Comedy, war, and jazz chickens: Here are Bill Gates’ top five summer reading recommendations

Bill Gates reading


As the days get warmer and Aussie entrepreneurs start to form their summer reading stacks, Microsoft co-founder-turned-billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has released his latest list of five book recommendations to make your choice a little easier.

Gates’ book suggestions are a regular occurrence these days, with the entrepreneur posting them bi-yearly on his personal blog GatesNotes every year since 2012.

He tries to keep his recommendations diverse, and even with the wonders of the internet, he still thinks books are one of the best ways curious minds can expand their thinking.

“Reading is my favorite way to indulge my curiosity. Although I’m lucky that I get to meet with a lot of interesting people and visit fascinating places through my work, I still think books are the best way to explore new topics that interest you,” Gates writes.

“If you’re looking to curl up by the fireplace with a great read this holiday season, you can’t go wrong with one of these.”

While we might not be in front of many fireplaces this holiday season, here’s Gates’ five picks for Aussie entrepreneurs to have a thumb through.

1. The Best We Could Do, by Thi Bui.

The Best We Could Do is a rare graphic novel recommendation from Gates, which he says portrays a “deeply personal memoir” of a family fleeing Vietnam in 1978, showing what it’s like to be both a parent and a refugee.

“[The author] does a good job of trying to be a good daughter and a good mother, trying to understand her parents and what they went through, and appreciate the turmoil that the last three generations that lived in Vietnam went through,” Gates says.

2. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond.

Evicted focuses on the eviction crisis in the American city of Milwaukee, which Gates describes as giving a “better sense of what it is like to be poor in this country than anything else I have read”.

“If you want a good understanding of how the issues that cause poverty are intertwined, you should read this book,” he says.

3. Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens, by Eddie Izzard.

A comedic and personal biography by comedian Eddie Izzard had Gates laughing out loud several times, and he reccomends the book to any readers who are fans of the comic.

“Izzard’s personal story is fascinating: he survived a difficult childhood and worked relentlessly to overcome his lack of natural talent and become an international star,” he says.

4. The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen.

“Most of the books I’ve read and movies I’ve seen about the Vietnam War focused on the American perspective. Nguyen’s award-winning novel offers much-needed insight into what it was like to be Vietnamese and caught between both sides,” Gates writes.

“Despite how dark it is, The Sympathizer is a gripping story about a double agent and the trouble he gets himself into.”

5. Energy and Civilization: A History, by Vaclav Smil

Gates admits the final book on his list is not an easy read, but says if you persist, “you’ll feel smarter and better informed”. Vaclav Smil’s tome explores humanity’s need for energy across the ages, and Gates says Smil is one of his favourite authors.

“It’s a sweeping explanation of human progress through the lens of energy. You can’t have civilization without energy, we went from hunter-gatherer to agriculture, to the industrial age,” he says.

“Taking you through that progression, it’s definitely a masterpiece.”

Gates also throws in a few freebie recommendations at the start of his list, including Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick, which he recommends to anyone interested in how ISIS seized control in Iraq; John Green’s novel Turtles All the Way Down; and The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein.

There’s also an animated video detailing Gates top five reads, with some additional commentary.

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