Bill Gates just released his annual list of five books to read this summer, hoping that some of his favorites may help readers cope with the pandemic. “Most of my conversations and meetings these days are about Covid-19 and how we can stem the tide,” Gates writes in his website, Gates Notes. He and his wife, Melinda, have directed their foundation to commit some $300 million to fighting the coronavirus. “But I’m also often asked about what I am reading and watching.”
For the billionaire bookworm—who has previously said he reads a book every week—nothing beats the pleasure of reading. His newest picks include two memoirs: one penned by a 92-year-old Holocaust survivor and psychologist, Dr. Edith Eva Eger, and the other by former Disney CEO Bob Iger, who reflects on his years at the entertainment giant. For those who want to learn more about pandemics, Gates suggests historian John M. Barry’s 2004 book on the 1918 flu pandemic, which has climbed onto the bestseller list amid the Covid-19 crisis.
For the first time, this avid reader also shared his current favorite shows—for those who are looking for new series to binge upon. The Gateses have enjoyed the Netflix docuseries Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak, and have been regularly watching several popular series, including A Million Little Things, This Is Us and Ozark. They may even get into the racy 1970s BBC series I, Claudius, which takes place during the Roman Empire, according to Gates.
Here are Bill Gates’ five summer reading recommendations:
The Choice, by Dr. Edith Eva Eger
Eger was only 16 years old when she and her family were taken from their home in Hungary and sent to Auschwitz. Eger survived and moved to the United States, where she became a therapist. In the book, she goes through her quest to heal after her unspeakable trauma and looks at how to deal with suffering of all kinds. “If you’re struggling with something, that struggle is real—even if you think your experience feels trivial compared to the experience of someone who survived Auschwitz or someone whose child is suffering from a terrible disease,” Gates writes. “I think this is an especially important thing to keep in mind right now while everyone has different experiences with the Covid-19 outbreak.”
Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
Mitchell’s novel, which follows six different characters, including an editor in London in the 2000s and a young musician in 1930s Belgium, seeks to find commonalities among people across time and space. “In a way, what the stories have in common is just as important as what makes them different,” Gates writes. “This is a grand tale about human nature and human values—the things that change and the things that don’t, over hundreds or even thousands of years.” (Tom Hanks and Halle Berry starred in the 2012 movie based on the 2004 novel.)
The Ride of a Lifetime, by Bob Iger
Right off the bat, Gates says he doesn’t read many books about how to run a business. Iger’s book, however, is an exception, which Gates even recommended to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Iger takes the readers through his trek as Disney’s leader from 2006 to early 2020, during Disney’s most transformative years, which include the entertainment behemoth’s $4.2 billion acquisition of comic book phenom Marvel and its $4.1 billion purchase of Lucasfilm, which owns the Star Wars franchise. “I think anyone would enjoy this book, whether they’re looking for business insights or just want a good read by a humble guy who rose up the corporate ladder to successfully run one of the biggest companies in the world,” Gates writes.
The Great Influenza, by John M. Barry
This 2004 New York Times bestseller is Gates’ recommendation for those who want to understand Covid-19 through the lens of the 1918 flu pandemic and learn some lessons in leadership. “This time around, we have many more tools at our disposal for creating effective vaccines and therapeutics. But the science is still slower than any of us would like, and putting an end to this pandemic will require more than just great science,” Gates writes. “It will also take a lot of political will, especially encouraging social distancing and making sure that scientific miracles spread as far and wide as the virus itself.”
Good Economics for Hard Times, by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo
In their 2019 book, the Nobel Prize-winning economists take on policy debates in wealthy countries, including the United States. The husband-and-wife team grapple with issues such as immigration, inequality and trade from an economics standpoint, which Gates says is understandable to readers who don’t have a background in the subject. “Banerjee and Duflo use extensive data to zoom out and show us a wider view of these human dynamics. Their research is not hard science, like chemistry or physics,” Gates writes. “But I found most of it to be useful and compelling.”
If you read Gates’ top five summer books and still have the time and the appetite for more of his recommendations, he suggests you look at some his past suggestions: The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness by Andy Puddicombe, Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, The Rosie Trilogy by Graeme Simsion, and Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh. While Gates admittedly is not an avid consumer of graphic novels, he recommends The Best We CouldDo by Thi Bui, and two works from former NASA engineer Randall Monroe; What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions and XKCD Volume 0.