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Bill Gates must-read books from 2016

A woman reads a book at her open air book store in Skopje April 24, 2014. Macedonians will cast their ballots on Sunday April 27 in the second round of the presidential vote, overshadowed by the general elections. Macedonian voters look likely to hand conserva

The essential books of 2016 to read, according to Bill Gates. Image: REUTERS

Chris Weller
Ideas Reporter, Business Insider
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Not only does Bill Gates read 50 books a year, but somehow he also manages to pick his favorites.

For the last several years, the Microsoft founder has selected a handful of titles that caught his eye over the past year and published the list to his blog, Gates Notes.

If you want to be just a little bit smarter in 2017, here's what you should add to your reading list.

'String Theory' by David Foster Wallace

No, not that kind of string theory.

The book is a collection of essays from David Foster Wallace that all revolve around tennis — the late author's favorite game.

Gates says he's been trying to get back into the sport after some small professional matters (read: starting one of the world's largest tech companies and becoming a celebrated philanthropist) got in the way.

"You don’t have to play or even watch tennis to love this book," he writes. Wallace "wielded a pen as skillfully as Roger Federer wields a tennis racket."

'Shoe Dog' by Phil Knight

Knight, the co-founder of Nike, released the first insider account of the world-famous retailer earlier this April.

Gates calls the book a "refreshingly honest" reminder that the road to success is never a straight line. It's a winding path rife with disagreements, fallouts, and hurt feelings.

"I've met Knight a few times over the years," Gates writes. "He's super nice, but he's also quiet and difficult to get to know. Here Knight opens up in a way few CEOs are willing to do."

'The Gene: An Intimate History' by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Genome science can hardly be considered a topic of mainstream interest, but Gates says Mukherjee manages to capture its relevance to people's daily lives. He seeks to answer big questions concerning our personalities and what makes us, us.

"Mukherjee wrote this book for a lay audience, because he knows that the new genome technologies are at the cusp of affecting us all in profound ways," Gates writes.

Mukherjee is what Gates calls a "quadruple threat." He's a practicing physician, teacher, researcher, and author.

'The Myth of the Strong Leader' by Archie Brown

Two years ago, Oxford political scientist Archie Brown offered his theory that history's most effective leaders don't actually live up to the tough-as-nails stereotype. They aren't all "strong leaders."

Figures such as FDR and Nelson Mandela instead wielded a more discreet kind of power — mainly through their delegation and diplomacy. Given that Donald Trump won the most recent election largely for his perceived strength, Gates says Brown's book is incredibly relevant.

"Brown could not have predicted how resonant his book would become in 2016," Gates writes.

'The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future' by Gretchen Bakke

"The Grid" is a perfect example of how Bill Gates thinks about book genres the way Netflix thinks about TV and movies.

"This book, about our aging electrical grid, fits in one of my favorite genres: 'Books About Mundane Stuff That Are Actually Fascinating,'" he writes.

Growing up in the Seattle area, Gates' first job was writing software for a company that provided energy to the Pacific Northwest. He learned just how vital power grids are to everyday life, and "The Grid" serves as an important reminder that they really are engineering marvels.

"I think you would also come to see why modernizing the grid is so complex," he writes, "and so critical for building our clean-energy future."

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