July 18, 2013

Bill Gates’ summer reading list is terrifying


“I found this book, and your muffled screams, inspiring!”

We took a look last year at Bill “Ca$hmo” Gates’ new passion for book reviewing. This month the Microsoft founder and rain-maker laureate took to his personal book review blog again to tell everyone about the eight books he’ll be reading this summer.

As before, Bill “The Vanilla Thrilla” Gates has a taste for Big Think books, the sort of  book about policy or infrastructure—usually written by an expert but for a general audience—that makes dads everywhere jump with such joy they nearly split their wrinkle-free pleated Dockers.

The thing with Gates, though is that while you and I and your be-Dockered dad read books about oh, say, school reform, and think “Hm, that’s interesting! Ah well, back to impotent wage slavery and thence the grave!” Gates reads those books and thinks “Hm that’s interesting! I wonder if tossing this author headfirst into a vast pit of cash as if she were some kind of lispless Scrooge McDuck will solve this problem?” Because of that, knowing what Bill “Fat Stacks” Gates is reading is a pretty interesting bellwether for where we might see some heavy philanthropic attention in the coming year. So then, what’s Gates reading and what will that mean?

The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?

Gates writes: “Diamond’s best-known book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, had a profound effect on the way I think about history and why certain societies advance faster than others. Even if I disagree with some of what he says, I know it will be interesting and well worth the read.”

What he means: See that word “advance” in there? Gates is tipping his hand. He believes in some kind of linear progression of technology, history as straight line. Bill Gates is working to bring about the singularity.


The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger

Gates writes: “Melinda and I recently took our kids on a trip to see the Panama Canal, because we’re so curious about how it works and we wanted to see it in action.  I’m hoping this book, which is about how shipping containers are another key advance that underwrites globalization, will add another dimension to the story for me.”

What he means: “After the singularity, you will live in a box.”


How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character

Gates writes: “Tough argues that non-cognitive qualities like perseverance and optimism are what make kids successful.”

What he means: “In the future, in your box, you will not need to think. You will only need to endure.”


Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do

Gates writes: “It breaks down a lot of myths, like the idea that minorities will prosper if we can just do away with discrimination in hiring. Discrimination has a lot of layers that make it tough for minorities to get a leg up. And Steele offers a few ideas about how to tackle the problem. It’s a very good read.”

What he means: “In your box, you will be the same as every other box. Give up your old myths. The box is all you need now.”


Patriot and Assassin

Gates writes: I don’t generally read a lot of fiction. I think The Hunger Games was the last novel I read.

What he means: We’re screwed.


Dustin Kurtz is former marketing manager of Melville House.