- Saeed Adyani/Netflix
- Bill Gates carries a tote bag full of books almost everywhere he goes.
- In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Gates discussed a new Netflix documentary about his life, Microsoft’s legacy, and some of the books he’s reading now.
- Of the four he mentioned, standouts include “These Truths” by Jill Lepore and “every word” novelist David Foster Wallace has ever written.
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Like fellow billionaire Warren Buffett, Gates loves to read and does so often. In fact, he told the Journal that he gets through about one book a week, amounting to roughly 50 a year. Gates discussed some of his current reads, including “These Truths” by Jill Lepore and “every word” novelist David Foster Wallace has ever written.
Gates also talked to the Journal about the legacy of his Microsoft empire, his alleged ties to Jeffrey Epstein, and his latest projects with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the charity organization he runs with his wife. The profile came in advance of the upcoming Netflix documentary, “Inside Bill’s Brain,” which chronicles Gates’s life and work.
Here’s everything noteworthy in Gates’s tote bag.
1. “Prepared” by Diane Tavenner
Most of Gates’s reading is focused on nonfiction – especially topics related to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Diane Tavenner’s book focuses on the story of Summit Public Schools, a group of middle and high schools determined to educate differently than other public schools. Tavenner founded the first Summit school in 2003, and since then, the system has grown to 15.
Summit schools teach children real-world skills as opposed to lessons that are focused on preparation for state tests. And, judging by their college acceptance rates (99%, according to the book’s blurb), Summit schools are making an impact.
2. “Loonshots” by Safi Bahcall
“Loonshots” focuses on how those seemingly “crazy” ideas are accepted or rejected by group behavior. Safi Bahcall, a physicist and biotech entrepreneur, looks at how groups can change their collective minds at a moment’s notice.
Gates isn’t the only one reading Bahcall’s book: Economist and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman said one of the book’s strengths is its “convincing analysis” of how ideas evolve.
3. “These Truths” by Jill Lepore
With “These Truths,” Lepore delves into the history of the United States while asking critical questions about the nation. Lepore’s interpretation of American history seeks to dispel myths about everything from Christopher Columbus to immigration to slavery.
“The past is an inheritance, a gift, and a burden,” Lepore writes. “It can’t be shirked. There’s nothing for it but to get to know it.”
4. “Every word” David Foster Wallace has ever written
Although Gates devotes less time to reading fiction, he told the Journal that he plans to read “every word” David Foster Wallace has ever written before embarking on the novelist’s masterwork, “Infinite Jest.”
Wallace is known for writing essays, short stories, and novels about everything from tennis to lobsters. The late author’s second novel, “Infinite Jest,” is an epic comedy about a film – itself called “Infinite Jest” – that is so enjoyable anyone who watches it will become addicted to it, even watching it until they die.
“I don’t start books without finishing them, so starting a 1,600-page book with massive footnotes is daunting even for an ambitious reader,” Gates told the Journal. “There are books like that that go around the world several times before I open them up.”