Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.


We come to the time of year when you resolve to be a better, more successful and generally a more impressive person.

You ask yourself what you must do to achieve this. You answer: "Read all the books that famous people tells me to."

I present, therefore, Bill Gates's selection of the best books of the 2015. He's just posted them to his blog.  And they're not exactly apogees of light entertainment.

Gates says he's been most interested in "how things work."

These days, I tend to think the answer to that is: "Create some software, try and get everyone to use it, and then find a way to make a fortune out of that."

There are, apparently, other answers to the question.

For example, the Microsoft co-founder suggests Randall Munroe's Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words. Which actually sounds like quite a riveting read. 


On the other hand, Being Nixon: A Man Divided by Evan Thomas sounds very stimulating, but not exactly light reading. Still, this purports to show that Nixon wasn't the ogre he was subsequently painted to be, something I tend to believe. And also something that's been said of Gates himself.

Naturally, Gates's enthusiasms these days revolve around saving the world. So on his list are both Sustainable Materials With Both Eyes Open, by Julian M. Allwood, Jonathan M. Cullen, et al and Eradication: Ridding the World of Diseases Forever?, by Nancy Leys Stepan.

Both surely offer vast mines of information and enlightenment.

As, I'm sure does Carol S. Dweck's Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. This tries to examine the way we see ourselves and our abilities -- and how it influences the way we go through life.

Something with "success" in its title often makes me suspicious.

All too often, success is a concept defined by others. We're supposed to attain certain benchmarks that have been set by those who neither know us nor care for us nor understand us. Shouldn't success be something that we decide for ourselves?

Which leads me to Gates's final choice: The Road to Character by David Brooks. The New York Times columnist is, apparently, an extremely humorous man in real life. In this book, he looks precisely at the difference between our "Resumé Virtues" and our "Eulogy Virtues."

The latter are those things that make us happy with ourselves, the things that bring us peace of mind. Actually, I suspect that they are those things that make us truly interesting to others -- truly individual and emotionally engaging.

Perhaps if you read all of Gates's books this holiday you might reach one conclusion: There's more to life than business success.

Such heresy.