerge. This year, I picked up a bit more fiction than usual. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but I seemed to be drawn to stories that let me explore another world.

I’m currently trying to finish Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell before the end of the year (it’s amazingly clever but a bit hard to follow). Along with A Gentleman in Moscow and An American Marriage, I finished The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion (I love this series) and even picked up a short story collection in David Foster Wallace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.

Maybe next year’s end-of-year books post will finally include the Wallace novel I’ve been wanting to read for a while: Infinite Jest.

For this year’s holiday books list, I chose five titles that I think you’ll also enjoy reading. I think they’re all solid choices to help wrap up your 2019 or start 2020 on a good note:

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My daughter Jenn recommended that I read this novel, which tells the story of a black couple in the South whose marriage gets torn apart by a horrible incident of injustice. Jones is such a good writer that she manages to make you empathize with both of her main characters, even after one makes a difficult decision. The subject matter is heavy but thought-provoking, and I got sucked into Roy and Celestial’s tragic love story.


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Lepore has pulled off the seemingly impossible in her latest book: covering the entire history of the United States in just 800 pages. She’s made a deliberate choice to make diverse points of view central to the narrative, and the result is the most honest and unflinching account of the American story I’ve ever read. Even if you’ve read a lot about U.S. history, I’m confident you will learn something new from These Truths.


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When I first heard that one of my favorite authors was working on a new book about growth, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. (Two years ago, I wrote that I wait for new Smil books the way some people wait for the next Star Wars movie. I stand by that statement.) His latest doesn’t disappoint. As always, I don’t agree with everything Smil says, but he remains one of the best thinkers out there at documenting the past and seeing the big picture.


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As any parent knows, preparing your kids for life after high school is a long and sometimes difficult journey. Tavenner—who created a network of some of the best-performing schools in the nation—has put together a helpful guidebook about how to make that process as smooth and fruitful as possible. Along the way, she shares what she’s learned about teaching kids not just what they need to get into college, but how to live a good life. You can download a chapter of the book for free on my blog.


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I read a couple of great books this year about human behavior, and this was one of the most interesting and profound. Everyone knows that a good night’s sleep is important—but what exactly counts as a good night’s sleep? And how do you make one happen? Walker has persuaded me to change my bedtime habits to up my chances. If your New Year’s resolution is to be healthier in 2020, his advice is a good place to start.



Comments Showing 1-50 of 232 (232 new)


message 1: by Jude (new)

Jude Color me a bit surprised he didn't recommend "The Moment of Lift." I quite enjoyed it -- and I'm certain Bill did too.


message 2: by Ash (new)

Ash Thanks Bill! 😊. Looks a eclectic selection


message 3: by Kamila (new)

Kamila Jast I think it's very wise and modest of him to NJ it recommend his wife's book, and if you know it's out you will read it or find it if you read a lot.


message 4: by Ruth (new)

Ruth I too read The Moment of Lift and liked it very much. How about featuring what Melinda’s favourites are.


message 5: by Jay (new)

Jay DiNitto Does anyone actually believe these celebrities read all these books? They probably don't. It's all an endorsement deal.


message 6: by Amanda (new)

Amanda I'm not surprised Smil is on there again. As you he mentioned here and in his Netflix show, he's obsessed with him! Unfortunately his obsession doesn't translate to me haha


message 7: by Chandrashekar (new)

Chandrashekar BC Jay Dinnitto, he is not just a reader. He is one of the fastest reader with excellent grasping power. He has his own blog about his books.


message 8: by Sophie (new)

Sophie Two of these are already on my TBR pile. Thank you, Bill!


message 9: by Dominique (new)

Dominique I do think he reads books. Bill Gates doesn't need endorsement deals. Just because he has more money than us, doesn't mean he doesn't take the time to sit and read a book like all of us.


message 10: by Johannes (new)

Johannes Dery I think these books are extremely good books recommended by Bill Gate. Thanks so much.


message 11: by Will (new)

Will Sargent Typical boring businessman selection, packed to the gunnels with dull 'improvement' or 'observational life' claptrap. Never trust a man who doesn't read high fantasy or new wave sci-fi - as my nan used to say while sucking on a Benson and pegging my grandad's huge underpants to the line.


message 12: by Sophie (new)

Sophie Predictable & bit boring.
Should stick to his philanthropy work.


message 13: by Sabtain (new)

Sabtain Khan I second Why We Sleep - totally changed the way I approached sleep and now better understand its benefits and how to even sleep better. Hope everyone else reads and adopts a mentality to sleep more and sleep better!


