Since the summer of 2012, Bill Gates has been sharing a reading list on his blog for budding entrepreneurs, business leaders, CEOs and just about anyone looking for literary inspiration.
Admitting to reading one book a day, in spite (or perhaps because) of his globetrotting schedule, Gates knows a thing or two about prose, and his annual summer and winter reading lists are full of insightful suggestions for what business leaders, or anyone looking for inspiration, should be reading on beachside breaks, or by roaring holiday fires.
With the Winter 2017 reading list only just hitting Bill’s blog this month, we’ve taken a look back at his top picks and recommended leadership and business books over the past six years, to educate and inspire you for the year ahead…
Energy and Civilization: A History
In his comprehensive account of how energy has shaped society throughout history, Vaclav Smil, examines how our pursuit of energy has been a driving force behind civilization – from pre-agricultural foraging, to fossil fuels.
“Smil is one of my favourite authors, and this is his masterpiece,” Gates writes.
“He lays out how our need for energy has shaped human history – from the era of donkey-powered mills to today’s quest for renewable energy.
“It’s not the easiest book to read, but at the end you’ll feel smarter and better informed about how energy innovation alters the course of civilizations.”
The Myth of the Strong Leader
In his timely study of power and leadership, Archie Brown, an illustrious political historian, explores the history of political leadership, from the dawn of democracy to the significance of Obama-era politics.
“The fierce 2016 election battle prompted me to pick up this 2014 book, by an Oxford University scholar who has studied political leadership – good, bad, and ugly – for more than 50 years,” Gates writes.
“Brown shows that the leaders who make the biggest contributions to history and humanity generally are not the ones we perceive to be “strong leaders.”
“Instead, they tend to be the ones who collaborate, delegate, and negotiate – and recognize that no one person can or should have all the answers. Brown could not have predicted how resonant his book would become in 2016.”
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
Carol S. Dweck
Originally published in 2007, Bill Gates listed this classic as one of his favourites reads of 2015.
Introducing the concept of a “fixed mindset” and a “growth mindset” Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D, shares her simple yet groundbreaking understanding of how our mindset can directly impact our success in all aspects of life.
“Through clever research studies and engaging writing, Dweck illuminates how our beliefs about our capabilities exert tremendous influence on how we learn and which paths we take in life,” Gates writes.
“The value of this book extends way beyond the world of education. It’s just as relevant for businesspeople who want to cultivate talent and for parents who want to raise their kids to thrive on challenge.”
How Asia Works
Through his extensive research on nine Asian countries – Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, and China – Joe Studwell dispels common Western misconceptions about Asian economies, and clarifies why some countries have boomed in recent years and others have not.
“Studwell produces compelling answers to two of the greatest questions in development economics: How did countries like Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and China achieve sustained, high growth? And why have so few other countries managed to do so?” Gates writes.
“It provided ample food for thought for me as well as the whole Agriculture team at our foundation. And it left us thinking about whether parts of the Asian model can apply in Africa.”
Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing
Arguing against the notion that manufacturing is no longer a necessary part of our digital world, one of Bill Gates’ favourite authors, Vaclav Smil, contends that advanced economies still need strong, innovative manufacturing sectors in order to thrive.
“He writes thoughtful, thorough books on energy, innovation, agriculture, history, diet, and a lot more,” Gates writes.
“I’m trying to read everything he writes, but he publishes so quickly that I can’t keep up.”
Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think
Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler
Focusing on human need by category – food, water energy, healthcare, education, and freedom – this book documents how exponential technologies, DIY innovators, technophilanthropists, and “the Rising Billion” are working to solve the world’s biggest problems.
Through the perspective of a number of innovative thinkers – who are taking huge steps toward solving problems in each human need category – this book provides inspirational stories of meaningful business successes that might just change the world.
“I could relate to a lot in this book,” Bill writes. “The authors argue that we’ll be able to meet and exceed the needs of every person in the world, through technology, innovation, and philanthropy.”