If it was up to Bill Gates, this summer you’d read everything from an 800-page (gulp) science fiction novel to a 400-page history of the human race.
On Tuesday, Microsoft founder Bill Gates released his “eclectic” summer reading list, which he says are books “that I loved, made me think in new ways, and kept me up reading long past when I should have gone to sleep.” In addition to a science fiction and history book, there is also a book about fixing Japan’s economy, as well as math and science selections.
Here are the five books Bill Gates says you should read this summer.
1. Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson. “Seveneves inspired me to rekindle my sci-fi habit,” Gates says, after noting that he “hadn’t read any science fiction for a decade.” The book begins when the moon explodes and continues on as humans figure out that this may have catastrophic consequences for humankind. “This science-fueled saga spans millennia, but make no mistake: The heart of this story is its all-too-human heroes and how their choices, good and ill, forge the future of our species,” Amazon.com notes in its review. But readers beware: This book is long (roughly 800 pages) and has a lot of technical detail in it. However, it makes a good flat surface for your cocktail on the beach.
2. How Not to be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking, by Jordan Ellenberg. Mathematician Ellenberg shows readers how mathematics touches nearly every element of our lives, from language to the obesity epidemic to the existence of God. Ellenberg calls math “an atomic-powered prosthesis that you attach to your common sense, vastly multiplying its reach and strength.” Gates notes that sometimes the math does get “quite complicated” but adds that Ellenberg “always wraps things up by making sure you’re still with him.”
3. The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution and the Origins of Complex Life, by Nick Lane. “Nick is one of those original thinkers who makes you say, ‘More people should know about this guy’s work’,” says Gates. In this book, Lane looks at how life evolved on earth, concluding that energy plays a much larger role than was previously known. “Even if the details of Nick’s work turn out to be wrong, I suspect his focus on energy will be seen as an important contribution to our understanding of where we come from,” says Gates.
4. The Power to Compete: An Economist and an Entrepreneur on Revitalizing Japan in the Global Economy, by Ryoichi Mikitani and Hiroshi Mikitani. In this book, Hiroshi Mikitani, the founder and chief executive of Internet company Rakuten, and his economist father explore the roots of Japan’s economic troubles and explores possibilities for revitalization. Gates says that although he doesn’t agree with everything in this book, it offers “a smart look at the future of this fascinating country.”
5. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Noah Yuval Harari. This book explores, in roughly 400 pages, the creation and evolution of humans, as well as how artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, and other technologies may impact our future. “Although I found things to disagree with—especially Harari’s claim that humans were better off before we started farming—I would recommend Sapiens to anyone who’s interested in the history and future of our species,” says Gates.