5 books Bill Gates recommends—and a confession


Have you seen Bill Gates’ 2017 summer reading list? While it's a little less cerebral than many of his recommendation lists—still not exactly vampires and romance—there's more accessible content with a nice blend of memoir, fiction and philosophy. Here are the 5 books:

Hillbilly Elegy: J D Vance
This was a smash hit around the time of Trump’s election, and was touted as offering an understanding of what it means to be white and poor, with an implication that in some way that experience explains the election results. Since then, there has been a heap of pushback—including this by Jared Yates Sexton—suggesting that the narrative of the book has been usurped by the far-right to ‘gut the working poor.’ It’s an interesting trajectory for a book, I’m looking forward to reading it.

If my mother had one goal, it was to free my mind.
— Born A Crime, Trevor Noah

Born A Crime: Trevor Noah
As host of The Daily Show, Trevor Noah is funny and insightful and it sounds like his book is both those things. It’s the story of Noah’s life in South Africa as a bi-racial child. I’m impressed and inspired by this quote from Gates’ review : “If my mother had one goal, it was to free my mind.”

Homo Deus: Yuval Noah Harari
This sounds like the most stretching of the five books, and Gates notes that he doesn’t completely agree with the author’s conclusions. But it certainly sounds like an interesting exploration of how we, as humans, might find meaning and purpose once we manage to overcome many of the societal vices we currently struggle with.

The Heart: Maylis De Kerangal
Technically this is fiction, but it sounds more like a meditation on grief. The entire book takes place over 24 hours and sounds like a gruelling read—parents are confronted with the death of their son and must decide whether to donate his heart. There’s also a film, Heal The Living, based on the book— you can see the trailer here. It looks both glorious and heart wrenching.

A Full Life: Jimmy Carter
Like most people, I’m feeling a certain nostalgia and affection for the five living US Presidents, so this short, personal biography by Jimmy Carter sounds very appealing. According to Gates, Carter is the author of two dozen books, so I won’t be surprised if reading this one sparks a Jimmy Carter reading spree.

And the confession? I ordered all 5 on Book Depository today. They're all under $20 (AUD)  (some are under $15), and I have a 3500km road trip coming up in December. So that’s cheap entertainment don’t you think?

The books are individually linked to Book Depository—they have great prices and free postage anywhere in the world—but Amazon might be cheaper for North American readers.