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Here are the books Bill Gates thinks you should be reading this holiday season.

Emily Temple

November 22, 2021, 1:01pm

Bill Gates—he’s just like us. At least in the sense that he loves to read, and he periodically recommends books on his blog, GatesNotes. Today, he’s got a new list of holiday favorites for you, both fiction and non-. “When I was a kid, I was obsessed with science fiction,” he writes. “There was something so thrilling to me about these stories that pushed the limits of what was possible. As I got older, I started reading a lot more non-fiction. I was still interested in books that explored the implications of innovation, but it felt more important to learn something about our real world along the way. Lately, though, I’ve found myself drawn back to the kinds of books I would’ve loved as a kid.” His holiday reading list includes two science fiction novels, two non-fiction books that probably would have seemed like science fiction to Gates when he was a kid, and a novel about Shakespeare. Read on to see his picks, or take them in passively with this video, no reading involved.

Jeff Hawkins, A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence

Jeff Hawkins, A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence

“Few subjects have captured the imaginations of science fiction writers like artificial intelligence,” Gates writes. “If you’re interested in learning more about what it might take to create a true AI, this book offers a fascinating theory. Hawkins may be best known as the co-inventor of the PalmPilot, but he’s spent decades thinking about the connections between neuroscience and machine learning, and there’s no better introduction to his thinking than this book.”

Walter Isaacson, The Code Breaker

Walter Isaacson, The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race

“The CRISPR gene editing system is one of the coolest and perhaps most consequential scientific breakthroughs of the last decade,” Gates writes. “I’m familiar with it because of my work at the foundation—we’re funding a number of projects that use the technology—but I still learned a lot from this comprehensive and accessible book about its discovery by Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues. Isaacson does a good job highlighting the most important ethical questions around gene editing.”

Kazuo Ishiguro, Klara and the Sun

Kazuo Ishiguro, Klara and the Sun

“I love a good robot story, and Ishiguro’s novel about an ‘artificial friend’ to a sick young girl is no exception,” Gates writes. “Although it takes place in a dystopian future, the robots aren’t a force for evil. Instead, they serve as companions to keep people company. This book made me think about what life with super intelligent robots might look like—and whether we’ll treat these kinds of machines as pieces of technology or as something more.”

Hamnet

Maggie O’Farrell, Hamnet

“If you’re a Shakespeare fan, you’ll love this moving novel about how his personal life might’ve influenced the writing of one of his most famous plays,” Gates writes. “O’Farrell has built her story on two facts we know to be true about ‘The Bard’: his son Hamnet died at the age of 11, and a couple years later, Shakespeare wrote a tragedy called Hamlet. I especially enjoyed reading about his wife, Anne, who is imagined here as an almost supernatural figure.”

project hail mary

Andy Weir, Project Hail Mary

“Like most people, I was first introduced to Weir’s writing through The Martian,” Gates writes. “His latest novel is a wild tale 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 all about how he uses science and engineering to save the day. It’s a fun read, and I finished the whole thing in one weekend.”

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