- Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Bill Gates, the former CEO of Microsoft, has said he breezes through about 50 books a year – or about a book a week.
Most of the books are nonfiction. But Gates recommends works of fiction with as much enthusiasm as the history or science books he loves so much.
Here are the novels he thinks everyone should read.
“Seveneves” by Neal Stephenson
After a science-fiction dry spell of more than a decade, Gates picked up “Seveneves” on a friend’s recommendation, and he says he’s grateful for it. “The plot gets going in the first sentence, when the moon blows up,” he wrote on his blog.
But that’s only the beginning. The world soon learns the entire species is doomed: In two years’ time, a cataclysmic meteor shower will destroy all life on the pale blue dot. It’s up to humanity to send as many spacecraft into orbit as possible with the hope of escaping the apocalypse.
“You might lose patience with all the information you’ll get about space flight,” Gates writes, “but I loved the technical details.”
‘The Heart’ by Maylis de Kerangal
Though it may be a novel, “The Heart” is about as close to creative nonfiction as fiction gets, Gates says.
The story involves a man dying in an accident, after which his parents decide to donate his heart. “But the plot is secondary to the strength of its words and characters,” Gates wrote on his blog. “The book uses beautiful language to connect you deeply with people who may be in the story for only a few minutes.”
The recommendation is courtesy of his wife Melinda, he says, and now he’s passing it along to the public.
‘The Rosie Project’ by Graeme Simsion
A recommendation from Melinda, “The Rosie Project” offered Gates the chance to introspect a bit.
“Anyone who occasionally gets overly logical will identify with the hero, a genetics professor with Asperger’s Syndrome who goes looking for a wife,” he wrote on his blog. “(Melinda thought I would appreciate the parts where he’s a little too obsessed with optimizing his schedule. She was right.)”
Gates called the book “clever, funny, and moving,” and even remarked that it was one of the most profound novels he’s read in a long time.
‘Patriot & Assassin’ by Robert Cook
Another recommendation from a friend, “Patriot & Assassin” is about a terrorist plot to release nerve gas on US soil. It’s up to the protagonist to assemble of squad of scientists and military operatives to foil the attack.
In line with Gates’ nonfiction recommendations, the book blends historical fiction with philosophy and politics.
In a 2013 blog post, Gates wrote the last novel he read before “Patriot & Assassin” was “The Hunger Games,” which he surmised probably had more archery.
“The Sympathizer” by Viet Thanh Nguyen
In his most recent list of book recommendations from 2017, Gates included the 2015 Pulitzer-Prize-winning book “The Sympathizer.”
The novel deals with a Vietnamese main character who lives as a double agent in Los Angeles. Actually a spy from the North Vietnamese government, the character embeds himself in a refugee community and learns harsh lessons about his fellow citizens.
“Nguyen doesn’t shy away from how traumatic the Vietnam War was for everyone involved. Nor does he pass judgment about where his narrator’s loyalties should lie,” Gates wrote. “Most war stories are clear about which side you should root for – ‘The Sympathizer’ doesn’t let the reader off the hook so easily.”