Bill Gates Picks 5 Good Books for a Lousy Year

Posted by Cybil on December 8, 2020
 
Bill Gates, tech pioneer, co-founder of Microsoft, and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is an avid reader who people follow for his excellent book recommendations. As he looks ahead to a new year and a new book that he has authored, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, Gates takes a moment to reflect on the books that have helped him weather 2020.

You can also get Gates' book recommendations throughout the year and see all the other books on his shelf by following him here.


Rate this book
Clear rating
In tough times—and there’s no doubt that 2020 qualifies as tough times—those of us who love to read turn to all kinds of different books. 

This year, sometimes I chose to go deeper on a difficult subject, like the injustices that underlie this year’s Black Lives Matter protests. Other times I needed a change of pace, something lighter at the end of the day.

As a result, I read a wide range of books, and a lot of excellent ones. Here are five books covering a variety of subjects that I’d recommend as we wrap up 2020. I hope you find something that helps you—or the book lover in your life—finish the year on a good note.

 




Rate this book
Clear rating
 
Like many white people, I’ve tried deepen my understanding of systemic racism in recent months. Alexander’s book offers an eye-opening look into how the criminal justice system unfairly targets communities of color, and especially Black communities. It’s especially good at explaining the history and the numbers behind mass incarceration. I was familiar with some of the data, but Alexander really helps put it in context. I finished the book more persuaded than ever that we need a more just approach to sentencing and more investment in communities of color.


Rate this book
Clear rating
 
I started following Epstein’s work after watching his fantastic 2014 TED talk on sports performance. In this fascinating book, he argues that although world seems to demand more and more specialization—in your career, for example—what we actually need is more people “who start broad and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives while they progress.” His examples run from Roger Federer to Charles Darwin to Cold War-era experts on Soviet affairs. I think his ideas even help explain some of Microsoft’s success, because we hired people who had real breadth within their field and across domains. If you’ve ever felt like a generalist alone in a world of specialists, this book is for you.



Rate this book
Clear rating
 
Sometimes history books end up feeling more relevant than their authors could have imagined. That’s the case with this brilliant account of the years 1940 and 1941, when English citizens spent almost every night in makeshift shelters as Germany dropped massive bombs on them. The fear and anxiety they felt—while much more severe than what we’re experiencing with COVID-19—sounded familiar. Larson gives you a sense of what it was like to experience these attacks, and he does a great job profiling some of the British leaders who saw them through the crisis, including Winston Churchill and his close advisers. Its scope is too narrow to be the only book you ever read on World War II, but it’s a great addition to the literature focused on that tragic period.



Rate this book
Clear rating
 
This nonfiction account focuses on Oleg Gordievsky, an officer in the KGB who was a double agent for the British, and Aldrich Ames, the American turncoat who likely betrayed him. Macintyre’s retelling of their stories comes not only from Western sources (including Gordievsky himself) but also from the Russian perspective. It’s every bit as exciting as my favorite spy novels.


Rate this book
Clear rating
 
I’ve been following the fight against cystic fibrosis for two decades, ever since a former Microsoft colleague educated me about the disease and some cutting-edge research to treat it. But I learned a lot from this account, which helped me understand a lot more about all the people who are involved in developing drugs to treat this awful lung disease. You meet scientists, advocates, care givers, and more. It’s an inspiring book and a testament to what’s possible when passionate leaders bring people together in a common cause.



Comments Showing 1-50 of 148 (148 new)


message 1: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Stringer Yes! I read Humankind by Rutger Bregman. In this fairly crap year, it gave me a more hopeful view of humanity.


message 2: by Darcy (new)

Darcy Mantai Jennifer wrote: "Yes! I read Humankind by Rutger Bregman. In this fairly crap year, it gave me a more hopeful view of humanity."
And this is about the five books mentioned? You might have just as well said you like chocolate. Who cares.


message 3: by Nicole (new)

Nicole Smith Darcy wrote: "Jennifer wrote: "Yes! I read Humankind by Rutger Bregman. In this fairly crap year, it gave me a more hopeful view of humanity."
And this is about the five books mentioned? You might have just as w..."


The end of the article: "Now it's your turn! Did you read any standout nonfiction books this year?"
They were answering the question.


message 4: by Debbi (new)

Debbi Darcy wrote: "Jennifer wrote: "Yes! I read Humankind by Rutger Bregman. In this fairly crap year, it gave me a more hopeful view of humanity."
And this is about the five books mentioned? You might have just as w..."


