Bill Gates’s 49 Favorite Books of the Decade

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Each December, Bill Gates takes to his blog GatesNotes to look back at his reading trends from the year and recommend a few favorite books to the rest of us. He recently published his 2019 list, which includes Tayari Jones’s novel An American Marriage; Jill Lepore’s 800-page history of the United States, These Truths; and three other Gates-approved must-reads.

In looking back at all the books he has read this year, Gates noticed a rather uncharacteristic trend: he read much more fiction than usual. Though the only novel to make his recommendation list was An American Marriage, Gates also mentioned he’d finished A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles and The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion. He’s also working to get through the rest of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas before the end of the year; he thinks it’s “amazingly clever but a bit hard to follow.” And while he did read David Foster Wallace’s short story collection Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, he hasn’t read Infinite Jest, either.

If you’re thinking this sounds like a surprisingly normal, even relatable reading list for one of our biggest modern-day geniuses, don’t be fooled. Since we’re about to enter a new decade, CNBC took this opportunity to compile a list of all the books Gates has recommended since he started his yearly tradition in 2012—and the overall trend is quite Gatesian.

Many of the books take macro concepts and try to make sense of them by analyzing them on a micro scale, like Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words, and How Asia Works. They tackle questions like “Why is college so expensive?” and “Can we end world hunger?” There are a few more fiction titles on the list—Thi Bui’s graphic novel The Best We Could Do and Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer, for example—and several memoirs that might appeal to readers who gravitate toward more personal stories.

All things considered, Gates’s favorite books from the decade are wide-ranging and thought-provoking, and there’s likely a title or two for every type of reader.

Scroll on for the full list:

  1. An American Marriage // Tayari Jones ($12)
  2. These Truths // Jill Lepore ($14)
  3. Growth: From Microorganisms to Megacities // Vaclav Smil ($31)
  4. Prepared: What Kids Need for a Fulfilled Life // Diane Tavenner ($25)
  5. Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dream // Matthew Walker ($16)
  6. Educated: A Memoir // Tara Westover ($14)
  7. Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War // Paul Scharre ($27)
  8. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup // John Carreyrou ($16)
  9. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century // Yuval Noah Harari ($20)
  10. The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness // Andy Puddicombe ($20)
  11. The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir // Thi Bui ($18)
  12. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City // Matthew Desmond ($11)
  13. Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens // Eddie Izzard ($17)
  14. The Sympathizer // Viet Thanh Nguyen ($18)
  15. Energy and Civilization: A History // Vaclav Smil ($16)
  16. String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis // David Foster Wallace ($15)
  17. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike // Phil Knight ($18)
  18. The Gene: An Intimate History // Siddhartha Mukherjee ($13)
  19. The Myth of the Strong Leader: Political Leadership in the Modern Age // Archie Brown ($17)
  20. The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future // Gretchen Bakke ($12)
  21. The Road to Character // David Brooks ($15)
  22. Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words // Randall Munroe ($16)
  23. Being Nixon: A Man Divided // Evan Thomas ($14)
  24. Sustainable Materials With Both Eyes Open (Without the Hot Air) // Julian M. Allwood and Jonathan M. Cullen ($29)
  25. Eradication: Ridding the World of Diseases Forever? // Nancy Leys Stepan ($25)
  26. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success // Carol S. Dweck ($11)
  27. The Vital Question // Nick Lane ($19)
  28. Business Adventures: 12 Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street // John Brooks ($15)
  29. Capital in the 21st Century // Thomas Piketty ($17)
  30. How Asia Works // Joe Studwell ($15)
  31. The Rosie Effect // Graeme Simsion ($21)
  32. Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization // Vaclav Smil ($39)
  33. The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger // Marc Levinson ($28)
  34. The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention // William Rosen ($13)
  35. Harvesting the Biosphere: What We Have Taken From Nature // Vaclav Smil ($24)
  36. The World Until Yesterday // Jared Diamond ($16)
  37. Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled by African Development Statistics and What to Do About It // Morten Jerven ($23)
  38. Why Does College Cost So Much? // Robert B. Archibald and David H. Feldman ($30)
  39. The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble Over Earth’s Future // Paul Sabin ($13)
  40. The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined // Steven Pinker ($15)
  41. Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China // Ezra Vogel ($12)
  42. The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World // Daniel Yergin ($16)
  43. Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything // Joshua Foer ($26)
  44. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity // Katherine Boo ($12)
  45. One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World? // Gordon Conway ($20)
  46. A World-Class Education: Learning From International Models of Excellent and Innovation // Vivien Stewart ($14)
  47. Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses // Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa ($17)
  48. This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly // Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff ($15)
  49. The City That Became Safe: New York’s Lessons for Urban Crime and Its Control // Franklin Zimring ($17)

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