For decades, Bill Gates made billions in technology. Now he’s spending that money on fighting disease and climate change.
It’s no wonder the man loves science.
Over the years, Gates has recommended a number of science-related books to the public. Some deal with the environment, others with the cosmos, and others with stopping tiny biological invaders.
Here are some of his favorite titles.
‘Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words’ by Randall Munroe
Munroe, the mastermind behind the xkcd web comic, published a book in 2015 that explained pieces of modern technology using only the 1,000 most common words in the English language.
Gates said that it’s a “brilliant concept” because if “you can’t explain something simply, you don’t really understand it.” One of Gates’ favorite explanations is why microwaves (“radio boxes”) cook frozen foods unevenly:
When you put iced food in a radio box, after a while, parts of it start to turn to water. But since radio boxes are really good at heating water, those parts start to get hot really fast. They can even get so hot they start turning to air—before all the ice is even gone!
‘The Gene: An Intimate History’ by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Genome science can hardly be considered a topic of mainstream interest, but Gates says Mukherjee manages to capture its relevance to people’s daily lives. He seeks to answer big questions concerning our personalities and what makes us, us.
“Mukherjee wrote this book for a lay audience, because he knows that the new genome technologies are at the cusp of affecting us all in profound ways,” Gates wrote.
Mukherjee is what Gates calls a “quadruple threat.” He’s a practicing physician, teacher, researcher, and author.
‘The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future’ by Gretchen Bakke
“The Grid” is a perfect example of how Bill Gates thinks about book genres the way Netflix thinks about TV and movies.
“This book, about our aging electrical grid, fits in one of my favorite genres: ‘Books About Mundane Stuff That Are Actually Fascinating,'” he wrote in 2016.
Growing up in the Seattle area, Gates’ first job was writing software for a company that provided power to the Pacific Northwest. He learned just how vital power grids are to everyday life, and “The Grid” serves as an important reminder that they really are engineering marvels.
“I think you would also come to see why modernizing the grid is so complex,” he wrote, “and so critical for building our clean-energy future.”