Bill Gates' Favorite Books of 2012


You may not have realized it, but Bill Gates — resident genius, founder of Microsoft and the richest man in America — is a total book nerd. And not only this, but he frequently posts musings about the books he reads to his website The Gates Notes. So we’re not surprised that today, in keeping with the season, Gates has published a list of his “top reads of 2012,” or as he puts it, “ten books that made me think.” There’s nothing wildly unexpected here, but hey, we’re always trying to be a little bit more like Bill Gates, so we’re adding a few of these to our to-read list. What about you?

1. The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined, Steven Pinker

From Gates’s review: “How would you go about making the world a fundamentally better place? Eliminating violence, particularly violent deaths, would be a great start. Cognitive scientist Steven Pinker shows in his masterful new book just how violence is declining. It is a triumph of a book.”

2. Deng Xiaoping, Ezra Vogel

From Gates’s review: “If you’re going to read one book about modern China in the period after Mao, then this is the book you should read. Though the book is framed around the rise of Deng Xiaoping and his reforms that transformed China into an economic powerhouse, Ezra Vogel’s compelling biography examines how China went from being a desperately poor country to certainly one of the two most important countries in the world today.”

3. The Quest, Daniel Yergin

From Gates’s review: “Recently I finished reading Daniel Yergin’s new book, The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World. It’s a valuable guide to the complex factors shaping the world’s energy needs, supplies and prices – even if a workout at over 800 pages.”

4. Moonwalking with Einstein, Joshua Foer

From Gates’s review: “I never thought much about whether I could improve my memory across a wider set of domains, but now I think I could, after reading Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, by a young science writer, Joshua Foer. It’s absolutely phenomenal, one of the most interesting books I’ve read this summer.”

5. Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo

From Gates’s review: “I just finished Katherine Boo’s book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers. It reads like a novel by Dickens, but is a real-life depiction of the challenges hundreds of millions of people face every day in urban slums. It’s also a reminder of the humanity that connects us all.”

6. One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?, Gordon Conway

From Gates’s review: “Gordon Conway is one of the world’s foremost experts on the connection between hunger and agriculture. I found his new book, One Billion Hungry, an interesting read and a clear roadmap for what we need to do to increase agricultural productivity and eliminate hunger in the world.”

7. A World-Class Education, Vivien Stewart

From Gates’s review: “A half-century ago, the U.S. was the undisputed leader in education—the first country to achieve universal secondary education and the first to make college broadly accessible. Today, other countries are leap-frogging the U.S. on global measures of student skills and knowledge. A World-Class Education is a book I recommend to learn more about what other countries are doing.”

8. Academically Adrift, Richard Arum & Joshipa Roksa

From Gates’s review: “Before reading this book, I took it for granted that colleges were doing a very good job. But there is really no measurement or feedback system that tracks results, to help guide students and help institutions improve. Not overall, and not for individual courses of study. What do students in different programs learn, how many graduates get jobs in their field, how much do they earn? The outputs of higher education are a deeply understudied question.”

9. This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, Carmen Reinhart & Kenneth Rogoff

10. The City that Became Safe: New York’s Lessons for Urban Crime and Its Control, Franklin Zimring

[h/t MobyLives]