message 14: by Yordy (new)

Yordy I will take theses recommendations seriously. I heard a lot about Matthew Walker's book "Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams."


message 15: by Janet (new)

Janet But did he read them on a tablet or in print??? Curious....


message 16: by Daniel (last edited Dec 15, 2019 10:51AM) (new)

Daniel Omel Janet wrote: "But did he read them on a tablet or in print??? Curious...."
Print. There's a Netflix special on Bill Gates and he travels with a big bag of books pretty much everywhere he goes.


message 17: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Omel Jay wrote: "Does anyone actually believe these celebrities read all these books? They probably don't. It's all an endorsement deal."
I would usually agree, but Bill's not a "celebrity," he's a billionaire, genius, businessman, philanthropist, and he reads more print a year than I've read in my entire life.


message 18: by Ernie (new)

Ernie Tidball Why We Sleep is one of the best books I read all year. It was fascinating and definitely makes you think!


message 19: by Jarrod (new)

Jarrod Edge Thanks, Bill, I've been following your Netflix series too. My 2 daughters and I are also big fans of Melinda. You are both very inspiring. Merry Christmas.


message 20: by Peggy (new)

Peggy I do.

Jay wrote: "Does anyone actually believe these celebrities read all these books? They probably don't. It's all an endorsement deal."


message 21: by Jon (new)

Jon Cairiss Who cares what this monster thinks about books? Pay your workers and do something actually useful instead of curating an insufferable gallery of boomer billionaire bullshit.


message 22: by TMR (last edited Dec 15, 2019 06:21PM) (new)

TMR Some of these selections are actually good.

And for everyone else, we’re not here to criticise his personal life or his work life or his reading habits, we’re here to see if any of these books are actually worth reading.

So calmly, y’all need to keep your opinions to yourselves, no one else cares about them.

Encourage more book love, not hate for something that is not under your control/neither your choice or by your influence.

Thanks.


message 23: by Greg (new)

Greg Brozeit Ah yes, an oligarch's oligarch who is doing his best to destroy public education, lives in a state where he doesn't have to pay taxes and, like all "philanthropists," spews opinions about which he has no knowledge or experience. And based on the majority of the answers above, his schtick is working.


message 24: by Greg (new)

Greg Brozeit Jon wrote: "Who cares what this monster thinks about books? Pay your workers and do something actually useful instead of curating an insufferable gallery of boomer billionaire bullshit."

Yeah you right!


message 25: by Sweetwilliam (new)

Sweetwilliam Wow, some more excellent suggestions from Bill. I have to say Bill that your suggestion of Sappians was probably the read of the year for me. Thanks again for your suggestions.


message 26: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine My to-read list just got longer...


message 27: by Greg (new)

Greg Brozeit Lemmings.


message 28: by Justin (new)

Justin Hargrave Jay wrote: "Does anyone actually believe these celebrities read all these books? They probably don't. It's all an endorsement deal."

Actually, given how much Bill Gates reads, I'm certain he's read every one of these and dozens more just in the past 6 months.


message 29: by Greg (new)

Greg Brozeit Justin wrote: "Jay wrote: "Does anyone actually believe these celebrities read all these books? They probably don't. It's all an endorsement deal."

Actually, given how much Bill Gates reads, I'm certain he's rea..."


True, it's not like he has anything to do or worry about. But it is amazing how often he draws the wrong lessons.


message 30: by Denise (new)

Denise Why We Sleep sounds like an important read! If we get more quality sleep we can read more! 😁


message 31: by Dimma (new)

Dimma Jose Found three of these books already interesting. Thanks Bill, can't wait to read them


message 32: by Will (new)

Will Sargent The tips for high achieving kids book is the scariest. What happened to teachers going to the pub at lunch time and it being a job for those who wanted to be with kids, not high performance. My wife is the best teacher in the world and connects with problem kids in an amazing way (for 20 years). Competitiveness between schools, ridiculous high standards and insensitive Ofsted inspections have killed teaching as a career for talented intelligent carers in the UK and ensured only priviliged, moneyed families fight aggressively for the best places at schools where exams are fiddled to cook the books for the continuing results based performance. Where are all the normal people who just want a nice job supposed to go these days? We're not all of a mindset for constant improvement. It brings stress and unhappiness.


message 33: by Sweetwilliam (new)

Sweetwilliam Jay wrote: "Does anyone actually believe these celebrities read all these books? They probably don't. It's all an endorsement deal."

Yes, the billionaire needs an endorsement deal. He is said to be a voracious reader and this is one of the many reasons that he has been so successful.


