In addition to an online economics course taught by Stanford University professor Timothy Taylor and a Spotify playlist filled with a variety of holiday tunes, Bill Gates’ annual list of recommendations—shared in a post on Gates Notes—includes three books published in 2023 that “came to mind right away” as “some of the best” he read this year.
From a deeply reported exploration of cell therapy to a data-driven look at the world’s biggest environmental problems, the Microsoft founder and philanthropist selected a range of titles that he found to be “deeply informative and well written.”
Here, the three best books that Bill Gates read in 2023.
The Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Human, Siddhartha Mukherjee
Beginning with the discovery of cells in the late 1600s and taking readers through the evolution of human understanding of cellular biology, oncologist and Pulitzer-winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee delves into the history and current state of cell therapy as a tool for treating leukemia and other deadly diseases. “All of us will get sick at some point. All of us will have loved ones who get sick,” Gates writes. “To understand what’s happening in those moments—and to feel optimistic that things will get better—you need a foundational knowledge about the building blocks of life. Mukherjee understands that ‘to locate the heart of normal physiology, or of illness, one must look, first, at cells.’”
Not the End of the World: How We Can Be the First Generation to Build a Sustainable Planet, Hannah Ritchie
This optimistic take on the state of climate change relies on findings from Hannah Ritchie’s work as a leading data scientist to illustrate the ways in which the global environmental crisis isn’t necessarily the doomsday scenario that some make it out to be. Set for release on Jan. 9, 2024, Not the End of the World focuses on how humanity is already—and can continue—working to achieve a two-pronged definition of sustainability. “In each chapter, Ritchie provides tangible action that people, companies, and governments can take to build that better world,” Gates writes. “One where trade-offs between human well-being and environmental protection, between life today and life tomorrow, no longer have to be made.”
Invention and Innovation: A Brief History of Hype and Failure, Vaclav Smil
A perennial favorite of Gates, who has read all 44 of his books, best-selling author Vaclav Smil is renowned for his ability to shed light on complex subjects. In his latest work, Smil investigates whether we’re really living in an age of unrivaled invention—and concludes, according to Gates, that “our current era is not nearly as innovative as we think.” While Gates agrees that rapid advances in computing power have inflated people’s perception of overall technological growth, he believes that Smil underestimates accomplishments in artificial intelligence. “AI is going to become smart, not just fast,” Gates writes. “When it achieves what researchers call ‘artificial general intelligence,’ that will give humanity incredible new tools for problem solving in almost every domain, from curing disease to personalizing education to developing new sources of clean energy.”