That was unnecessarily rude. Another suggestion for a good thing to read in a lousy year isn't necessarily off-topic.


message 5: by Gail (new)

Gail Jennifer wrote: "Yes! I read Humankind by Rutger Bregman. In this fairly crap year, it gave me a more hopeful view of humanity."
Sounds as though more of us need to be reading Humankind. Thanks for responding to the question in the post and recommending this book.


message 6: by Jennifer (last edited Dec 08, 2020 10:46AM) (new)

Jennifer Stringer Yes, I read to the end and was answering the question (because I just know Bill Gates is on pins and needles to find out what non-fiction I enjoyed this year). Water off a duck's back, but thanks coming to my defense, friends. And, you all just kind of proved the premise of Humankind - despite all the attention given to cruelty and hate, kindness and cooperation are more prevalent and have been the key to humanity's progress in a relatively short amount of time. Happy reading!


message 7: by Tom (new)

Tom Wilcox The New Jim Crow was eye opening. It's definitely a must read!


message 8: by Alexandra (new)

Alexandra Jennifer wrote: "Yes! I read Humankind by Rutger Bregman. In this fairly crap year, it gave me a more hopeful view of humanity."

I recently read it and also thought it was the perfect book for 2020! Already have Utopia for Realists in the wish-list.


message 9: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine Tom wrote: "The New Jim Crow was eye opening. It's definitely a must read!"

I have added it to my to-read list!


message 10: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie Kavanaugh When Time Stopped: A Memoir of My Father's War and What Remains by Arianna Neumann. It's a story that needs to be told so we never forget the Nazis' treatment of Jews in WW II.


message 11: by Leticia (new)

Leticia Jennifer wrote: "Yes! I read Humankind by Rutger Bregman. In this fairly crap year, it gave me a more hopeful view of humanity."

thanks for the suggestion. I will add it to my wishlist!


message 12: by AJ (new)

AJ What a terribly lousy list.


message 13: by Zhongzong (new)

Zhongzong yan mark


message 14: by Juan (new)

Juan Me encantan las recomendaciones de libros que hace Bill Gates a lo largo del año. Siempre descubro alguna joya.


message 15: by Ada (new)

Ada Ma Read the New Jim Crow when it was one of the books chosen by Mark Zuckerberg for his bookclub in 2015. They recommended 23 books back then.


message 16: by Meryl (new)

Meryl I could give a rat’s ass about Bill Gates top books of 2020. Why don’t you get a little perspective Goodreads and ask a Conservative minded person for once? I’m so sick of this one-sided narrative constantly being pushed. I could careless, Goodreads for your book picks of 2020.


message 17: by Audra (new)

Audra Larson I'll never read anything recommended by that man.


message 18: by Audra (new)

Audra Larson Meryl wrote: "I could give a rat’s ass about Bill Gates top books of 2020. Why don’t you get a little perspective Goodreads and ask a Conservative minded person for once? I’m so sick of this one-sided narrative ..."

Yes!


message 19: by Laura (new)

Laura Burns Just Mercy and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.


message 20: by Pablo (new)

Pablo Obviously, a large group here suffering from Trumpitis - a serious brain deficiency. I suggest taking the suggestions of an intelligent reader for what they are - suggestions !!


message 22: by Cathy (new)

Cathy Juan wrote: "Me encantan las recomendaciones de libros que hace Bill Gates a lo largo del año. Siempre descubro alguna joya."

the second sentence: I always discover a gem. I think you can figure out the first


message 23: by Avesta (new)

Avesta I love Bill Gates!! What a brilliant man.


message 24: by Classic reverie (new)

Classic reverie Meryl wrote: "I could give a rat’s ass about Bill Gates top books of 2020. Why don’t you get a little perspective Goodreads and ask a Conservative minded person for once? I’m so sick of this one-sided narrative ..."

100% on all negative Gate's comments!


message 25: by Robert (new)

Robert Now that we're on the subject of Bill Gates, you also need to read Brave New World, 1984, and We by Yevgeny Zamyatin!


message 26: by Susan (new)

Susan Now he's telling me what to read. I think not!


message 27: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Darcy wrote: "Jennifer wrote: "Yes! I read Humankind by Rutger Bregman. In this fairly crap year, it gave me a more hopeful view of humanity."
And this is about the five books mentioned? You might have just as w..."


Read the room. This is Goodreads, not Sturgis.


message 28: by Marieange (new)

Marieange Did Bill Gates buy Goodreads?


message 29: by Catalin (new)

Catalin Calenic I really loved Brain Myths Exploded, a series of a bit over 20 lectures from neuroscientist Indre Viskontas.


message 30: by [deleted user] (new)


message 31: by Marie (UK) (new)

Marie (UK) Darcy wrote: "Jennifer wrote: "Yes! I read Humankind by Rutger Bregman. In this fairly crap year, it gave me a more hopeful view of humanity."
And this is about the five books mentioned? You might have just as w..."


