Now that he’s not CEO of Microsoft, Bill Gates has more time for leisurely pursuits like reading. Sure, he’s traveling the world while running the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, but those in-flight hours make for plenty of page-flipping time.
Gates often reviews the books he’s read on his site. This year he put together a list of his favorites from 2013, though he stressed that they are not all books that came out in the past year. It makes for a more varied list than the usual year-end wrap-ups and is a good look at what the revolutionary has on his mind.
Gates’s list is fiction-free, though he says he’s read The Catcher in the Rye countless times. This year he also picked up Google Glass Explorer and dachshund fan Gary Shteyngart’sSuper Sad True Love Story but found the book “didn’t have as much science fiction as I expected,” which is a pretty strong critique for a novel that seems quite prescient about tech.
So what did Gates enjoy? Here’s the list.
The Box by Marc Levinson
“You might think you don’t want to read a whole book about shipping containers,” Gates said, and when he puts it that way, we don’t. But he added that it “turns it into a very readable narrative” and he won’t look at a cargo ship in quite the same way again.
The Most Powerful Idea in the World by William Rosen
Gates has a thing for machines. This book is about a fairly old but still useful one, the steam engine. The reason Gates read it is a sweet one: “I’d wanted to know more about steam engines since the summer of 2009, when my son and I spent a lot of time hanging out at the Science Museum in London,” he wrote.
Harvesting the Biosphere by Vaclav Smil
Gates might not have been able to put this book down, but it’s not exactly a pick-me-up. It’s about how we humans have pretty much picked the planet clean.
The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond
This recommendation, a history of hunter-gatherer society with lessons to learn from it, is for anyone who doesn’t want to be doomed to repeat history.
Poor Numbers by Morten Jerven
Gates has put a great deal of effort and money into improving life in Africa. This book challenges how statistics for Africa are figured, though Gates said “that doesn’t mean we know nothing about what works in development.”
Why Does College Cost So Much? by Robert B. Archibald and David H. Feldman
Though he dropped out of Harvard, Gates said, “My view is that as long as there’s a scarcity of college graduates, a college degree will be quite valuable.” He agreed with the authors that the steep price of a higher education will come down once the market is flooded with graduates. How that can happen is at the heart of this book.
The Bet by Paul Sabin
The book investigates how the push and pull between the free market and environmental activists has frozen over the climate change debate and possibly the climate itself.