Bill Gates just came out with the list of the books he most recommends that you read in 2021 or give as holiday gifts this year. Here are three that make great gifts.

Bill Gates loves to read, and he loves to recommend the books he likes best to his millions of fans. So he just came out with his five top recommendations from 2020, both as great reads and as great holiday gifts. Most are on topics that aren't what you would call festive. And yet they all sound well worth giving and reading. You can find the whole list here. These are my top picks for gift giving.

1. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Racism and prison as a topic for a holiday gift? That may sound odd, and yet this is a rare book that has meaningfully changed the world for the better. When The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness first appeared in 2010, it changed the conversation about racial equality in America. It's been cited in judicial decisions and spent nearly five years on the New York Times bestseller list. 

Now there's a 10th anniversary edition with a new introduction by Alexander that talks about the book's impact and the state of criminal justice reform today. "I finished the book more convinced than ever that we need a more just approach to sentencing and more investment in communities of color," Gates writes.

2. Range by David Epstein

What makes great athletes great? Most people think it's all about starting early, finding the right sport, and then putting in thousands of hours of practice to hone your skill into a laser-sharp tool. That's not true, Epstein writes in Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. Except in a very few disciplines, such as playing classical music, the most successful people first develop a wide range of general skills. "I think his ideas even help explain some of Microsoft's success, because we hired people who had real breadth within their fields and across domains," Gates writes.

3. Breath From Salt by Bijal P. Trivedi

How could a book about cystic fibrosis make a good holiday present? Because Breath From Salt is an inspiring story about a grassroots organization of determined parents and doctors who joined with a biotech startup to tackle an awful disease that killed most of its victims in their childhood or youth. And it worked! Because of the people in this book, children with cystic fibrosis have hope that they never did before.

Gates writes that the story is especially meaningful to him because he knows families benefiting from these new treatments. But, he notes, even for readers who don't know anyone with the disease, "This book is truly uplifting."