Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) co-founder Bill Gates recently posted his top five book recommendations for this summer on his blog, and they are as cerebral and heavy as we've come to expect. All but one of the books are about major upheaval in society, a subject Gates says he has been drawn to lately. The 63-year-old philanthropist and investor also added a "typical summer book" recommendation to this year's post for those who take unwinding more seriously.
1.Upheaval, by Jared Diamond
Perhaps best known for the widely acclaimed Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond returned this year with the final book in his trilogy about the history of civilizations. Upheaval is a detailed look at how six countries coped and ultimately recovered after being rocked by crises. Delving into psychology, Diamond compares the actions of nations to that of individuals while talking about recovery.
"It sounds a bit depressing, but I finished the book even more optimistic about our ability to solve problems than I started," wrote Gates.
2.Nine Pints, by Rose George
Nine Pints is, quite simply, a book all about blood – what we know about it, what we should know about it, the meanings it holds in cultures around the world, the diseases and health conditions associated with it, its uses in the future etc. British journalist Rose George provides an illuminating look at a bodily fluid most people prefer not to see or even think about.
"I’m a big fan of books that go deep on one specific topic, so Nine Pints (the title refers to the volume of blood in the average adult) was right up my alley," Gates wrote. "It’s filled with super-interesting facts that will leave you with a new appreciation for blood."
3.A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
Gates claims to have read every book by Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky, a noteworthy achievement considering how challenging they are, but recommends the mega-bestseller A Gentleman in Moscow because it is "an amazing story that anyone can enjoy."
The novel, which follows the emotional journey of a wealthy count sentenced to house arrest during the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, has the tumultuous changes taking place in the country over 30 years as its backdrop.
4.Presidents of War, by Michael Beschloss
Gates has long had an interest in the Vietnam War, which he said "cast a long shadow over my youth," and in the past recommended the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen.
It's the main reason he picked up Presidents of War, a book historian Michael Beschloss spent 10 years writing. It spans two centuries and offers an intimate view of the the holders of the highest office in the U.S. during wartime.
"Beschloss’s broad scope lets you draw important cross-cutting lessons about presidential leadership," wrote Gates.
5.The Future of Capitalism, by Paul Collier
Capitalism, once an ideology recognized universally in Western societies as superior, has become a topic of intense debate as younger generations start to question if the system is fair. In the well-timed The Future of Capitalism, Paul Collier, a development economist and professor at Oxford University, explains what is wrong with capitalism and offers solutions to fix it and resolve conflicts it has caused.
"Although I don’t agree with him about everything—I think his analysis of the problem is better than his proposed solutions—his background as a development economist gives him a smart perspective on where capitalism is headed," wrote Gates.
For those not in the mood to read about significant moments in history or economic realities, Gates recommends The Rosie Result, the final installment in a humorous book series by Australian novelist Graeme Simsion. He also plugged his wife Melinda Gates' new book, The Moment of Lift.