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Bill Gates: 5 books to end a tough year

Anastasia Santoreneos
·3-min read
Bill Gates, Co-Chair of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, attends a conversation at the 2019 New Economy Forum in Beijing, China November 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee
Bill Gates: 5 books to end a tough year. Source: Getty

Billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has revealed the five books that got him through 2020, a year he says undoubtedly qualifies as “tough”.

“I read a wide range of books, and a lot of excellent ones,” Gates wrote on his blog, GatesNotes.

“I hope you find something that helps you - or the book lover in your life - finish the year on a good note.”

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander

You can purchase it here.

The Black Lives Matter protests earlier this year sparked many white Americans, and indeed people across the globe, to turn inwards and assess their own understanding of systemic racism.

Gates said he did the same.

“Alexander’s book offers an eye-opening look into how the criminal justice system unfairly targets communities of color, and especially Black communities,” he said.

“It’s especially good at explaining the history and the numbers behind mass incarceration.”

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, by David Epstein

You can purchase it here.

Roger Federer is a tennis superstar, but he never trained to be one. Instead, as a young kid, he played a wide range of sports, from skateboarding to swimming, ping pong to soccer.

Sports journalist David Epstein delves into Federer’s experience, and uses it to explain the benefits of delaying specialisation, and accumulating many different experiences.

“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,” Gates said.

“If you’re a generalist who has ever felt overshadowed by your specialist colleagues, this book is for you.”

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, by Erik Larson

You can purchase it here.

This book is set in 1940 and 1941, during World War II, and yet Gates said it felt more relevant today than the author probably imagined.

“Larson gives you a vivid sense of what life was like for average citizens during this awful period, 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,” Gates said.

The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War, by Ben Macintyre

You can purchase it here.

This year may have been brutal, but Gates said 1983 could have been worse - if a double agent didn’t stop it.

This nonfiction spy novel focuses on Oleg Gordievsky, the double agent who helped prevent nuclear war, 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,” Gates said.

“It’s every bit as exciting as my favorite spy novels.”

Breath from Salt: A Deadly Genetic Disease, a New Era in Science, and the Patients and Families Who Changed Medicine, by Bijal P. Trivedi

You can purchase it here.

If you need your spirits lifted, this is for you. This novel documents how a scientific innovation has improved the lives of almost all cystic fibrosis patients and their families.

“This story is especially meaningful to me because I know families who’ve benefited from the new medicines described in this book,” Gates said.

“I suspect we’ll see many more books like this in the coming years, as biomedical miracles emerge from labs at an ever-greater pace.”

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