Amazon founder Jeff Bezos's favorite book of all time is The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro's novel about a butler with a dark past. Barack Obama claims reading fiction made him a better citizen. And classic sci-fi by Isaac Asimov helped inspire Elon Musk to dream so audaciously about technology.
Fiction, in other words, isn't just a light and fluffy way to pass the time. It has changed the lives of some of the smartest people on the planet, including the luminaries above, and apparently Bill Gates as well.
On his blog, Gates regularly shares book recommendations, but one such entry stands out for the strength of Gates's endorsement. Not only does the billionaire Microsoft founder publicly suggest this particular title to his readers, he also loved it so much he gave it to more than 50 friends.
The book Bill Gates can't stop giving away
The book is The Rosie Project by Australian author Graeme Simsion. Why did Gates and his wife, Melinda, both enjoy the novel so much? In his post, Gates explains that not only is the book super funny, but it also illustrates an important life lesson:
It starts when a geneticist who may or may not have Asperger's Syndrome decides to put together a double-sided, 16-page questionnaire as the obvious first step to finding a wife. Ultimately the book is less about genetics or thinking too logically or the main character's hilarious journey than it is about getting inside the mind and heart of someone a lot of people see as odd--and discovering that he isn't really that different from anybody else....
Usually, when we meet people who are different from us, in whatever way, we tend to treat them as inferior, even though we say that's not what we're doing. We may not even consciously realize we're doing it. But ... Graeme casts the issue in a different light ... Different doesn't mean less than.
Gates also enjoyed Simsion's follow-up, The Rosie Effect, even going so far as to say it "improves on its predecessor in one interesting way. In the first book, you won't necessarily see yourself in Don. (I'd say most readers will see somebody they know in him, but not necessarily themselves.) Anybody who's a parent, though, has experienced what Don goes through in the second book."
In fact, Gates and his wife enjoyed both books so much they even invited the author to come discuss his work with them, posting the conversation to their blog.
If you're looking for a great summer read, these books pretty clearly have Gates's strongest endorsement. But perhaps the bigger takeaway from his rave review isn't simply that you should pick up a copy, but that even the busiest among us should make time for literature in our lives.
What work of fiction do you endlessly recommend to friends?