Bill Gates is once again marking the holiday season with a list of some of his favorite books that he’s read over the past year. And this time he left a few extra presents at the bottom of the stocking.
Gates is a prodigious reader who reads about 50 books each year and regularly publishes seasonal lists recommending his favorites. His latest vacation slate also includes a series of online economics lectures that he calls “fantastic” and a vacation-themed Spotify playlist “just for fun.”
“I love holiday music and have compiled a list of my favorites: classics and modern tunes, from the United States and around the world,” Gates wrote in a blog post Monday.
The Microsoft co-founder’s recommendations kick off with three nonfiction books that he says “came to mind right away” when he started writing the list. Here they are, with its holiday mix and online lessons from a speaker Gates describes as “one of my favorite teachers of all time.”
“The Song of the Cell” by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Mukherjee, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Columbia University oncologist, writes here about what Gates calls “the building blocks of life” — the cells that make up all living organisms.
In a sense, “The song of the cell” is a medical history, covering the discovery of cells in the 1600s and how understanding of them has evolved over time. The book, published last year, is also a look at future medical advances that manipulate cell could unblock.
The book will help you better understand your own body, especially what it means when you get sick, Gates wrote.
“[Mukherjee] begins by explaining how life evolved from single-celled organisms, then he shows how every human disease or consequence of aging boils down to a problem with the body’s cells,” Gates wrote.
“Not the End of the World” by Hannah Ritchie
How about a little climate optimism to get you into the holiday spirit? “Everyone who wants to have an informed conversation about climate change should read this book,” Gates wrote.
“Not the end of the world“, scheduled for publication in January, is an upcoming insight from Hannah Ritchie, a data scientist at the University of Oxford, into how the world can actually win the battle against climate change.
The author “believed — like many environmental activists — that she was ‘living through humanity’s most tragic time,'” Gates wrote. But by sticking to the data, Ritchie realized that, as bad as things are, humans are actually making progress in the fight against climate change.
“In ‘Not the End of the World,’ she uses data to tell a counterintuitive story that contradicts doomsday scenarios on climate and other environmental topics, without glossing over the challenges,” Gates wrote.
“Invention and innovation” by Vaclav Smil
Smil, professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Manitoba, is one of Gates’ favorite authors. Gates said he had read every one of Smil’s 44 books and that “no one is better than Smil at explaining the past.”
In “Inventions and innovations“, published in February, Smil examines examples of human innovation throughout history. He writes about inventions that have been disappointing, even disastrous. He also explains what happens with innovations long promised to humans, but which have not yet been realized – such as producing energy through nuclear fusion.
Gates noted that Smil is less optimistic than he is about the current era of innovation, with the author identifying “unmistakable signs of technical stagnation and slowing progress.” Still, Gates recommended the book to anyone interested in understanding “how human ingenuity brought us to this moment.”
Online economics course by Timothy Taylor
Gates has I’ve been a fan for a long time by Taylor, a Stanford-trained economist and editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, based at Macalester College. He now recommends three online lecture series from Taylor available for streaming on the Wondrium subscription service.
“You can’t go wrong with any of Taylor’s lectures,” Gates wrote. The conferences, which include a total of 96 videos of approximately 30 minutes each, address different topics in the broad field of economics.
As Gates described it: “The New Global Economy” teaches you the basic economic history of different regions and how markets work. “Economics” is best suited for people who want to understand the principles of economics in depth. “An Unexpected Economy” probably has the widest audience, because Taylor applies these principles to everyday things, including gifts, traffic, natural disasters, sports and much more.
Gates’ Spotify Holiday Playlist
Gates’ 54-song playlist is available on his Spotify Profile “just for fun,” he wrote.
The list includes a wide range of tunes that help Gates “get into the holiday spirit” — from traditional classics like Nat King Cole’s “Joy to the World” or “The Christmas Song” to more modern renditions like “Last Christmas” by Wham or Sia. “12 nights.”
“Whether you listen to them in an ugly sweater, while wrapping presents, or around the table with family and friends, I hope these songs bring as much joy to your holidays as they do to mine,” Gates wrote.