Bill Gates might be pretty busy eradicating disease and lifting people out of poverty with his philanthropic work, but he still makes time to read. Apparently, plenty of time.
The Microsoft founder-turned-humanitarian is a veritable font of book recommendations, taking to his blog periodically to suggest new releases and old favorites that have caught his eye. And yesterday he was at it again, offering up his own version of that seasonal stand-by, the end-of-year best books list. Here are the five that topped Gates' pile in 2016.
1. String Theory by David Foster Wallace
"This book has nothing to do with physics, but its title will make you look super smart if you're reading it on a train or plane," writes Gates (a problem, presumably, he doesn't much struggle with personally). So what is String Theory about? Tennis, a passion of both Foster Wallace and Gates. But "you don't have to play or even watch tennis to love this book. The late author wielded a pen as skillfully as Roger Federer wields a tennis racket," Gates assures skeptical would-be readers.
2. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
Another vaguely athletics-related book, "this memoir, by the co-founder of Nike, is a refreshingly honest reminder of what the path to business success really looks like: messy, precarious, and riddled with mistakes," explains Gates. "Knight opens up in a way few CEOs are willing to do."
3. The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Gates dubs Mukherjee a "a quadruple threat," as he not only takes care of patients, teaches medical students, and conducts research, but also pens Pulitzer Prize-winning science books. The latest is a guide "through the past, present, and future of genome science, with a special focus on huge ethical questions that the latest and greatest genome technologies provoke." And you don't have to be a tech and science genius like Gates to enjoy it.
4. The Myth of the Strong Leader by Archie Brown
Gates is apparently thinking hard about this year's election just like the rest of us. "This year's fierce election battle prompted me to pick up this 2014 book, by an Oxford University scholar who has studied political leadership--good, bad, and ugly--for more than 50 years," he explains.
"Brown shows that the leaders who make the biggest contributions to history and humanity generally are not the ones we perceive to be 'strong leaders.' Instead, they tend to be the ones who collaborate, delegate, and negotiate--and recognize that no one person can or should have all the answers," Gates notes. As my Inc.com colleague Geoffrey James points out, that's pretty clearly a backhand slap at Trump.
5. The Grid by Gretchen Bakke
The Grid only rates "an honorable mention" from Gates, but that's still pretty high praise. It manages to turn a less-than-scintillating-sounding subject -- our aging electricity grid -- into compelling reading, he claims, writing that even those who have never spent a minute pondering how the lights come on will leave this one understanding "that the electrical grid is one of the greatest engineering wonders of the modern world" and "why modernizing the grid is so complex and so critical for building our clean-energy future."
Are you considering adding any of these titles to your to-read list?