Bill Gates has made a habit of circulating a list of his favorite books at the end of each year.
The books he recommends are diverse, covering a wide range of topics. In 2017, his list included The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui, a graphic novel about a Vietnamese family who came to the U.S. as refugees; Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens, a memoir by comedian Eddie Izzard; and Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond, which follows eight Milwaukee families as they struggle against poverty.
Gates’ 2018 list is no different. It includes a guide to meditation, a look at the complex world of autonomous weapons, and the memoir of a woman who grew up in a Mormon survivalist home.
“A great read is the perfect gift: thoughtful and easy to wrap (with no batteries or assembly required),” Gates wrote on his blog. “Plus, I think everyone could use a few more books in their lives.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Educated by Tara Westover
The author of this inspiring memoir, Tara Westover, didn’t attend school until she moved away from home at age 17. She grew up in a Mormon survivalist family, with parents who didn’t believe in things like public education. Westover managed to disentangle herself from her isolated upbringing, and eventually earned a PhD from Cambridge University.
“I never thought I’d relate to a story about growing up in a Mormon survivalist household, but she’s such a good writer that she got me to reflect on my own life while reading about her extreme childhood,” Gates wrote.
Army of None by Paul Scharre
How are autonomous weapons changing modern-day warfare? In this complex and riveting book, Scharre, a Pentagon defense expert and former Army Ranger, sets out to answer that question. He investigates many facets of changing military technology, including the advantages and disadvantages of autonomous weapons and the moral and legal issues surrounding their use.
“Autonomous weapons aren’t exactly top of mind for most around the holidays, but this thought-provoking look at A.I. in warfare is hard to put down,” Gates wrote.
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
This book details the rise and fall of Theranos, a startup turned billion-dollar company that vowed to transform the medical industry with a fast, easy blood-testing machine. Founded by CEO Elizabeth Holmes, the company gained the support of investors like Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, and eventually reached a value of more than $9 billion. The problem? The technology Theranos was selling didn’t actually work.
“This book has everything: elaborate scams, corporate intrigue, magazine cover stories, ruined family relationships, and the demise of a company once valued at nearly $10 billion,” Gates wrote.
21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
In this profound read, Harari builds upon his previous two books, Sapiens and Homo Deus, and addresses the most urgent issues that human beings face in this century, including climate change, artificial intelligence, terrorism, hacking, and more.
“If 2018 has left you overwhelmed by the state of the world, 21 Lessons offers a helpful framework for processing the news and thinking about the challenges we face,” Gates wrote.
The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness by Andy Puddicombe
Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk and a mindfulness expert, wasn’t always into meditation. He was once a busy, stressed-out person like the rest of us. Today, Puddicombe has developed a powerful program of guided meditation and mindfulness that takes as little as 10 minutes per day, and can have some pretty positive impacts on a person’s physical and mental health.
“If you’re thinking about trying mindfulness, this is the perfect introduction,” Gates wrote.