You might know Bill Gates as a hugely successful entrepreneur, the billionaire founder of Microsoft, or even, in his latest incarnation, a dynamic philanthropist, but in his quieter, less public moments he's also something else -- an avid reader.

Like many of the most successful business people, Gates recognizes the incredible power of reading to nurture the mind and give us fresh perspectives on the world. Perhaps that's why each year at TED he offers his fellow attendees a suggested reading list of books he thinks they should check out. Here are his picks for 2015.

1. Business Adventures, by John Brooks

"Warren Buffett recommended this book to me back in 1991, and it's still the best business book I've ever read. Even though Brooks wrote more than four decades ago, he offers sharp insights into timeless fundamentals of business, like the challenge of building a large organization, hiring people with the right skills, and listening to customers' feedback," writes Gates.

2. The Bully Pulpit, by Doris Kearns Goodwin

An historian, Kearns Goodwin examines the presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft in this book. Why would an entrepreneur not particularly interested in early-20th century U.S. presidents respond to it? The tenure of these leaders is used to explore fascinating questions, Gates explains. "I'm especially interested in the central question that Goodwin raises: How does social change happen? Can it be driven solely by an inspirational leader, or do other factors have to lay the groundwork first?"

3. On Immunity, by Eula Biss

With the recent measles outbreak in the U.S. making headlines, this pick by Gates seems particularly timely. "The eloquent essayist Eula Biss uses the tools of literary analysis, philosophy, and science to examine the speedy, inaccurate rumors about childhood vaccines that have proliferated among well-meaning American parents," Gates writes, recommending the book particularly for new parents.

4. Making the Modern World, by Vaclav Smil

Gates calls historian Smil "probably his favorite living author," whose every work is a must-read thanks to his clear vision and nuanced thinking. In this book, writes Gates, "Smil examines the materials we use to meet the demands of modern life, like cement, iron, aluminum, plastic, and paper. The book is full of staggering statistics."

5. How Asia Works, by Joe Studwell

Why add this one to your personal reading list? "Business journalist Joe Studwell produces compelling answers to two of the greatest questions in development economics: How did countries like Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and China achieve sustained, high growth? And why have so few other countries managed to do so?" Gates enthuses.

6. How to Lie With Statistics, by Darrell Huff

Data is all the rage, but getting the most out of it requires numerical savvy and clear thinking. This oldie but goodie (published in 1954) can help you separate insightful uses of data from numbers that are all smoke and mirrors. According to Gates, the topic is "more relevant than ever. One chapter shows you how visuals can be used to exaggerate trends and give distorted comparisons. It's a timely reminder, given how often infographics show up in your Facebook and Twitter feeds these days."

Looking for more book suggestions? Author Tim Ferriss has some great offbeat ideas, or here's a list culled from the recommendations of assorted successful founders.

Published on: Apr 20, 2015