HOW RUDE


message 32: by Connor (last edited Dec 12, 2020 10:29AM) (new)

Connor Owens Audra wrote: "Meryl wrote: "I could give a rat’s ass about Bill Gates top books of 2020. Why don’t you get a little perspective Goodreads and ask a Conservative minded person for once? I’m so sick of this one-si..."

thank you for your input. you say you won't read anything by Bill Gates but apparently love getting your information from conspiracy theories - this definitely seems like it will bode well for the future of the world.

oddly enough Bill just posted about "Why do we believe lies" on his Gates Notes blog. you should check it out. https://www.gatesnotes.com/Podcast/Wh...


message 33: by Troy (new)

Troy Johnson Bill Gates is my favorite pretend expert on things unrelated to IT, and why not: his cut-throat business dealings made the government itself sit up and take notice.
I don't doubt Mr. Gates reads a lot and could recommend some pretty good books were he motivated to do so, but I really doubt he is motivated to do so.
Having positioned himself to take advantage of all things government financed (global warming, vaccines, foundations, ...) he decides to promote his new book (and throws in some others). On one of those subjects he "believes in". Yay for self-promotion!
Anyway, he is a charismatic leader type who already wields more influence than he probably should (in my opinion), so this advertisement masquerading as an article isn't something I'm interested in. Just for your information, Goodreads.
Thanks for reading!


message 34: by Gabriel (new)

Gabriel Bill Gates has good taste.


message 35: by Amy (new)

Amy Peck Johanna wrote: "Did Bill Gates buy Goodreads?"

It’s part of Amazon.


message 36: by Andrea (new)

Andrea Kilin Humankind by Rutger Bregman was the best of 2020 for me !


message 37: by Taylor (new)

Taylor I don't care, Bill, give all your money away.


message 38: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie Missoula by Jon Krakauer and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson


message 39: by Tanya (new)

Tanya Me and my popcorn are just here for the comments from butt-hurt, science-denying, anti-vaxxer Conservatives.


message 40: by lolineka (last edited Dec 12, 2020 02:52PM) (new)

lolineka Tanya wrote: "Me and my popcorn are just here for the comments from butt-hurt, science-denying, anti-vaxxer Conservatives."

Lol, nice comment. Maybe the best one so far.


message 41: by Claudia (new)

Claudia It's really sad that so many people clicked on the blog article just to post their venom regarding Mr. Gates. If you are so opposed to his actions and opinions, why did you even waste your time - and others - posting?

He's giving an opinion. Just as you obviously are but at least he's being polite about it. There are several posts that are definitely not polite and are down-right rude.


message 42: by Kim (new)

Kim Zero interest in Bill Gates or his book selections.


message 43: by Samantha (new)

Samantha Amazing how many deluded people are commenting here, I wasn't anticipating this on Goodreads. You're on a book review website, there are plenty of opportunities to educate yourselves here instead of spewing lies and conspiracy theories.


message 44: by Jon (new)

Jon Jennifer wrote: "Yes, I read to the end and was answering the question (because I just know Bill Gates is on pins and needles to find out what non-fiction I enjoyed this year). Water off a duck's back, but thanks c..."

Thank you very much for the recommendation Jennifer. I'm glad you chose to ignore the rude person who replied to your kindly recommendation. I was disheartened to read such rude disregard, but pleasantly happy to find you shrug it off and see others come to defend your post. We don't need negativity. We need to stand together and find ways to maintain a positive view of things. It's especially important given this pandemic year. I will check that book out! I always love a good recommendation.


message 45: by Jon (new)

Jon Troy wrote: "Bill Gates is my favorite pretend expert on things unrelated to IT, and why not: his cut-throat business dealings made the government itself sit up and take notice.
I don't doubt Mr. Gates reads a..."


While he is promoting his book, I don't see a problem with that. He regularly recommends great books to people. As I type this on my Windows desktop, I'm happy for Bill Gates' success. I have an amazingly stable platform with which to enjoy all things digital on. I grew up on Dos, windows 3.1, Windows 95, 98SE and onward... 2000, ME, XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10...

Remember, this is a book site. He's recommending some good books here. No real harm in him posting his own book atop, before the 5 below. I don't plan to buy it myself, but his recommendations look great as usual. I think we need to stop being so negative and start being more positive. Nothing good comes of negativity. Enjoy some books fellow reader :)


message 46: by Penny (new)

Penny "Norwegian by Night", and sequel "American by Day"


message 47: by Mary Pauline (new)

Mary Pauline M Well, there are five books that I'll never read. No longer will I read anything written by Bill Gates either.


message 48: by Kayley (last edited Dec 12, 2020 04:50PM) (new)

Kayley If some of you all hate Gates so much, why you click on the article in the first place? It's like you wanna screech your "facts" into peoples faces from questionable resources. Get off the internet for a little while and I dunno don't just read things that makes stuff up to confirm your own biases.
And I guess you can't use computers anymore if you hate Gates that much.
Oh and you lost, get over it.


message 49: by rose (new)

rose There's literally no reason to tell us what this random man thinks. Go away.


message 50: by William (new)

William Rackliffe Bill Gates: Thank you for your book suggestions and for the great good you are doing for humanity. I am a conservative, a man of faith, and a computer programmer. I am in the middle of The Splendid and the Vile. It is a great book.
I'm somewhat embarrassed at the negative comments. I think most people appreciate your additions to the world. Thank you.


« previous 1 3
back to top