TheBohemianBookworm Jay wrote: "Does anyone actually believe these celebrities read all these books? They probably don't. It's all an endorsement deal."

Bill Gates reads fifty books a year by his own admission. I don’t see why of the fifty he read he couldn’t have read these five.


message 35: by Victoria (new)

Victoria Jay wrote: "Does anyone actually believe these celebrities read all these books? They probably don't. It's all an endorsement deal."

Could be....


message 36: by Romy (new)

Romy Jay wrote: "Does anyone actually believe these celebrities read all these books? They probably don't. It's all an endorsement deal."

BG is a prolific reader.


message 37: by Michael (new)

Michael Bevin Jay wrote: "Does anyone actually believe these celebrities read all these books? They probably don't. It's all an endorsement deal."

You do realize that he is well known for reading a ton of books every year? And that as one of the richest men in the world, he really likely doesn't care to exchange his reputation for a tiny bit of money from some such endorsement deal .....


message 38: by Michiel (new)

Michiel Rutjes Jay wrote: "Does anyone actually believe these celebrities read all these books? They probably don't. It's all an endorsement deal."

Go watch the Netflix documentary on Bill Gates (“Inside Bill’s Brain”), it seems that reading takes up at least half of his days. Bill Gates is well known for devouring books by the ton, so while you are probably right in general with this criticism calling it out on Bill Gates is just bad timing ;)


message 39: by Alex (new)

Alex Will wrote: "Typical boring businessman selection, packed to the gunnels with dull 'improvement' or 'observational life' claptrap. Never trust a man who doesn't read high fantasy or new wave sci-fi - as my nan ..."

He is reading 'Cloud Atlas' though ;-)


message 40: by Prof.Chris (new)

Prof.Chris Abraham Jay wrote: "Does anyone actually believe these celebrities read all these books? They probably don't. It's all an endorsement deal."I know Bill personally and he reads a minimum of 75-100 books a year.


message 41: by Alex (new)

Alex Prof.Chris wrote: "Jay wrote: "Does anyone actually believe these celebrities read all these books? They probably don't. It's all an endorsement deal."I know Bill personally and he reads a minimum of 75-100 books a y..."

Of course you do ;-)


message 42: by Val (new)

Val Robson Sophie wrote: "Predictable & bit boring.
Should stick to his philanthropy work."

Rather unnecessary and bitchy. And surprising from someone who says they've worked in the mental health field for years.


message 43: by Jef (new)

Jef Daniel wrote: "Janet wrote: "But did he read them on a tablet or in print??? Curious...."
Print. There's a Netflix special on Bill Gates and he travels with a big bag of books pretty much everywhere he goes."

and does it matter?


message 44: by Janice (new)

Janice Ristow Jon wrote: "Who cares what this monster thinks about books? Pay your workers and do something actually useful instead of curating an insufferable gallery of boomer billionaire bullshit."

A little harsh when you consider how much he has done for the greater good starting with polio vaccinations for most of Africa's children. He does not control all of what does or does not go on at Microsoft.


message 45: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Jay wrote: "Does anyone actually believe these celebrities read all these books? They probably don't. It's all an endorsement deal."
most successful and intelegent people read much more than you think.


message 46: by Mona (new)

Mona I respect Mr. Gates' choices. I do not believe it is an endorsement deal.


message 47: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen How can i respect a man who wants to depopulate the world???


message 48: by Tim (new)

Tim Wolfe Jon wrote: "Who cares what this monster thinks about books? Pay your workers and do something actually useful instead of curating an insufferable gallery of boomer billionaire bullshit."

I am not a Bill Gates fan (or not against him either) but to imply he is a worthless billionaire is probably not your best statement. Where would civilization be today if not for those who made computers and software the change agents they have been (but that is not to say that negative has not come from these same tools that have improved our lives?)


message 49: by Janice (new)

Janice Ristow Compare the contributions to the greater good of Bill Gates to those of Jeff Bezos who has spent a billion dollars on a penis shaped personal space shuttle then make a harsh comment. As a matter of fact, what is your contribution to people or the environment? Or make a comment on what a solution might be for Mr. Gates to get into your good graces. It is lazy to make a comment or vote on a single issue. Where electronics are concerned, if you aren't buying a product, then you are the product. Please beware of what matters.


message 50: by Ukemike (new)

Ukemike Jay wrote: "Does anyone actually believe these celebrities read all these books? They probably don't. It's all an endorsement deal."

Bill reads this many books every week. Whatever else you feel about him he reads voraciously.


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