If you're looking for book suggestions to fill your reading list this year, you could do a lot worse that follow the blog of Microsoft-founder-turned-philanthropist Bill Gates. The book-loving billionaire regularly uses his posts to suggest must-read titles, generally on science, history, and economics.
This week he was at it again -- but with a twist. Rather than point readers to another weighty tome on a serious issue of the day, Gates used his latest post to suggest a book that's quite out of character.
Keep the tissues handy
The rave review is dedicated to When Breath Becomes Air, the autobiography of Paul Kalanithi, a Stanford neurosurgeon and gifted scientist who sadly died of cancer at the age of 36. The book records his coming to terms with this tragic turn of events.
If it sounds like heavy going, Gates isn't going to deny it. "I'm usually not one for tear-jerkers about death and dying--I didn't love The Last Lecture or Tuesdays With Morrie. But this book definitely earned my admiration--and tears," he says.
In fact, Gates is so enthusiastic about this sad tale that he calls Kalanithi's memoir "an amazing book. I was super touched by it, as was Melinda and our daughter Jennifer. In fact, I can say this is the best nonfiction story I've read in a long time."
That's high praise coming from a guy who gets through as many books as Gates.
But it's not all tears and tragedy
While the book covers some pretty difficult emotional ground, including the birth of Kalanithi's daughter near the end of his fight with cancer, Gates reassures leery would-be readers that it's not all misery and loss. "Don't be put off by the sadness of it all," he urges. The book also contains plenty of reasons to marvel at the strength and ingenuity of the human spirit, as well as fascinating stories of Kalanithi's life as a surgeon.
The bottom line is that Gates gives this book his most enthusiastic endorsement, concluding: "I don't know how Kalanithi found the physical strength to write this book while he was so debilitated by the disease and then potent chemotherapy. But I'm so glad he did."
If you're looking for new titles to add to your book pile, you could probably do a lot worse than a book that Gates recommends this highly.