Executive Book Club

Bill Gates shares his favorite books in 2019. Here are the 44 others he calls the best of this decade

Bill Gates, co-chair of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation attends a conversation at the 2019 New Economy Forum in Beijing, China, November 21, 2019.
Jason Lee | Reuters

Bill Gates spends a lot of time reading. In fact, the billionaire consumes about 50 books per year. He also posts an in-depth review for several of them on his blog, GatesNotes. But every December for the past couple of years, Gates shares a year-end list of his favorites.

"December is a great time to take stock of everything you've done over the last twelve months — including all of the books you've read," the billionaire wrote Tuesday on his blog, sharing a list of his favorite reads in 2019. "They're all solid choices to help wrap up your 2019 or start 2020 on a good note."

Below is a complete list of books that the Microsoft co-founder says he loved reading this decade, according to his blog. These are the books that changed his worldview, and they include an eclectic mix of topics — from genomics to great leadership, memoirs to graphic novels, education to energy and so much more.

(You'll also notice a handful from scientist and policy analyst Vaclav Smil, whose new books Gates says he waits for "the way some people wait for the next Star Wars movie.")

Note: This compilation only includes lists from 2012 to 2019, since Gates did not post his year-end favorites for 2010 and 2011.

From 5 Books to Enjoy This Winter (2019):

  • "An American Marriage," by Tayari Jones
    From Gates' review: "Jones is such a good writer that you can't help but empathize with Roy and Celestial. Both have been put into a super-difficult position. I obviously haven't experienced what they go through, but the characters — and their reactions to the situation — ring true to me."
  • "These Truths," by Jill Lepore
    From Gates' review: "While many good history books provide perspectives beyond those of the traditional "great men" of history, Lepore's book makes diverse points of view central to the narrative. She shows you all the ironies and contradictions in American history."
  • "Growth: From Microorganisms to Megacities," by Vaclav Smil
    From Gates' review: "Even if you don't like math, don't let [the first chapter] scare you off, because it makes a really important point: It destroys the idea that you can take an early growth curve for a particular development — the uptake of the smartphone, for example—and use it as the basis for predicting the future."
  • "Prepared: What Kids Need for a Fulfilled Life," by Diane Tavenner
    From Gates' review: "Diane shares the story of how she designed a new kind of charter school with a simple but very ambitious goal: 'We wanted to teach kids not just what they needed to get into college, but what they needed to live a good life.'"
  • "Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dream," by Matthew Walker
    From Gates' review: "I read a couple of great books this year about human behavior, and this was one of the most interesting and profound. Everyone knows that a good night's sleep is important — but what exactly counts as a good night's sleep? And how do you make one happen? Walker has persuaded me to change my bedtime habits to up my chances."

From 5 Books I Loved in 2018:

From 5 Best Books I Read in 2017:

From My Favorite Books of 2016:

  • "String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis," by David Foster Wallace
    From Gates' review: "As much as I loved the book for its insights on the game, I loved it just as much for the writing itself. I now understand why people talk about David Foster Wallace with the same kind of awe that tennis fans use to talk about a Roger Federer or Serena Williams."

From The Best Books I Read in 2015:

From The Best Books I Read in 2014:

From The Best Books I Read in 2013:

From My Top Reads in 2012:

Tom Popomaronis is a leadership researcher, commerce expert, cross-industry innovation leader and VP of Innovation at Massive Alliance. His work has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, Inc. and The Washington Post. In 2014, Tom was named one of the "40 Under 40" by the Baltimore Business Journal.

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