The 5 books recommended by Bill Gates

From time to time, the technology mogul publishes a list of essential reads accompanied by brief reviews, on his personal blog Gates Notes (https://www.gatesnotes.com). These recommendations are avidly anticipated by his followers.

11 January 2022

If you still aren’t sure of what to read this summer of 2022, here is the list of his picks. Among these science fiction tales, novels and extraordinary scientific studies, you will find the perfect read with which to start an inspired vacation.

  1. A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins.

This is an ideal text for those who are just entering the world of artificial intelligence and are looking for a place to start learning,” say Gates in his publication. The magnate explains that of all the topics he has been learning about lately, one of the ones he has been most passionate about is understanding how our brain cells and connections give rise to consciousness and the ability to learn. “We’re only beginning to understand how a worm’s brain works—and it has only 300 neurons, compared with our 86 billion.  So you can imagine how far we are from getting answers to the really big, important questions about brain function, including what causes neuro-degeneration and how we can block it,” he reflects.

A Thousand Brains is suitable for non-experts who have little experience in brain science or computer science. It is full of fascinating information about the architecture of the brain and offers tantalizing clues about the future of intelligent machines. In the foreword, the legendary evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins says the book “will turn your mind into a maelstrom of … provocative ideas.  I agree,” Gates concludes.

  1. “The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race” by Walter Isaacson.

This book focuses on CRISPR technology and how this may be one of the most important scientific discoveries in history because it allows the genetic code to be edited. In his book, Isaacson recounts Jennifer Dounda’s Nobel Prize-winning discovery and explains how this step has opened up a new world of “medical miracles” in terms of having healthier children, finding cures for diseases and defeating viruses. “CRISPR is one of the most brilliant and perhaps most important scientific breakthroughs of the last decade. I am familiar with it because of my work at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and I learned a lot from this comprehensive and approachable book,” writes the tycoon.

  1. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

This is Japanese writer Kazuo Ishiguro’s eagerly awaited novel following his Nobel Prize. A science fiction story that explores what it is that makes us human. Klara is a unique Artificial Friend, that is more observant and inclined to ask questions than most of its peers. This Artificial Friend needs the sun to feed and charge itself with energy. “I love good robot stories, and Ishiguro’s novel about a sick girl’s ’artificial friend’ is no exception. Although the story is set in a dystopian future, robots are not a force for evil. Rather, they are there to keep people company,” Gates explains.

In this novel, Ishiguro returns to science fiction, as he did in Never Let Me Go, and delivers a dazzling parable about our world, as he also did in The Buried Giant. “These pages bring to light his renowned storytelling power, the exquisite nature of his prose brimming with nuance and a unique ability to explore the essence of human being while asking questions like: what is it that defines us as people? What is our role in the world? What is love…,” according to the review by Anagrama, the publishing house where you can find this title in Spanish.

  1. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

This book has already received several awards including the Women’s Prize for Fiction, as well as being among the top 5 books according to The New York Times. It is the case that texts dealing with Shakespeare tend to be highly sought after by avid readers. And this one in particular has become iconic because there is very little information about the playwright’s personal life and even less about his family. “If you’re a Shakespeare fan, you’ll love this moving novel about how his personal life may have influenced how he wrote Hamlet, one of his most famous plays. O’Farrell’s novel is built around two known facts, first that his son Hamnet died at the age of 11, and some time later Shakespeare wrote one of his most famous tragedies,” Gates explains. The novel deals with the circumstances surrounding Hamnet’s death and how it affected the whole family, but especially his wife and the little boy’s mother, Anne Hathaway –-like the actress–- who in the book is known as Agnes, and who is presented as an extraordinary woman in touch with the secrets of nature and a healer who has certain prescient abilities.

  1. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

“Like most people, I was introduced to Weir’s writing through The Martian. His latest novel is a crazy story about a high school science teacher who wakes up in a different star system with no memory of how he got there. The rest of the story is about how he uses science and engineering to save himself,” Gates explains in his book review. The story is about Ryland Grace, the sole survivor on a desperate mission. This is the last chance and, if the mission fails, humanity and Earth itself will perish. “A novel that would have delighted Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. Two worlds in peril, one competent (but human and flawed) man, and endless riddles to solve while humanity is in peril. The book has everything classic science fiction fans (like me) love,” wrote the great genius George R. R. Martin.