Bill Gates has announced his annual list of his favorite books of the year, perfectly timed for the holiday season. The Microsoft co-founder encourages the gift of reading with these five titles, which range from a memoir about the power of education to a guide to facing modern-day fears.
In a post detailing his picks on Gates Notes, the philanthropist acknowledges that he normally does not consider the “giftable” nature of a book, but his selections for 2018 can truly satisfy any reader. “If you’re looking for a fool-proof gift for your friends and family, you can’t go wrong with one of these,” he writes. Here, the five books Gates loved in 2018.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, John Carreyrou
This page-turner was one Gates called “so compelling he couldn’t turn away.” Bad Blood delves into the collapse of Theranos, a company that claimed it could take a small sample of a customer’s blood and test for an overall picture of health — but the technology behind the tests never actually worked. “The story is even crazier than I expected, and I found myself unable to put it down once I started,” Gates writes. “This book has everything: elaborate scams, corporate intrigue, magazine cover stories, ruined family relationships and the demise of a company once valued at nearly $10 billion.”
Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War, Paul Scharre
Scharre, a former Army Ranger, outlines the scope of autonomous weapons and the power of technologies like artificial intelligence. “Autonomous weapons aren’t exactly top of mind for most around the holidays, but this thought-provoking look at A.I. in warfare is hard to put down,” Gates writes. “It’s an immensely complicated topic, but Scharre offers clear explanations and presents both the pros and cons of machine-driven warfare.”
21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuval Noah Harari
If the anxieties of 2018 are getting to you, historian Yuval Noah Harari offers some relief: We shouldn’t forgo worrying altogether, we just need to worry in a more organized way. “It’s to know which things to worry about, and how much to worry about them,” Gates writes. Harari has “teed up a crucial global conversation about how to take on the problems of the 21st century.”
Educated: A Memoir, Tara Westover
Tara Westover grew up with survivalist parents who kept her completely isolated from the outside world — she didn’t attend school until she was 17 — but she taught herself everything she needed to know to go to college, eventually earning a Ph.D. from Cambridge University. The only memoir on Gates’ list, Educated highlights the importance of self-reinvention, but never at the cost of Westover’s childhood. “Tara is never cruel, even when she’s writing about some of her father’s most fringe beliefs,” Gates writes. “It’s clear that her whole family, including her mom and dad, is energetic and talented. Whatever their ideas are, they pursue them.”
The Headspace Guide to Meditation & Mindfulness, Andy Puddicombe
Gates jokes that his 25-year-old self would “scoff” at his selection of this book about meditation, but he now sees that “meditation is simply exercise for the mind, similar to the way we exercise our muscles when we play sports.” Gates notes that he found many books about meditation to be too intimidating, but Puddicombe “made the barrier to entry low enough” both with his Headspace app and this how-to book. “Andy’s a witty storyteller and offers lots of helpful metaphors to explain potentially tricky concepts, which makes the book an easy, enjoyable read,” Gates writes. He and wife Melinda Gates practice meditation and invited Puddicombe to walk their family through exercises. They found him “just as warm, humble, and real as we’d imagined from reading his book and listening to him on the app.”