5 books recommended by Bill Gates and everyone should read
Updated: Jul 17, 2022
If you've ever watched the "Bill Gates Code" series on Netflix, you probably already know that Bill Gates is always reading some book. Bill Gates reads approximately 50 books a year, that's 1 a week!
In this post we are going to talk about some of the 5 best books recommended by Bill Gates and that everyone should read, including at the end what he considers to be the best book he has ever read and that you probably haven't heard of. So be sure to read until the end!
Recommended for people who want to understand the kind of strategic decision a CEO of a multi-billion dollar company needs to make.
Bill Gates hardly recommends a purely business book - he says, it's rare to find one that really captures what it's like to build and operate an organization or has tips you can actually put into practice. This is not the case with The Ride of a Lifetime.
Bob Iger already retired from the Disney CEO role, which he held for 15 years.
In the book, Bob Iger does a great job explaining how to be the CEO of a billion dollar company, telling some of the most remarkable stories from his period when Disney stocks multiplied more than 5 times as:
The purchase of Pixar, in which Steve Jobs ends up becoming Disney's largest shareholder;
The acquisition of LucasFilm, which would allow Disney to continue the sequel to the Star Wars films;
The purchase of Marvel and the subsequent success with the release of some of the most watched movies in history like The Avengers, Black Panther and Iron Man
Acquisition of 21st Century Fox;
Launch of Disney+, Disney's streaming service that already has 60 million+ subscribers.
Recommended for people who are looking to optimize performance in the company they work for.
“It doesn't matter what you know. What matters is the execution and the results you achieve.”
This phrase was said by former Intel CEO Andy Grove to John Doerr, an Intel engineer at the time.
Andy had developed a goal setting system called OKRs - Objectives and Key Results. Later, John Doerr would teach this method to Google, when the startup still had only 30 people. OKRs are currently used by over 100,000 Google employees worldwide!
OKRs is a methodology for defining objectives and metrics for evaluating results - involving why to do it, what to do and how to do it.
According to John Doerr, goals need to be connected to a compelling, audacious, action-oriented motive that inspires others, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which aims to end malaria in the world. Or like John Kennedy trying to land a man on the moon for the first time in history.
Key results, on the other hand, are related to how to achieve the results. They need to be specific, timed, difficult but possible and measurable.
A great example of OKRs in practice is by Sundar Pichai, a Google employee in 2008. Sundar defined his goal as being “to build the next generation client platform for the future of web applications in 3 years” – that is, to develop the best world internet browser. Its key result was measured through the number of users - after all, they are the ones who really decide which browser is the best.
Thus, Google Chrome was born. In the 1st year, the goal was to reach 20 million users and they didn't even get 10 million. In the second year, the goal went up to 50 million but they reached 37 million - a little better. By year three, the goal was over 100 million users. After a series of campaigns and improvements, Google Chrome would reach 111 million users in the third year!
Today Sundar Pichai is the CEO of Google.
Recommended not only by Bill Gates but also by Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama, the book is suitable for curious people with different interests.
In Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari takes on a truly impressive challenge: to tell 70,000 years of human history in just 400 pages and explain how we, homo sapiens, dominated the planet and what is yet to come for our species.
It is extremely curious how our ancestors, prehistoric humans, were insignificant animals, unimportant to the planet as a whole. Today, however, the world is dominated by our species. Yuval seeks to answer how we went from being supporting animals living in a corner of Africa to becoming the great controllers of planet earth.
The book divides the history of humanity into 4 great revolutions:
The cognitive revolution;
The agricultural revolution;
The unification of humanity;
The scientific revolution.
Yuval talks about various topics, such as food, religion, politics and money, explaining how major pillars of our current society emerged and impacted history. You really feel like you get smarter with every page of the book.
In 1991, shortly after meeting Warren Buffett, Bill asked him what his favorite business book was, and Warren recommended Business Adventures. Three decades after Warren's recommendation and more than five decades since its publication in 1969, this remains Bill Gates business book.
The book is a collection of 12 stories from great companies, such as Ford, General Electric and Xerox, and involves different business fundamentals.
Although the book involves business decisions from the 1960s and many things have changed since then, the fundamentals remain unchanged and are as current today as they were over 50 years ago.
5. Enlightenment Now - Steven Pinker
Most people believe that the world is getting worse and worse. If you watch the media every day, it's really hard not to believe that the world's problems have only gotten worse.
However, in Enlightenment Now, Steven Pinker shows, by facts and figures, how completely wrong this perception is. Precisely for this reason, Bill Gates considers this his favorite book.
The book raises a series of criteria to measure humanity's progress, such as life expectancy, poverty, wars and education. And the truth is, the world has never been so safe, rich and educated or democratic. For example:
Every decade, the world's IQ level increases by 3 points;
In 1820, 90% of the world's population lived in extreme poverty. Today, only 10%;
Over the past 100 years, we are 96% less likely to die in a car crash and 99% less likely to die in a plane crash and up to 97% less likely to die from lightning.
But why does the news still give us just the opposite feeling? Well… news is about events that happen, never about what doesn't happen. We will never see a reporter commenting on a city that has not been attacked by terrorists.
The Enlightenment Now is the kind of book that really changes people's view of the world. Moving away from a fatalistic and depressive tone of the day-to-day to a more constructive vision of the future. In which progress is the result of human ability to solve increasingly complex problems.