Bill Gates summer reading list will keep your brain busy during lockdown

Bill Gates

He also recommends playing online bridge.

In the latest iteration of his annual tradition, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on Monday recommended a new crop of books for his summer reading list. Bounded by some heavy topics — a historical appraisal of the 1918 influenza pandemic, along with the memoir of a therapist who survived Auschwitz — the list offers lessons on survival and success, as well as a heavy dose of distraction.

“Most of my conversations and meetings these days are about COVID-19 and how we can stem the tide,” Gates wrote in a Monday blog post on GatesNotes. “But I’m also often asked about what I am reading and watching-either because people want to learn more about pandemics, or because they are looking for a distraction.”

In addition to the books, Gates this year also listed off some TV shows and movies he’s been enjoying and recommended playing online bridge.

Here’s a look at the five summer books on Gates’ list:

The Choice

Edith Eva Eger’s story of surviving Auschwitz as a 16-year-old to become a therapist in the US is focused on processing trauma. Gates said he thinks “many people will find comfort right now from her suggestions on how to handle difficult situations.”

Cloud Atlas

Gates includes David Mitchell’s entangled, multi-plot 2004 novel in his summer reading list. The widely-hailed work quickly became something of a literary obstacle course when it was released. Its intertwining six plot lines make it an apt choice for readers needing a satisfactorily challenging distraction during lockdown. Gates’ favorite bit, he said, is the American doctor on a sailing ship in the South Pacific in the mid-1800s.

The Ride of a Lifetime

Gates said Bob Iger’s 2019 memoir about his days overseeing Disney is “one of the best business books I’ve read in years.” What makes Iger’s tale so special? According its September review in The New York Times, it covers “the 40 trips he took to Shanghai in 18 years to complete the labyrinthine negotiations to open the $6 billion Shanghai Disneyland, 11 times the size of this park.”

The Great Influenza

Gates’ selection of John M. Barry’s historical delve into the influenza pandemic of 1918 brings the 2004 bestseller back into the literary spotlight. An interestingly political choice for Gates, the book was also read by President George W. Bush in 2005, who credited it with shaping his US preparedness policy on a potential influenza pandemic. Gates called the book a “a good reminder that we’re still dealing with many of the same challenges.”

Good Economics for Hard Times

Tucked into the topics covered in MIT Professors Esther Duflo’s and Abhijit V. Banerjee’s roundly-praised economic analysis is a wrestling match with current ideas around tech-driven unemployment and job loss. Gates’ recommendation, however, spotlights the book’ take on “inequality and political divisions by focusing on policy debates that are at the forefront in wealthy countries like the US.

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