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20 Books Bill Gates Thinks You Should Read

Have you read any of these books? Add the books Bill Gates recommends to your list.

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Bill GatesNati Harnik/AP/Shutterstock

Bill Gates loves reading

Every year, Bill Gates releases his summer and winter reading lists of the best books. Entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and book-lovers alike will enjoy his picks. His tastes range from heartbreaking memoirs to creative historical fiction and everything in between. Here are the 20 most recent books Gates recommended on his blog, GatesNotes, that you’ll want to add to your reading list now.

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Upheaval uses a variety of case studies to explore how societies react during moments of crisis. Although it sounds less than upbeat, Gates says it speaks more favorably to our ability to solve problems.

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Nine Pints 

This book is not for the squeamish. Nine Pints, written by a British journalist, goes in-depth on everything you didn’t know about blood. The title, “nine pints,” refers to the volume of blood in the average adult.

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A Gentleman in Moscow 

Gates says this book is a true crowd-pleaser. It makes sense since the novel about a count sentenced to house arrest in a hotel is soon to be a TV show. Join the 1.5 million people, including Gates, who enjoyed this story. To learn more about Bill Gates, check out this advice he would give his younger self. 

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Presidents of War

People interested in the history of American war will enjoy this summer 2019 pick from Gates. It focuses on presidential leadership during times of conflict and the difficult decisions they have to make under pressure.

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The Future of Capitalism 

Gates enjoys the analysis in this book about capitalism.

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Author Tara Westover writes about growing up in and eventually leaving a Mormon household before getting a PhD from Cambridge University. Her story might not seem relatable from afar, but Gates was able to reflect on his own life after reading this book.

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Army of None

Gates says this book on artificial intelligence warfare is hard to put down. The book discusses the legal and ethical issues on using high-tech weapons systems. The author, Paul Scharre, is a veteran who helped draft the U.S. government policy on autonomous weapons.

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Bad Blood

This best-seller comes highly recommended by Gates and many others, with good reason. The book gives the inside scoop on the rise and fall of Theranos, the biotech startup founded by Elizabeth Holmes. The big-screen adaptation is coming soon with Jennifer Lawrence. Instead of arguing about whether the book is always better than the movie, watch one of these 18 hit movies that were books first.

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21 Lessons for the 21st Century 

Gates likes this book because it focuses on the urgent issues and challenges people face today. Before diving into this read, it might be best to start with the author’s two previous books which focus on the past and the future, respectively.

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The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness

This book is ideal for people who have yet to dive into meditation and mindfulness. Before explaining how to meditate, the book follows the personal story of the author—from college student to Buddhist monk.

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Leonardo da Vinci

Biography lovers rejoice! Yes, you know all about his art, but Leonardo da Vinci had a wide range of interests making this story an especially enjoyable read.

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Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved 

Kate Bowler writes about how she dealt with her colon cancer diagnosis in this funny and heartbreaking memoir. After you finish this Gates’ favorite, check out one of the best autobiographies you really should have read by now.

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Lincoln in the Bardo 

This twist on the classic father-son story features Abraham Lincoln. The story blends history and the supernatural. Gates says you’ll want to discuss this story with a friend afterward.

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Origin Story: A Big History of Everything 

The title does this book justice. David Christian, the creator of the Big History Project, covers 13.8 billion years of history in Origin Story. You’ll likely finish the book questioning your existence and place in the universe if you enjoy that sort of thing.

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Gates writes that he has recommended this book since the day it came out, saying it’s one of the best books he’s ever read. Factfulness, by the late Hans Rosling, a global-health lecturer, offers a unique perspective on the crises and opportunities of the global future.

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The Best We Could Do

Pick up The Best We Could Do if you want some wonderful visuals and a great memoir. The graphic novel by Thi Bui is about a family’s journey from war-torn Vietnam. It has an excellent rating on Goodreads, too. Opt for one of the highest-rated books on Goodreads next.

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Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City 

According to Gates, this book by Matthew Desmond gives him the best sense of what it’s like to be poor in America. Evicted focuses on the eviction crisis in Milwaukee, but the insight goes beyond the mid-west.

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Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens 

If you’re already an Eddie Izzard fan, you’ll love his book. The star has a fascinating personal story that’ll make you chuckle whether you’re familiar with his work or not. It’s still to be determined if it belongs on the list of the funniest books of all time.

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The Sympathizer 

This gripping story is about a communist double agent during the Vietnam war, who goes to Los Angeles while secretly reporting back to his superiors in Vietnam. The Sympathizer, which won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, offers a less-Americanized perspective on the war that Gates appreciates.

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Energy and Civilization: A History 

Vaclav Smil is one of Gates’ favorite authors. His book on the history of energy and civilization goes into how the need for energy continues to shape human history. Gates warns that it’s not the easiest read, but it is worth it to learn more about the universal currency of energy. If that’s not up your alley, start working your way through the 100 books you should read before you die.

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Emily DiNuzzo
Emily DiNuzzo is an associate editor at The Healthy and a former assistant staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her work has appeared online at the Food Network and Well + Good and in print at Westchester Magazine, and more. When she's not writing about food and health with a cuppa by her side, you can find her lifting heavy things at the gym, listening to murder mystery podcasts, and liking one too many astrology memes.