Careers

Bill Gates calls this book 'the best nonfiction' he's read in a long time

Bill Gates
Lacy O’ Toole | CNBC
Bill Gates

Bill Gates has a habit of reading for at least one hour each night, so he makes his way through a good number of books.

But for the Microsoft co-founder, one recently published book stands out as an "amazing" read that even brought him to tears: "When Breath Becomes Air," a memoir by the accomplished neurosurgeon and writer Paul Kalanithi. It was published posthumously, after Kalanithi died of lung cancer in 2015 at age 37.

In it, Kalanithi reflects on his career and attempts to answer the question, "What makes a life worth living?"

"I can say this is the best nonfiction story I've read in a long time," Gates writes on his blog.

Kalanithi graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor's and master's degree in Literature, as well as a bachelor's degree in Human Biology. He received another master's degree in History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine from Cambridge before receiving a medical degree from Yale.

While practicing medicine at Stanford University, he won the American Academy of Neurological Surgery's highest award for research.

"I was compelled by neurosurgery, with its unforgiving call to perfection [...]" Kalanithi writes. "Neurosurgery seemed to present the most challenging and direct confrontation with meaning, identity, and death."

"This short book has so many layers of meaning." -Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft

Gates says he was inspired by Kalanithi's thirst for knowledge, his career and his courage, and that he found the details of the neurosurgeon's last days — spent with his wife Lucy and their daughter Cady — heartbreaking.

"This short book has so many layers of meaning and so many interesting juxtapositions," Gates writes, including "life and death, patient and doctor, son and father, work and family, faith and reason."

While Gates admits he isn't usually "one for tear-jerkers about death and dying," he was drawn to Kalanithi's search for meaning through books, writing, his family, medicine, surgery, and science.

"I am certain I will read 'When Breath Becomes Air' again," Gates says.