Every year, Bill Gates posts a summer reading list, arguably more interesting than whatever you have on your reading list. If you want to know what one of the most successful businessmen and innovators thinks is important to learn about this year, check it out here. Below I’ve picked out a few highlights.
1.On Immunity, by Eula Biss
Vaccines and the unfortunate anti-vaccination movement have been in the news a lot this year. The Gates Foundation also does a lot of work to deliver vaccines and increase vaccine access in poorer countries around the world. So it’s not surprising to see this book on his shelf. In it, Biss examines the roots of people’s fear of vaccinating their children. She firmly concurs with the scientifically-supported conclusion that vaccines are safe and effective. But she also empathizes with parents who have understandably grown skeptical of pharmaceutical companies and the government.
2.Should We Eat Meat?, Vaclav Smil
There is perhaps no greater threat to humanity than climate change. And one of the biggest contributors is raising animals for human consumption—specifically the amount of land needed to grow food that feeds them. The Gates Foundation actually promotes eating more meat to improve the diet of children in Africa, so it’s somewhat surprising and refreshing to see Should We Eat Meat? on Gates’s list. Ultimately, Gates says he doesn’t believe that we can expect a huge number of people to go vegetarian to save the environment and instead we should look toward lab-grown meat as the solution.
The Magic of Reality, Richard Dawkins
Naturally, Gates has a healthy appetite for science books. There are two scientific explainers on his list, both very different. Gates chose Dawkins because he believe it offers “compelling answers to big questions, like ‘how did the universe form?’ and ‘what causes earthquakes?’.” He says that Dawkins is often too “overzealous” in his criticisms of religion, but that he is nonetheless a great scientific explainer.
What If?, Randall Munroe
Munroe is the creator of the popular XKCD webcomic, and this book started as a weekly spin-off of his comic. In the book, Munroe takes absurd hypothetical questions like “What would happen if everybody on Earth stood next to each other and jumped at the same time?” and provides accurate and humorous scientific answers.