Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and billionaire philanthropist, is known as a voracious reader of books. And his book recommendations have serious power: Last spring, when Gates named Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature as a perfect gradution gift and “the most inspiring book I’ve ever read,” it quickly shot up Amazon’s best-seller list.
On Monday, timed perfectly for holiday shoppers seeking book recommendations for the big readers in their lives, Bill Gates listed his favorite books for 2017 on his blog, Gates Notes.
Here are the top five books that Gates has read this year and heartily endorses:
Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens
by Eddie Izzard
Gates says the British comedian Eddie Izzard is “one of my favorite performers,” and perhaps surprisingly, the two have a lot in common. “As a child, Eddie was nerdy, awkward, and incompetent at flirting with girls,” Gates writes in his review of Izzard’s memoir. “He had terrible handwriting. He was good at math. He was highly motivated to learn everything he could about subjects that interested him.”
The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir
by Thi Bui
Gates uses the word “stunning” to describe this graphic novel from Bui, the child of Vietnamese refugees who escaped to America after the fall of Saigon. “I was struck by how the experiences Bui illustrates manage to be both universal and specific to their circumstances,” Gates says.
Energy and Civilization: A History
by Vaclav Smil
“I’ve read nearly all of his 37 books,” Gates says of Vaclav Smil, a distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Manitoba and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. “This is his masterpiece.” The past three centuries have brought about more innovation and change than any other period in history, and “just about all of those advances can be traced directly to the exploitation of new forms of energy” covered in detail in Smil’s book, Gates explains.
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in an American City
by Matthew Desmond
“If you want a good understanding of how the issues that cause poverty are intertwined, you should read this book about the eviction crisis in Milwaukee,” Gates says of the winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. The author Desmond “gave me a better sense of what it is like to be poor in this country than anything else I have read.”
by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Another Pulitzer Prize winner—this time for fiction in 2016—The Sympathizer is the fascinating story of “a communist double agent embedded with the South Vietnamese Army and their American allies,” Gates explains. “After he’s air-lifted out of the country during the fall of Saigon, he ends up in California spying on his fellow refugees and sending reports written in invisible ink to his handler back in Vietnam.”
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