Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates released his annual end-of-year book list on Tuesday.
"I think they're all solid choices to help wrap up your 2019 or start 2020 on a good note," the avid reader writes on his blog, Gates Notes.
For a productive start to the new decade, crack open one of Gates's favorites this holiday season.
This New York Times bestseller tells the story of newlyweds Roy and Celestial, a young black couple whose lives are upturned when Roy is wrongly convicted of rape and sentened to 12 years in prison.
Tayari Jones's novel is "fundamentally a story about how incarceration hurts more than just the person locked up," writes Gates. "It's also a reminder of how draconian our criminal justice system can be — especially for black men like Roy."
It's not "a light, easy read," he notes, "but it's so well-written that you'll find yourself sucked into it despite the heavy subject matter."
In "These Truths," Harvard historian Jill Lepore covers centuries of American history in about 800 pages.
The one-volume history "is not a deep or comprehensive account of individual events or people," says Gates. Rather, the author offers "quick glimpses at major events such as America's first presidential impeachment (only three sentences) and doesn't even get a chance to mention pivotal figures such as Lewis and Clark."
He praises it as "the most honest account of the American story I've ever read."
Written by one of Gates's favorite authors, Czech-Canadian professor Vaclav Smil, "Growth" is "a brilliant synthesis of everything we can learn from patterns of growth in the natural and human-made world," says Gates. Though, "it's not for everyone," he adds. "Long sections read like a textbook or engineering manual."
But if you stick it out, you may experience what Gates did: "I marveled over all the miracles that modern civilization is built on, including power grids, water systems, air transportation and computing. The book gave me new appreciation for how many smart people had to try things out, make mistakes and eventually succeed."
Author and educator Diane Tavenner is the founder of Summit Public Schools, which has been nationally recognized for its high performance: 99% of Summit students get into a four-year college and Summit graduates finish college at twice the national average.
In her book, she shares the Summit learning philosophy — which is built on self-directed learning, project-based learning and mentoring — and how to prepare all kids for school and life.
"Much of the book is deeply personal," says Gates. "Diane shares stories of her childhood, growing up in a troubled family. She recounts her years as a young, idealistic teacher and administrator. And she opens up about her own experience as a parent, raising her teenage son, Rett, as he navigates his path to adulthood."
Gates used to routinely pull all-nighters in the early days of Microsoft. "Once or twice, I stayed up two nights in a row," he recalls. "I knew I wasn't as sharp when I was operating mostly on caffeine and adrenaline, but I was obsessed with my work, and I felt that sleeping a lot was lazy."
After this read, "I realize that my all-nighters, combined with almost never getting eight hours of sleep, took a big toll," he says. Author Matthew Walker, the director of UC Berkeley's Center for Human Sleep Science, "explains how neglecting sleep undercuts your creativity, problem solving, decision-making, learning, memory, heart heath, brain health, mental health, emotional well-being, immune system and even your life span."
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