5 Books To Read This Summer by Bill Gates, Gates Notes
Here in Seattle, summer is a gift you earn by gutting out nine months of rain and gloom. The skies are clear, there’s hardly any humidity, and the nights are cool. Best of all, you sometimes get the chance to sit outside reading a great book.
This summer, my recommended reading list has a good dose of books with science and math at their core. But there’s no science or math to my selection process. The following five books are simply ones that I loved, made me think in new ways, and kept me up reading long past when I should have gone to sleep. As a result, this is an eclectic list—from an 800-page science fiction novel by a local legend to a 200-page nonfiction book on how Japan can get its economic mojo back. I hope you find at least one book here that inspires you to go off the beaten path when you get some time to yourself this summer.
The five books are….
- The Power to Compete: An Economist and an Entrepreneur on Revitalizing Japan in the Global Economy
- The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life,
- How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
See the full post from Bill Gates here
More on the books and a video with Gates below.
Book Recommendations from Bill Gates for this summer
Book Recommendations from Bill Gates – Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Anatham, Reamde, and Cryptonomicon comes an exciting and thought-provoking science fiction epic?a grand story of annihilation and survival spanning five thousand years.
What would happen if the world were ending?
A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.
But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain.…
Five thousand years later, their progeny?seven distinct races now three billion strong?embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown…to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.
A writer of dazzling genius and imaginative vision, Neal Stephenson combines science, philosophy, technology, psychology, and literature in a magnificent work of speculative fiction that offers a portrait of a future that is both extraordinary and eerily recognizable. As he did in Anathem, Cryptonomicon, the Baroque Cycle, and Reamde, Stephenson explores some of our biggest ideas and perplexing challenges in a breathtaking saga that is daring, engrossing, and altogether brilliant.
Book Recommendations from Bill Gates – How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking, by Jordan Ellenberg
The Freakonomics of math—a math-world superstar unveils the hidden beauty and logic of the world and puts its power in our hands
The math we learn in school can seem like a dull set of rules, laid down by the ancients and not to be questioned. In How Not to Be Wrong, Jordan Ellenberg shows us how terribly limiting this view is: Math isn’t confined to abstract incidents that never occur in real life, but rather touches everything we do—the whole world is shot through with it.
Math allows us to see the hidden structures underneath the messy and chaotic surface of our world. It’s a science of not being wrong, hammered out by centuries of hard work and argument. Armed with the tools of mathematics, we can see through to the true meaning of information we take for granted: How early should you get to the airport? What does “public opinion” really represent? Why do tall parents have shorter children? Who really won Florida in 2000? And how likely are you, really, to develop cancer?
How Not to Be Wrong presents the surprising revelations behind all of these questions and many more, using the mathematician’s method of analyzing life and exposing the hard-won insights of the academic community to the layman—minus the jargon. Ellenberg chases mathematical threads through a vast range of time and space, from the everyday to the cosmic, encountering, among other things, baseball, Reaganomics, daring lottery schemes, Voltaire, the replicability crisis in psychology, Italian Renaissance painting, artificial languages, the development of non-Euclidean geometry, the coming obesity apocalypse, Antonin Scalia’s views on crime and punishment, the psychology of slime molds, what Facebook can and can’t figure out about you, and the existence of God.
Ellenberg pulls from history as well as from the latest theoretical developments to provide those not trained in math with the knowledge they need. Math, as Ellenberg says, is “an atomic-powered prosthesis that you attach to your common sense, vastly multiplying its reach and strength.” With the tools of mathematics in hand, you can understand the world in a deeper, more meaningful way. How Not to Be Wrong will show you how.
Book Recommendations from Bill Gates – The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life, by Nick Lane
To explain the mystery of how life evolved on Earth, Nick Lane explores the deep link between energy and genes.
The Earth teems with life: in its oceans, forests, skies and cities. Yet there’s a black hole at the heart of biology. We do not know why complex life is the way it is, or, for that matter, how life first began. In The Vital Question, award-winning author and biochemist Nick Lane radically reframes evolutionary history, putting forward a solution to conundrums that have puzzled generations of scientists.
For two and a half billion years, from the very origins of life, single-celled organisms such as bacteria evolved without changing their basic form. Then, on just one occasion in four billion years, they made the jump to complexity. All complex life, from mushrooms to man, shares puzzling features, such as sex, which are unknown in bacteria. How and why did this radical transformation happen?
The answer, Lane argues, lies in energy: all life on Earth lives off a voltage with the strength of a lightning bolt. Building on the pillars of evolutionary theory, Lane’s hypothesis draws on cutting-edge research into the link between energy and cell biology, in order to deliver a compelling account of evolution from the very origins of life to the emergence of multicellular organisms, while offering deep insights into our own lives and deaths.
Both rigorous and enchanting, The Vital Question provides a solution to life’s vital question: why are we as we are, and indeed, why are we here at all?
Book Recommendations from Bill Gates – The Power to Compete: An Economist and an Entrepreneur on Revitalizing Japan in the Global Economy, by Ryoichi Mikitani and Hiroshi Mikitani
Father and son – entrepreneur and economist – search for Japan’s economic cure
The Power to Compete tackles the issues central to the prosperity of Japan – and the world – in search of a cure for the “Japan Disease.” As founder and CEO of Rakuten, one of the world’s largest Internet companies, author Hiroshi Mikitani brings an entrepreneur’s perspective to bear on the country’s economic stagnation. Through a freewheeling and candid conversation with his economist father, Ryoichi Mikitani, the two examine the issues facing Japan, and explore possible roadmaps to revitalization. How can Japan overhaul its economy, education system, immigration, public infrastructure, and hold its own with China? Their ideas include applying business techniques like Key Performance Indicators to fix the economy, using information technology to cut government bureaucracy, and increasing the number of foreign firms with a head office in Japan. Readers gain rare insight into Japan’s future, from both academic and practical perspectives on the inside.
Mikitani argues that Japan’s tendency to shun international frameworks and hide from global realities is the root of the problem, while Mikitani Sr.’s background as an international economist puts the issue in perspective for a well-rounded look at today’s Japan.
- Examine the causes of Japan’s endless economic stagnation
- Discover the current efforts underway to enhance Japan’s competitiveness
- Learn how free market “Abenomics” affected Japan’s economy long-term
- See Japan’s issues from the perspective of an entrepreneur and an economist
Japan’s malaise is seated in a number of economic, business, political, and cultural issues, and this book doesn’t shy away from hot topics. More than a discussion of economics, this book is a conversation between father and son as they work through opposing perspectives to help their country find The Power to Compete.
Book Recommendations from Bill Gates – Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Noah Yuval Harari
From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution—a #1 international bestseller—that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.”
One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one—homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us?
Most books about the history of humanity pursue either a historical or a biological approach, but Dr. Yuval Noah Harari breaks the mold with this highly original book that begins about 70,000 years ago with the appearance of modern cognition. From examining the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, Sapiens integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas.
Dr. Harari also compels us to look ahead, because over the last few decades humans have begun to bend laws of natural selection that have governed life for the past four billion years. We are acquiring the ability to design not only the world around us, but also ourselves. Where is this leading us, and what do we want to become?
Featuring 27 photographs, 6 maps, and 25 illustrations/diagrams, this provocative and insightful work is sure to spark debate and is essential reading for aficionados of Jared Diamond, James Gleick, Matt Ridley, Robert Wright, and Sharon Moalem.