5 Books You Should Read This Summer (Because Bill Gates Recommended Them)
Article by George Norman
On 26 May 2017
According to this study, you’re probably going to spend a third of your summer staring at a screen – a computer screen, a TV screen, a smartphone screen, or some other type of screen. Why don’t you put your eyes to better use and go read a book instead?

With May almost over and June just around the corner, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has once again shared his summer reading list. If you’re like me and you never know what to read, then check out 5 great recommendations from none other than Bill Gates.


"The books on this year’s summer reading list pushed me out of my own experiences, and I learned some things that shed new light on how our experiences shape us and where humanity might be headed," said Bill Gates. "Some of these books helped me better understand what it’s like to grow up outside the mainstream: as a child of mixed race in apartheid South Africa, as a young man trying to escape his impoverished life in rural Appalachia, or as the son of a peanut farmer in Plains, Georgia. I hope you’ll find that others make you think deeper about what it means to truly connect with other people and to have purpose in your life."

1. Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah

You know Trevor Noah as the guy who took over Comedy Central’s The Daily Show when Jon Stewart stepped down, but did you know the comedian wrote a book? Its full title is "Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood" and it’s a young man’s coming-of-age tale, set in apartheid South Africa, during the last days of the apartheid.

"Much of Noah’s story of growing up in South Africa is tragic. His Swiss father moves away. His family is desperately poor. He’s arrested. And in the most shocking moment, his mother is shot by his stepfather. Yet in Noah’s hands, these moving stories are told in a way that will often leave you laughing," said Bill Gates.

2. The Heart, by Maylis de Kerangal

The novel starts with three teenage boys going out to surf, just before dawn, on a Sunday morning. On their way back home, they have a car accident and one of them dies shortly after arriving at the hospital. The doctors declare him brain-dead, but his heart is still beating. The story then focuses on the 24 hours surrounding the resulting heart transplant, as the young boy’s heart is taken from him and used to save a woman’s life. The book served as inspiration for the 2016 critically-acclaimed movie Heal the Living.

"I recommend a lot of nonfiction books on Gates Notes, and every once in a while I review a novel. But I don’t think I’ve ever written about a book of poetry before. That’s almost what Maylis de Kerangal’s The Heart is, though. It’s poetry disguised as a novel," said Bill Gates.

3. Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance

In this memoir, author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance focuses on his family history and the Appalachian values of his upbringing. Growing up in a poor community where family strife was a constant, J.D. Vance manages to get himself into Yale Law, and his life completely changes after that. A New York Times bestseller, this book offers a honest look at how poverty afflicts many working-class Americans.

"The fact that Hillbilly Elegy is not just an important read but also a great one came as a bit of a surprise to me. There are no big cliffhangers and no 'how will it end?'-type mystery propelling this story," said Bill Gates. "I think the book was such a good read in part because of Vance’s bravery. Vance learns early in life that there is 'no greater disloyalty than class betrayal.' Yet by writing this book he risks being called a traitor by portraying a culture that, in his view, is suffering from self-inflicted wounds."

4. Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari

"Sapiens" author Yuval Noah Harari returns with yet another original, compelling, and provocative book – a book that looks at humanity’s future and man’s quest to become a god. Mankind has done the impossible, turning famine, plague and war from uncontrollable forces into manageable challenges. People nowadays die from eating too much instead of hunger, from old age instead of disease, and take their own lives instead of falling victim to war. What will the future hold for mankind, now that it’s done with famine, plague, and war? What projects, dreams and nightmares will shape the 21st century? Harari maps out the future in this critically-acclaimed book.

"Melinda and I loved Harari’s previous book, Sapiens, which tries to explain how our species came to dominate the Earth. It sparked conversations over our dinner table for weeks after we both read it," said Bill Gates. " Harari’s new book is as challenging and readable as Sapiens. Rather than looking back, as Sapiens does, it looks to the future. I don’t agree with everything the author has to say, but he has written a thoughtful look at what may be in store for humanity."

A Full Life, by Jimmy Carter

Having turned 90, former president Jimmy Carter takes a look back and reflects about his public and private life. He writes about this youth in rural Georgia, about the racism and isolation of the Carters, about how he nearly lost his live serving on submarines, and about how he decided to quit the Navy and later enter politics without consulting his wife.

"At less than 250 pages, it’s a quick, condensed tour of Carter’s fascinating life. His storytelling is simple and elegant, just like the wood furniture Carter has made by hand all his life,” said Bill Gates. "Although most of the stories come from previous decades, A Full Life feels timely in an era when the public’s confidence in national political figures and institutions is low."

TL;DR? Watch this!

In related news...

Microsoft's Windows Store has a new digital category to offer: Books. Accessible from devices that have the Windows 10 Creators Update, it currently features all the books from Bill Gates' 2017 summer reading list.

Tags: Microsoft, Bill Gates, book, reading, literature
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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