The Microsoft founder turned philanthropist takes to his blog at the end of each year to present his picks for holiday reading. This year is no exception, and Gates just published his annual list of books "to help wrap up your 2019 or start 2020 on a good note."
More diverse than his many science-heavy lists in the past, the 2019 edition of the annual tradition includes everything from a tear-jerker Oprah's book club selection to a how-to guide for worried parents. Whatever your reading preferences, if you're looking for titles to snuggle up with this holiday season, Gates's list is well worth a look.
1. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
This novel about how a miscarriage of justice tears a marriage apart, which was recommended to Gates by his daughter, at first seems like an unusually weepy pick for the typically data- and science-obsessed billionaire, but in a separate blog post Gates explains that the thought-provoking story also holds profound lessons about the American criminal justice system.
"An American Marriage is fundamentally a story about how incarceration hurts more than just the person locked up. It's also a reminder of how draconian our criminal justice system can be--especially for black men," Gates writes. "Once you get sucked into that system, you're marked for life. Everything you were or had can disappear while you're in prison."
2. These Truths by Jill Lepore
Looking to learn this holiday season? Then this next Gates pick written by a Harvard historian might be perfect for you. "Lepore has pulled off the seemingly impossible in her latest book: covering the entire history of the United States in just 800 pages," he says, calling the These Truths "the most honest and unflinching account of the American story I've ever read."
In his post praising the book, he concludes, "It's a good reminder that there's a lot more to American history than most of us learn in school."
3. Growth by Vaclav Smil
Smil is one of Gates's favorite authors whose books he's recommended many times in the past. While Gates concedes his newest is "not for everyone" and "long sections read like a textbook or engineering manual," he's still wildly enthusiastic about Smil's latest title on the limits on growth of any kind.
"Two years ago, I wrote that I wait for new Smil books the way some people wait for the next Star Wars movie. I stand by that statement," he jokes, adding, "His latest doesn't disappoint. As always, I don't agree with everything Smil says, but he remains one of the best thinkers out there at documenting the past and seeing the big picture."
4. Prepared by Diane Tavenner
Gates may be a billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist but he's also a parent, and it's in this capacity that he recommends Prepared. The book, by the founder of some of the nation's most successful charter schools, not only tells Tavenner's story but also serves as a guidebook to preparing your kids for life after high school.
"Much of her advice is based on her belief that parents should support their child's independent growth," Gates writes, while also sharing a free excerpt from the book. "Parents need to mentor, not direct. They should seek out their child's opinions, encourage them to be self-directed learners, and expose them to as many new ideas, people, places, and things as possible."
5. Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker
Gates is famous for the brutal work schedule he kept early in his career. After reading this book by a top sleep researcher, he may regret all the hours of sleep he missed a bit more.
"Now that I've read Matthew Walker's Why We Sleep, I realize that my all-nighters, combined with almost never getting eight hours of sleep, took a big toll," Gates confesses. "Walker, the director of UC Berkeley's Center for Human Sleep Science, explains how neglecting sleep undercuts your creativity, problem solving, decision making, learning, memory, heart health, brain health, mental health, emotional well-being, immune system, and even your lifespan."
Gates continues, "Walker has persuaded me to change my bedtime habits. If your New Year's resolution is to be healthier in 2020, his advice is a good place to start."
What are you reading this holiday season?