Bill Gates Lists his top Five Books of 2016

Bill Gates with his top 5 books of 2016 in front of christmas tree

His parents made a rule when he was young: No books at the dinner table.

A voracious reader, Bill Gates once read through his parents’ set of World Book Encyclopedias in alphabetical order. So when the richest man alive who devours a book a week (something he’s done since he was a kid) lists his top reads of 2016, it’s well worth paying attention.

Gates revealed his picks on Monday in a blog post on his personal website, Gates Notes. The books are, as Gates describes them, a stimulating mix “from tennis to tennis shoes, genomics to great leadership”. What connects them is their ability to tickle your curiosity and his favour towards non-fiction.

1. String Theory, by David Foster Wallace.

Cover of String Theory book

String Theory is the collection of five nonfiction essays on tennis by the late David Foster, put together by the Library of Congress. A book that has nothing to do with physics, “the late author wielded a pen as skillfully as Roger Federer wields a tennis racket,” Gates writes.

2. Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight.

Cover of Shoe Dog Book

A memoir by the co-founder of Nike, Shoe Dog is an honest reminder of “what the path to business success really looks like: messy, precarious, and riddled with mistakes”. Rather than setting out to teach a lesson, Knight instead opens up in a way CEOs rarely do and tells his story in its purest form.

3. The Gene, by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Cover of The Gene Book

Guiding us through the past, present and future of genome science, Mukherjee queries the ethical questions that arise from the recent developments in genome technologies. A “quadruple threat” – a carer, a teacher, a researcher and also a Pulitzer Prize-winning author – he wrote this book for a lay audience knowing that these technologies are on the verge of affecting us in profound ways.

4. The Myth of the Strong Leader, by Archie Brown.

Cover of The Myth of the Strong Leader

An Oxford University scholar who has studied political leadership for more than 50 years, Brown shows that those who contribute the most to history and humanity are not who we in fact perceive to be “strong leaders”. Instead she demonstrates how they tend to be those who “collaborate, delegate, negotiate, and recognise that no one person can or should have all the answers,” Gates writes.

Honourable mention: The Grid, by Gretchen Bakke.

Cover of The Grid book

Described by Gates, The Grid “fits into one of my favourite genres: ‘Books About Mundane Stuff That Are Actually Fascinating”. With a special interest in the electrical grid (his first job in high school was writing software for the entity that controls the power grid in the Northwest of the United States), Gates makes the case that this book will convince readers “that the electrical grid is one of the greatest engineering wonders of the modern world”.