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Bill Gates' summer reading list includes books about a 'complicated relationship'

The Microsoft co-founder recommends five books, focusing on Barack Obama's life, the fall of GE and intervention with nature.

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GatesNotes.com

Bill Gates' latest book list for his GatesNotes blog is the first since he and wife Melinda announced they're getting divorced, so some followers may be wondering if Gates is reading anything about divorce or co-parenting. If so, he's not sharing those titles. Although Gates says he finds himself reaching for books about a "complicated relationship," it's not one between divorcing spouses. Instead, the Microsoft co-founder chose "books about the complicated relationship between humanity and nature."

"Maybe it's because everyone's lives have been upended by a virus," Gates writes on Monday. "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."

Four of the books Gates recommends are nonfiction, with just one novel, The Overstory, by Richard Powers. And he sticks closely to the topics at hand, not mentioning anything too personal. In the past, he's mentioned Melinda and her book opinions or acknowledged that she suggested he read a certain book. 

The new list was delayed one month -- it was scheduled to come out on May 10. Bill and Melinda Gates announced their split on May 3. Here are Gates' five book choices for summer reading.

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

It's no surprise the man who led Microsoft for so long is fascinated with the successes and failures of other huge American companies. Lights Out: Pride, Delusion, and the Fall of General Electric, by Thomas Gryta and Ted Mann, made Gates' list. "How could a company as big and successful as GE fail?" Gates asks. "If you're in any kind of leadership role -- whether at a company, a nonprofit, or somewhere else- -- there's a lot you can learn here."

2. Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, by Elizabeth Kolbert

Gates praises Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, as a "great writer." He goes on to say, "She writes about a number of the ways that people are intervening with nature, including gene drive and geoengineering -- two topics that I'm particularly interested in. Like all of her books, it's an enjoyable read."

3. A Promised Land, by Barack Obama

Gates recommends Barack Obama's A Promised Land, which is the first volume of the former president's memoirs. "I think it's a powerful book with lots of insights into great leadership," Gates says, noting that Obama shares details about the tough decisions he made while in office, "and which ones he wonders if he got right."

4. The Overstory, by Richard Powers

Gates chose only one work of fiction, Richard Powers' 612-page The Overstory, which follows the lives of nine people while examining their connection with ... trees? "This is one of the most unusual novels I've read in years," Gates writes. "Even though the book takes a pretty extreme view towards the need to protect forests, I was moved by each character's passion for their cause and finished the book eager to learn more about trees."

5. An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System: A Tale in Four Lives, by Matt Richtel

Richtel, a New York Times journalist, focuses on four patients in An Elegant Defense, all of whom struggle to manage their immune systems in different ways. Although Richtel wrote it before the coronavirus pandemic, Gates sees the connection. "The human immune system is quite phenomenal," Gates says. "And the last 10 years we've gained a lot more knowledge, which is one of the reasons why we can make and cure lots of additional diseases."