With summer fast approaching, it’s time to start compiling your vacation reading list. And fortunately, Bill Gates is here to help.
On Monday, the philanthropist and Microsoft cofounder revealed his summer reading list, and they’re all books that’ll keep you company on any adventure you embark on this summer, as well as teach you something new throughout the hot months.
“When I pulled together this list of five that you might enjoy this summer, I realized that several of my choices wrestle with big questions,” Gates wrote in a blog post. “What makes a genius tick? Why do bad things happen to good people? Where does humanity come from, and where are we headed?”
These are huge existential musings but they’re all in keeping with Gates’ typical brand of summer reading recommendations. In 2017, for instance, Gates recommended Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus which is about how society in the 21st century might influence the future of humanity. And in 2016, Gates recommended The Vital Question by Nick Lane, which is about cellular biology.
But don’t worry, Gates promises that even the most intense books in his recommendation list still make for great summer reads.
“Despite the heavy subject matter, all these books were fun to read, and most of them are pretty short. Even the longest (Leonardo) goes quickly.”
Here is what Bill Gates recommends you read this summer.
Leonardo da Vinci
Walter Isaacson is known for his authoritative biographies on the world’s greatest minds, having covered everyone from Steve Jobs to Benjamin Franklin. But now, the biographer is back with a new subject: Leonardo da Vinci. In his new book, the eponymously named Leonardo da Vinci, Isaacson explores both da Vinci’s personal life and also the creativity that drove the Renaissance man’s most famous works.
Bill says: “Isaacson does the best job I’ve seen of pulling together the different strands of Leonardo’s life and explaining what made him so exceptional. A worthy follow-up to Isaacson’s great biographies of Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs.” (Full review here.)
Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved
Everything Happens for a Reason by Kate Bowler is a memoir about what happens when our lives get turned upside down. The memoir traces Bowler’s life after she is diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. A professor at Duke Divinity School studying the idea that fortune and misfortune are signs from god, Bowler’s memoir looks at life, death, and the ways we make sense of uncertainty.
Bill says: “A heartbreaking, surprisingly funny memoir about faith and coming to grips with your own mortality.” (Full review here.)
Lincoln in the Bardo
Lincoln in the Bardo is famed short story writer George Saunders’ first novel and it’s stunning from the start. Mixing historical accounts with fiction, the book follows Lincoln and his son Willie after Willie dies. The book then juggles Lincoln’s own grief with an unforgettable story about what happens in the Bardo, a purgatory of sorts that comes after death, as a collection of ghosts struggle to save their own souls as well as Willie’s.
Bill says: “I got new insight into the way Lincoln must have been crushed by the weight of both grief and responsibility. This is one of those fascinating, ambiguous books you’ll want to discuss with a friend when you’re done.” (Full review here.)
Origin Story: A Big history of Everything
If you’ve ever looked up at the stars and been simultaneously overwhelmed and inspired by the hugeness of it all, Origin Story is for you. The book seeks to answer that age old question “where do we come from?” as Christian explores everything from the big bang to nuclear war.
Bill says: “If you haven’t taken ‘Big History’ yet, Origin Story is a great introduction. If you have, it’s a great refresher. Either way, the book will leave you with a greater appreciation of humanity’s place in the universe.” (Full review here.)
In an age where we hear phrases like “fake news” and “alternative facts,” Hans Rosling’s book Factfullness is a breath of fresh air. The book looks at what influences distort our perspective as we try to understand the world.
Bill says: “Hans, the brilliant global-health lecturer who died last year, gives you a breakthrough way of understanding basic truths about the world—how life is getting better, and where the world still needs to improve.” (Full review here.)