Bill Gates just released his book and music recommendations for this year’s holiday season. Though Gates is known for being one of the most prominent figures in tech, he is also an avid reader. The retired Microsoft (MSFT) founder has said he reads 50 books per year—that’s almost one book per week. Each winter, he would recommend a handful of his top picks on his personal blog, Gates Notes. In a blog post on Nov. 20, Gates shared three of the best books he’s read this year, “each of them deeply informative and well written,” he wrote.
The three books are all related to the sciences. Gates also recommended a series of lectures by economist Timothy Taylor and a Spotify playlist with lots of Christmas music. In addition, for video consumers Gates said he’d recommend Netflix series All the Light We Cannot See, which is adapted from a historical fiction novel set during World War II about a blind French girl and a German soldier who cross paths in occupied France.
Here are the three books Gates recommends for this holiday season:
The Song of the Cell by Siddhartha Mukherjee
According to Gates, this book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee will suit even those who don’t like biology. Mukherjee, who has also written The Gene: An Intimate History and The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, recounts the history of cell biology in six parts, starting with the initial discovery by Robert Hooke and Antonie van Leeuwenhoek. He goes on to show how the disruptions in the cells are the basis for diseases and any breakdown in the human body.
“If I had been able to read The Song of the Cell by Siddhartha Mukherjee in school, I might have fallen in love with biology a lot earlier,” Gates wrote in his blog post. “He does a terrific job of explaining in clear, accessible language not only how cells work but why they are the foundation of all life.”
Not the End of the World by Hannah Ritchie
For those who have disengaged from any news related to the climate crisis because they feel that there’s nothing to be done about it, Gates recommends this book by data scientist Hannah Ritchie. The book is about Ritchie’s journey from studying environmental science at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and being discouraged from believing there’s any hope for humanity and the planet to using data to conclude that climate change is solvable.
The full title, Not the End of the World: How We Can Be the First Generation to Build a Sustainable Planet, details how Ritchie’s perspective changed after she met Swedish physician and statistician Hans Rosling, who used his data research to prove that the world is progressing despite the competing narratives saying otherwise. The book will be released in hardcover in January 2024, but the audio and e-book versions are currently available on Amazon.
Invention and Innovation by Vaclav Smil
In this book, the scientist and policy analyst Vaclav Smil approaches tech innovations like artificial intelligence and puts the timeline of their development into perspective. Though there may be lots of hype surrounding new science, Smil points out that the actual development process may be slow and disappointing, and at times harmful.
“Based on his analysis of fields including agriculture, transportation, and pharmaceuticals, he concludes that our current era is not nearly as innovative as we think,” Gates wrote. “In fact, he says, it shows ‘unmistakable signs of technical stagnation and slowing advances.’”