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Bill Gates knows these 5 books are ‘pretty heavy for vacation.’ He wants you to read them anyway

June 6, 2022, 9:38 PM UTC

Bill Gates knows what you’re thinking about his book recommendations: They “sound pretty heavy for vacation reading.”

In a post to his Gates Notes blog on Monday, the Microsoft founder shared the latest installment of his annual “5 great books for summer” list. 

The billionaire’s recommendations range in topics from gender equality to political polarization to climate change. Gates admits, however, that their content “does not exactly sound like the stuff of beach reads.”

While some of the books are lengthy, Gates assures potential readers that each author “was able to take a meaty subject and make it compelling without sacrificing any complexity.”

Here’s what made the list. 

The Power by Naomi Alderman 

Recommended by Gates’ eldest daughter, this 2016 sci-fi novel by Brit Naomi Alderman made the billionaire “think about gender equality in new ways.” The book explores gender roles, sexuality, and power imbalance between the sexes, giving Gates “a stronger and more visceral sense of the abuse and injustice many women experience today,” as he writes in his blog.

Why We’re Polarized by Ezra Klein

While Vox cofounder Ezra Klein’s 2020 work primarily focuses on political polarization in the United States, it’s also a “fascinating look at human psychology,” according to Gates. 

While the bibliophile says he did not finish the book with an optimistic view of political polarization, it “helped me understand the phenomena much better.” However, “if you want to understand what’s going on with politics in the United States, this is the book to pick up,” Gates writes.

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

American novelist Amor Towles previously appeared on Gates’ reading list in 2019 with his bestseller, A Gentleman in Moscow. This time around, his follow-up novel tells the story of two young brothers who leave Nebraska in 1954 on a cross-country journey in search of a better life.

“Towles takes inspiration from famous heroes’ journeys and seems to be saying that our personal journeys are never as linear or predictable as we might hope,” Gates writes.

The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson

Set in an apocalyptic world, this cli-fi, or “climate fiction,” novel narrates “the consequences of failing to deal seriously with climate change,” Gates writes. An outspoken climate change activist himself, Gates wrote his own book detailing potential climate solutions last year

“It’s as harrowing a scene as any I’ve read in a science fiction book—because the events depicted in it could very well take place in the real world,” Gates writes. 

How the World Really Works by Vaclav Smil

Vaclav Smil is known to be one of Gates’ favorite authors. The professor emeritus of environmental science at the University of Manitoba’s book explores the scientific basis of human life and how to sustain our well-being through turbulent times. While Gates admits that works from Smil tend to read more like textbooks, this latest is a “tour de force” and “never dull.”

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