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Bill Gates: You might not make time to read this type of book—but you should

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Bill Gates
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Bill Gates' obsession with reading started early on. As a kid, his parents gave him "an arbitrary budget to buy books, so I got to read a lot," he told Harvard students during a Q&A last month.

And part of his massive success is thanks to the fact that he maintained the curiosity he had as a kid, he says. "A lot of people lose curiosity in their 20s or 30s," the self-made billionaire and Microsoft co-founder said. "So if you hand them a big, thick book, they're like, 'What? Am I going to read that?'"

Specifically, "people don't make time to read what's fairly academic and super profound," Gates continued, but those are some of the most important books to dive into.

He recommends reading Steven Pinker, the author of two of his all-time favorite books: "The Better Angels of Our Nature" and "Enlightenment Now."

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"Pinker uses meticulous research to argue that we are living in the most peaceful time in human history," Gates writes on his blog, adding, "The world is getting better, even if it doesn't always feel that way. I'm glad we have brilliant thinkers like Steven Pinker to help us see the big picture."

He's also a fan of Hans Rosling, whose latest book, "Factfulness" is "one of the most educational books I've ever read," says Gates. "It covers a space that it's not easy to go learn about. The world would be better if literally millions of people read the book."

To maintain lifelong curiosity, it helps to surround yourself with curious people, Gates told the Harvard students: "If I'm trying to understand quantum computing, a lot of times I get confused, so it helps to have friends who can come and try to straighten you out."

Plus, curious friends hold you accountable and increase "your willingness to try to learn something," he said. "Even trying to understand tornadoes, which are this funny 3D thing — having somebody who could show me where the visualization was ... I don't think I would have done that if I didn't have a group of people that had stayed intellectually curious."

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