If you’re out of book ideas headed into another month of staying at home, or finally ready to crack one open, Bill Gates has some suggestions.
Whether you want to learn more about pandemics amid the coronavirus outbreak or are simply looking for a distraction, Gates has you covered.
Here are five books he recommends reading right now.
The Choice, by Dr. Edith Eva Eger.
This book is partly a memoir and partly a guide to processing trauma. Eger was only sixteen years old when she and her family got sent to Auschwitz. After surviving unbelievable horrors, she moved to the United States and became a therapist. Her unique background gives her amazing insight, and I think many people will find comfort right now from her suggestions on how to handle difficult situations.
Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell.
This is the kind of novel you’ll think and talk about for a long time after you finish it. The plot is a bit hard to explain, because it involves six inter-related stories that take place centuries apart (including one I particularly loved about a young American doctor on a sailing ship in the South Pacific in the mid-1800s). But if you’re in the mood for a really compelling tale about the best and worst of humanity, I think you’ll find yourself as engrossed in it as I was.
The Ride of a Lifetime, by Bob Iger.
This is one of the best business books I’ve read in several years. Iger does a terrific job explaining what it’s really like to be the CEO of a large company. Whether you’re looking for business insights or just an entertaining read, I think anyone would enjoy his stories about overseeing Disney during one of the most transformative times in its history.
The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness by Andy Puddicombe
This book is ideal for people who have yet to dive into meditation and mindfulness. Before explaining how to meditate, the book follows the personal story of the author—from college student to Buddhist monk.
The Great Influenza, by John M. Barry.
We’re living through an unprecedented time right now. But if you’re looking for a historical comparison, the 1918 influenza pandemic is as close as you’re going to get. Barry will teach you almost everything you need to know about one of the deadliest outbreaks in human history. Even though 1918 was a very different time from today, The Great Influenza is a good reminder that we’re still dealing with many of the same challenges.
Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson.
Biography lovers rejoice! Yes, you know all about his art, but Leonardo da Vinci had a wide range of interests making this story an especially enjoyable read.
Good Economics for Hard Times, by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo.
Banerjee and Duflo won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences last year, and they’re two of the smartest economists working today. Fortunately for us, they’re also very good at making economics accessible to the average person. Their newest book takes on inequality and political divisions by focusing on policy debates that are at the forefront in wealthy countries like the United States.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.
This twist on the classic father-son story features Abraham Lincoln. The story blends history and the supernatural. Gates says you’ll want to discuss this story with a friend afterward. Maybe it’s the next book club option guaranteed to get everyone talking.
Moonwalking with Einstein, by Joshua Foer.
If you’re looking to work on a new skill, you could do worse than learning to memorize things. Foer is a science writer who got interested in how memory works, and why some people seem to have an amazing ability to recall facts. He takes you inside the U.S. Memory Championship—yes, that’s a real thing—and introduces you to the techniques that, amazingly, allowed him to win the contest one year.
The Martian, by Andy Weir. You may remember the movie from a few years ago, when Matt Damon—playing a botanist who’s been stranded on Mars—sets aside his fear and says, “I’m going to science the s*** out of this.” We’re doing the same thing with the novel coronavirus.
A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles.
The main character in this novel is living through a situation that now feels very relatable: He can’t leave the building he’s living in. But he’s not stuck there because of a disease; it’s 1922, and he’s a Russian count who’s serving a life sentence under house arrest in a hotel. I thought it was a fun, clever, and surprisingly upbeat story about making the best of your surroundings.