Bill Gates Released His 5-Book Summer Reading List, Themed Around the Conflict Between Humans and Nature

The list features four non-fiction books - including Barack Obama's memoir - and one novel.

June 15, 2021 5 min read

This story originally appeared on Business Insider

Bill Gates has released his annual summer reading list for 2021.

This year, Gates said the theme connecting his reading list is the relationship between humanity and nature.

"Maybe it's because everyone's lives have been upended by a virus. Or maybe it's because I've spent so much time this year talking about what we need to do to avoid a climate disaster," Gates wrote in his blog.

Related: Potatoes for McDonald's Fries are Reportedly Grown on Bill Gates Farm

Four out of the five books Gates recommends are non-fiction, but Gates said all of his recommendations address "what happens when people come into conflict with the world around them."

"A Promised Land," Barack Obama

"I think it's a powerful book with lots of insights into great leadership," Gates said in a video.

In his reading list blog post, Gates added that Obama is "unusually honest about his experience in the White House, including how isolating it is to be the person who ultimately calls the shots."

"I wish more politicians could write like Obama. 'A Promised Land' almost reads like a novel, because he's so good at connecting each individual event into one big narrative," Gates wrote in his review of the book.

Related: Bill Gates's love affairs were an open secret: Vanity Fair

"An Elegant Defense: The extraordinary new science of the immune system: A Tale in Four Lives," Matt Richtel

Richtel writes about four case studies of people with health problems that illustrate how the immune system works.

"You'll come away with a much better understanding of our immune system's awesome complexity — and the delicate, even precarious, tradeoffs inherent in its workings," Gates said in his review of the book.

"Lights Out: Pride, Delusion, and the Fall of General Electric," Thomas Gryta and Ted Mann

"Lights Out" charts the rise and fall of General Electric, a company Gates describes as "mythic." Gates says he was as shocked as anyone when the company fell apart.

"At times, it was a bit hard for me, as a former CEO, to read such harsh criticism of fellow leaders, including people I know and like. But I got a lot out of reading this book. Gryta and Mann gave me the detailed insight I was looking for into the culture, decisions, and accounting that eventually caught up to GE in a gigantic way," Gates said in his review.

"Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future," Elizabeth Kolbert

According to Gates, out of all the books on his list "Under a White Sky"  tackles humanity's relationship with nature in the most straightforward way.

The book covers lots of examples of how humanity has unwittingly changed the environment, and Gates said he read it to get her take on two topics in particular: gene drive, the idea that we can change the way genes are passed on, and geoengineering, which covers methods to try and cool the Earth's temperature.

"As I've come to expect from Elizabeth's work, she explains gene drive and geoengineering in a compelling and lucid way," Gates said.

Kolbert's last book, "The Sixth Extinction," won her a Pulitzer Prize in 2015.

"The Overstory," Richard Powers

"The Overstory" is the only novel on Gates' reading list, and he describes it as "one of the most unusual novels I've read in years."

The book explores our relationship with trees through nine characters whose stories intertwine. 

"This isn't a book where everything gets tied up with a bow. Some of the characters meet up with each other, and others have totally separate stories. In the end, it's not clear whether you're supposed to see their actions as morally right or just kind of crazy," Gates said in his review.

"I didn't mind the lack of clarity, but some other people might. If you are in the mood for something that stimulates your thinking instead of providing answers, though, you'll love The Overstory. It's very well-written and takes twists you wouldn't expect," he added.

Related: Bill Gates Resigned From Microsoft Board During Investigation of Alleged Affair with Employee, Reports

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