Bill Gates' summer reading list will keep your brain busy during lockdown

He also recommends playing online bridge.

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Rae Hodge was a senior editor at CNET. She led CNET's coverage of privacy and cybersecurity tools from July 2019 to January 2023. As a data-driven investigative journalist on the software and services team, she reviewed VPNs, password managers, antivirus software, anti-surveillance methods and ethics in tech. Prior to joining CNET in 2019, Rae spent nearly a decade covering politics and protests for the AP, NPR, the BBC and other local and international outlets.
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Bill Gates has some summer reading suggestions for you.


In the latest iteration of his annual tradition, Microsoft co-founder  Bill Gates on Monday recommended a new crop of books  in his summer reading list. Bounded by some heavy topics -- a historical appraisal of the 1918 influenza pandemic, along with the memoir of a therapist who survived Auschwitz -- the list offers lessons on survival and success, as well as a heavy dose of distraction. 

"Most of my conversations and meetings these days are about COVID-19 and how we can stem the tide," Gates wrote in a Monday blog post on GatesNotes. "But I'm also often asked about what I am reading and watching -- either because people want to learn more about pandemics, or because they are looking for a distraction."  

The billionaire philanthropist has been outspoken about the gravity of the global pandemic. Gates has provided millions for the global response to the outbreak and made it a primary focus of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in the last few months. Earlier in May, Gates began funding an at-home coronavirus testing program that aims to uncover how the virus moves through communities.

In addition to the books, Gates this year also listed some TV shows and movies he's been enjoying, and he recommended playing online bridge. 

Here's a look at the five summer books on Gates' list:

The Choice

Edith Eva Eger's story of surviving Auschwitz as a 16-year-old to become a therapist in the US is focused on processing trauma. Gates said he thinks "many people will find comfort right now from her suggestions on how to handle difficult situations."

Cloud Atlas 

Gates includes David Mitchell's entangled, multiplot 2004 novel in his summer reading list. The widely hailed work quickly became something of a literary obstacle course when it was released. Its intertwining six plotlines make it an apt choice for readers needing a satisfactorily challenging distraction during lockdown. Gates' favorite bit, he said, is the American doctor on a sailing ship in the South Pacific in the mid-1800s.

The Ride of a Lifetime

Gates said Bob Iger's 2019 memoir about his days overseeing Disney is "one of the best business books I've read in years." What makes Iger's tale so special? According to its September review in The New York Times, it covers "the 40 trips he took to Shanghai in 18 years to complete the labyrinthine negotiations to open the $6 billion Shanghai Disneyland."

The Great Influenza

Gates' selection of John M. Barry's historical delve into the influenza pandemic of 1918 brings the 2004 bestseller back into the literary spotlight. An interestingly political choice for Gates, the book was also read by President George W. Bush in 2005, who credited it with shaping his US preparedness policy on a potential influenza pandemic. Gates called the book "a good reminder that we're still dealing with many of the same challenges."

Good Economics for Hard Times

Tucked into the topics covered in MIT Professors Esther Duflo's and Abhijit V. Banerjee's roundly praised economic analysis is a wrestling match with current ideas around tech-driven unemployment and job loss. Gates' recommendation, however, spotlights the book' take on "inequality and political divisions by focusing on policy debates that are at the forefront in wealthy countries like the US."

Read more: Bill Gates tells you which five books to read over the holiday season 

Watch this: Bill Gates's top mistake? Letting Google's Android rule the world (The 3:59, Ep. 576)