Want to get inside the mind of one of the world’s richest men? Just take a look at his bookshelf. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has shared his summer reading list, displaying a wide variety of non-fiction titles that cover everything from life in urban slums to the economics of energy to the life of Chinese communist leader Deng Xiaoping.

“Between family trips and some other travel I’ll be doing this summer, I probably have more reading time planned than I think I’ve had for a very long time, maybe ever since I started work,” Gates writes in a blog post. “Still, I’m probably being too optimistic about what I’ll be getting to, because I’m taking a ton of books with me.”

Now, by that comment, “taking a ton of books with me,” does that mean Gates hasn’t converted to a Kindle or a Nook? Microsoft just invested $300 million in Barnes & Noble’s Nook unit, but maybe the tech visionary is just waiting for the arrival of the Microsoft Surface before he drops the physical book.

Without further ado, here are some of Gates’ recommendations for the summer.

His top read is The Better Angels of our Nature, a more than 700-page whopper by Harvard University professor Steven Pinker. The psychologist makes the case that things are actually much better in the world today than in years past.

“This got me thinking about how we can achieve more positive outcomes in the world today through the work of our foundation,” writes Gates in a review of the book.

Other favorites include:

The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World by Daniel Yergin.

Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China by Ezra Vogel

The Cost of Hope by Amanda Bennett

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update by Donella Meadows

Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think  by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler

And Gates — who as a kid checked out so many books from the local library that the librarians refused to give him more until he returned some — has a few other titles on the night stand that he hopes to finish this summer. Those are:

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

The Man Who Stayed Behind by Amanda Bennett.

With all of these recommendations, Gates could start to compete with Oprah.

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  • sonyawiley

    Hey brother,
    Do me favor and look out for our boys while your there in my absence, which I’ll be changing soon. I’ll need my crew very soon to get to a stage near you

  • Russ

    Of note: Amanda Bennett, the author of two books on Gates’s list, married Donald Graham last weekend. Graham is chairman of The Washington Post Co., on whose board sits Melinda French Gates. Warren Buffett is close to both Gates and Graham, too.

  • http://about.me/samirsshah Samir Shah

    “The psychologist makes the case that things are actually much better in the world today than in years past.”

    Many people would disagree with me but I will vouch for Steven Pinker’s thesis.

  • Trenton

    How can Stephen Pinker even remotely suggest as much when the vast majority of the over 7 billion and counting live in hopeless squalor?!

    • Sreedhar

      Perhaps in terms of percentage. Or absolute no of people who are doing better than no of people in previous generation. You can be objective with your reasoning or simply dismiss somebody else’s assertion, like you did. :(

  • http://twitter.com/allentime2k Jeff Christensen

    I don’t see Issacson’s “Steve Jobs” on the list. Gates and MS could learn a lot about design by picking it up.

  • http://twitter.com/fijiaaron Aaron Evans

    You’d think someone who has accomplished so much would be reading something more interesting than this feel good drivel.

    It’s not like Bill Gates has to put pretentious pop-psychology nonsense on his bookshelf to make third rate nobodies think he’s intelligent — but that’s exactly what it seems like.

  • Ray Howe

    Mr Gates had begun reading Thinking, Fast and Slow when he listed it on his summer reading list. I wonder if at that time he had read as far as page 117 where Kahneman takes the Gates Foundation to task for its emphasis on small schools being best for our children. Among other things Kahneman writes the following: “The truth is that small schools are not better on average, they are simply more variable.”
    I hope Mr Gates had read that far in the book and still recommended it. I’d love to think he is that humble. In either case I would be interested to hear his response to the critique.

    • http://www.facebook.com/scottmoore.seattle Scott Moore

      Small schools are certainly better for children, as are smaller work groups. Test scores may not vary, but not all things can be measured by test scores.

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