This holiday season, billionaire Bill Gates is gifting you a list of five books to read while you’re hopefully enjoying some much-deserved downtime.
Gates, a voracious reader who reads at least 50 books each year, regularly releases lists of the best books he’s read each year — alongside seasonal recommendations for holiday books and summer beach reads.
This year, the 67-year-old seems to be leaning into nostalgia: Gates’ 2022 holiday reading list, published Monday on his blog, includes a mix of new releases and some of his favorite books of all time.
That includes a 1960s sci-fi classic that helped spark Gates’ childhood friendship with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and a book on tennis that Gates first read in the 1970s — which he says helped him eventually learn not to obsess over mistakes at work.
As a special bonus, he says a copy of each of his selections has been placed in 100 Little Free Libraries around the world.
Here are the five books on Gates’ holiday reading list this year:
‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ by Robert Heinlein
This 1961 sci-fi classic holds a special place in Gates’ memory.
“I met Paul [Allen] around [that] time, and we got to know each other by talking about sci-fi,” Gates wrote of his late friend and Microsoft co-founder. “I thought I had read a lot of it, but Paul way outdid me.”
“Stranger in a Strange Land” — Gates’ favorite sci-fi book from his youth, he noted — is the story of a human who was raised on Mars, by Martians. The young man travels to a futuristic Earth, where he struggles to understand human concepts of religion and war.
“I love sci-fi that pushes your thinking about what’s possible in the future,” Gates wrote, noting that Heinlein’s book correctly predicted some aspects of the future at the time, including “hippie culture” and waterbeds.
“He also does the classic sci-fi thing of using an obviously fictional setting to ask profound questions about human nature,” Gates added.
‘Surrender’ by Bono
Gates called the autobiographical book released this month by U2 frontman Bono “the best memoir by a rock star I actually know.”
The billionaire and the 62-year-old rocker, whose given name is Paul Hewson, have been friends for more than a decade. They often work together on philanthropic efforts, raising awareness and funds around common areas of interest like climate change and global health.
Gates praised the book’s behind-the-scenes look at how U2 created “some of their most iconic songs,” and what’s kept Bono and his bandmates close for more than four decades.
“They share the same values. All four of them are passionate about fighting poverty and inequity in the world, and they’re also aligned on maintaining their integrity as artists,” Gates wrote.
‘Team of Rivals’ by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Gates wrote that he was “blown away” upon reading this 2005 non-fiction work by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.
“Team of Rivals” is a critically acclaimed biography of Abraham Lincoln and the men who served in his first Cabinet, several of whom had previously opposed Lincoln in the 1860 presidential election.
The book highlights Lincoln’s ability to reconcile opposing viewpoints among his own advisors, and “has a lot of insights about Lincoln that leaders can learn from today,” Gates wrote.
“Lately I’ve been thinking about Goodwin’s book because it feels very relevant in 2022,” he added. “There are significant parallels between the current moment and the 1860s, when the nation was dealing with violent insurrection, difficult questions about race, and ideological divides between states and regions.”
‘The Inner Game of Tennis’ by Robert Gallwey
More than a book about how to improve your forehand, Gallwey’s 1974 work aims to be “a guide to the mental side of peak performance.”
Gates first read the book more than four decades ago, and has since read it multiple times, he wrote — adding that he still gifts it to friends today because “its profound advice applies to many other parts of life.”
Gallwey, a tennis coach, wrote about how a player’s state of mind could affect their performance on the court as much as their athletic ability. Gates said those insights have helped in his career, especially focusing on constructive criticism rather than getting hung up on mistakes.
“For most of us, it’s too easy to slip into self-criticism, which then inhibits our performance even more. We need to learn to learn from our mistakes without obsessing over them,” Gates wrote.
It’s a lesson that Gates has previously admitted he needed to be taught, noting that in Microsoft’s early days, his high standards for himself and employees often made him an intense boss.
In 2019, Gates expressed regret over the approach: “Some of it helped us be successful, but I’m sure some of it was over the top.”
‘Mendeleyev’s Dream’ by Paul Strathern
If you visit Gates’ office in Seattle, you’ll see a huge wall display filled with samples of each entry in the periodic table of elements.
The billionaire’s interest in the period table continues with “Mendeleyev’s Dream,” a 2000 history of chemistry written by an academic named Paul Strathern.
The name comes from Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleyev, who formulated the first version of the periodic table in 1869. It’s “the best book I’ve ever read on the periodic table,” Gates wrote.
“Aside from being a neat piece of art, the periodic table reminds me of how one discovery can lead to countless others,” he continued. “All the complexity of the universe comes from the properties on that chart. Because we understand atoms, we can make chips, and therefore we can make software, and therefore we can make AI. Everything goes back to the periodic table.”
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