Bill Gates, in addition to being a billionaire philanthropist, is well known for reading more than 50 books a year. So when he recommends one, it really means something. It is a book that truly stands out from the pack.
"If you're like me, you're probably starting to think about what's on your summer reading list this year ... " he says in an endearing blog post on his recommended summer reading.
In addition to the five on the list, he also plugs his wife Melinda's new book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World. "I know I'm biased," he says, "but it's one of the best books I've read so far this year." (Biased, and also a pretty adorably supportive spouse.)
Not that she needs his recommendation--her book is already a New York Times bestseller, with jacket quotes from Barack Obama, Malala Yousafzai, and Brené Brown, among others (no big deal).
But back to his book list--here are the five Bill Gates says you should pack alongside your sunscreen, floppy hat, and shades.
Build your brain while you get that tan:
1. The Future of Capitalism by Paul Collier
The title explains the content here, and it is nothing if not topical. "Although I don't agree with [Collier] about everything," says Gates, " ... his background as a development economist gives him a smart perspective on where capitalism is headed."
2. Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis by Jared Diamond
A series of case studies on how different countries have handled major national crises, including civil war and threats of invasion, this book says it offers "a new theory of how and why some nations recover from trauma and others don't."
Says Gates: "It sounds a bit depressing, but I finished the book even more optimistic about our ability to solve problems than I started."
"If you get grossed out by blood, this one probably isn't for you," offers Gates. But if you can get past that (it's called nine pints because that's the average adult's volume of blood), you'll likely find the various facts about blood and its function, both practically and culturally, fascinating.
4. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
If you're looking for something a bit lighter, this is it (though it's arguably harder to get any heavier than books on war, blood, and capitalism). According to Gates, "It seems like everyone I know has read this book. I finally joined the club after my brother-in-law sent me a copy, and I'm glad I did."
Unlike the others, this one is a novel, and while the premise sounds dark, Gates reports that it's "surprisingly upbeat." The story follows a count living out a life sentence of house arrest in a hotel in Moscow. Clever, creative, and compelling, it's perhaps the most "beach read"-y book on the list.
5. Presidents of War by Michael Beschloss
Gates says he picked this one up largely because of his "interest in all aspects of the Vietnam War." But the book covers a lot more than just Vietnam--it goes all the way back to the War of 1812. Its jacket description says it "shows how far we have traveled from the time of our Founders, who tried to constrain presidential power, to our modern day, when a single leader has the potential to launch nuclear weapons that can destroy much of the human race."
Gates' summary: "Beschloss's broad scope lets you draw important cross-cutting lessons about presidential leadership."