Microsoft (MSFT) CEO, billionaire and philanthropist, Bill Gates, has a reputation as a voracious reader. In fact, Gates has a reputation for carrying an outlandish number of books when traveling, far more than he will be able to read on any given trip. While he is sometimes known for reading heavier, academic books, this summer, he has recommended five lighter reads to transport us elsewhere: three memoirs, a novel, and a book on the future of humanity.

For related reading, see: 11 Summer Books to Read That JP Morgan Recommends (JPM)

Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah 

Born to a white, Swiss father, and a black, Xhosa mother in apartheid South Africa, Trevor Noah was born not just a misfit but also, quite literally, a crime. Taking stock of his often tragic childhood, Noah carries us with him, exploring, among other things, the awesome power of language, in building connections with people. Noah writes, “My color didn’t change, but I could change your perception of my color. If you spoke to me in Zulu, I replied to you in Zulu. If you spoke to me in Tswana, I replied to you in Tswana. Maybe I didn’t look like you, but if I spoke like you, I was you.” Noah tells this heartbreaking story with his trademark wit and humor, leaving us laughing throughout. 

Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance 

In this memoir, Vance, a former Marine and Yale Law graduate brings a personal account of growing up white and poor in the Rust Belt. The decline of the white working class has been oft-cited as cause for concern, but no one has offered such an incisive account of this decline from within. Hillbilly Elegy doubles as a story of American success and of American disenfranchisement for a large portion of the population, with insights into "some of the complex cultural and family issues behind poverty," writes Gates. But, also according to Gates, "The real magic lies in the story itself and Vance's bravery in telling it." 

A Full Life, by Jimmy Carter 

Here, Carter submits a brief, concentrated memoir.  Spanning from his childhood in rural Georgia, with no running water, electricity or insulation, to his time in the Navy as an officer and nuclear sub developer, to his political career, the memoir offers insights and imparts wisdom to each of its readers.  

The Heart, by Maylis de Kerangal 

The Heart isn't so much a novel, it's "poetry disguised as a novel," according to Gates. Following the death of a young French surfer, The Heart is a story following the heart transplant, from the surfer's body into the beneficiary. While the novel is the telling of this story, it is more a beautifully written meditation on life, death, grief and yes, the heart. Gates suggests this book as a good "counterweight" for those who generally stick with nonfiction. 

Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari 

From evolutionary historian and futurist, and the author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, comes Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. Where Sapiens was an exploration of the ways in which humans have been defined and shaped evolutionarily, through biology, culture and history, Homo Deus is an exploration of the evolutionary future. Through the course of human evolution, we have curbed famine, plague and war. This begs the question, what will replace these challenges? Harari considers the challenges and questions that will shape the 21st century, and offers some educated guesses as to the path humanity will chart. Says Gates, "I don't agree with everything Harari has to say, but he has written a smart look at what may be ahead for humanity."

Want to learn how to invest?

Get a free 10 week email series that will teach you how to start investing.

Delivered twice a week, straight to your inbox.