Bill Gates has become a powerful influence on publishing. An endorsement from the philanthropist and Microsoft cofounder can cause tangible sales spikes, reminiscent of the golden ticket that once came with being picked for Oprah’s book club.

So just what does Gates read? Quartz manually compiled all 186 of the books recommended on his blog, which dates back to January 2010, and organized them by topic. We’ve included all titles, even those of which Gates was mostly critical, like Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist. But this is relatively rare; Gates usually only blogs about books he recommends.

We haven’t included books Gates has recommended in interviews but not on his blog, like the two books he thinks are essential to understanding AI: Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom and The Master Algorithm, by Pedro Domingos.

Gates reads little fiction, as he readily admits, but will dabble in YA, comedic memoir, and graphic novels on occasion. As the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he is wont to recommend books on development, poverty, disease, and education on his blog.

Gates, of course, reads books on scientific topics like biology and physics, but he’s also a big fan of books that offer a scientific or mathematical framework for seeing the world, like What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, by xkcd’s Randall Munroe. Many of the books Gates endorses, especially those that focus on the long arc of human civilization, both its past and future, argue for an optimistic outlook. Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong about the World—and Why Things Are Better than You Think, a book by the late Hans Rosling, his son, and his daughter-in-law, does both: It argues for an optimism about the world through principles of sound scientific thinking, and it got a strong endorsement from Gates this year.

Factfulness is Gates' latest recommendation.
Image: Amazon

Vaclav Smil is the author Gates has mentioned the most on his blog. Smil is a highly prolific academic emeritus from the University of Manitoba in Canada, who writes about energy and public policy, among other things. Over the years Gates has recommended so many books by Smil that they warrant their own category.

In the scheme of things, Gates surprisingly does not frequently recommend books about business success or digital technology.

Here are all the books, with classification by Quartz:

Political history and biography

A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety, by Jimmy Carter

Being Nixon: A Man Divided, by Evan Thomas

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt and the Golden Age of Journalism, by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, by Ezra Vogel

A Nation of Wusses: How America’s Leaders Lost the Guts to Make Us Great, by Ed Rendell

Titan II: A History of a Cold War Missile Program, by David K. Stumpf

Human evolution and civilization

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, by Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari

The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life, by Nick Lane

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, by Steven Pinker

The Better Angels of Our Nature, by Steven Pinker

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert

The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?, by Jared Diamond

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared Diamond

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond

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

Big History: From the Big Bang to the Present, by Cynthia Brown

Origin Story: A Big History of Everything, by David Christian

Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update, by Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, and Dennis Meadows

Big technology and invention

The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and our Energy Future, by Gretchen Bakke

Sustainable Materials with both Eyes Open, by Julian M. Allwood and Jonathan M. Cullen

The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry and Invention, by William Rosen

The Grid: A Journey Through the Heart of our Electrified World, by Phillip F. Schewe

The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914, by David McCullough

The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger, by Marc Levinson

Math and science thinking

How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking, by Jordan Ellenberg

The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s really True, by Richard Dawkins

What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, by Randall Munroe

How to Lie With Statistics, by Darrell Huff

Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words, by Randall Munroe

13 Things that Don’t Make Sense, by Michael Brooks

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better than You Think, by Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, and Ola Rosling

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—but Some Don’t, by Nate Silver


Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street, by John Brooks

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike, by Phil Knight

Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything, by Carol J. Loomis

Poor Charlie’s Almanack, by Peter D. Kaufman and Ed Wexler

Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone, by Satya Nadella

Science Business: The Promise, the Reality, and the Future of Biotech, by Gary P. Pisano


Einstein, by Walter Isaacson

Broken Genius, by Joel Shurkin

Leonardo da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson


Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah

The Best We Could Do, by Thi Bui

Believe Me, by Eddie Izzard

Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh

On Immunity: An Inoculation, by Eula Biss

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi

Everything Happens for a Reason and other Lies I’ve Loved, by Kate Bowler

The Cost of Hope, by Amanda Bennett


The Heart, by Maylis de Kerangal

The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson

The Rosie Effect, by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion

Patriot and Assassin, by Robert Cook

Turtles All the Way Down, by John Green

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

The Cat’s Table, by Michael Ondaatje

The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger

A Separate Peace, by John Knowles

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders

Books by Vaclav Smil

Energy and Civilization: A History, by Vaclav Smil

Should We Eat Meat?, by Vaclav Smil

Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization, by Vaclav Smil

Harvesting the Biosphere, by Vaclav Smil

Energy Myths and Realities, by Vaclav Smil

Japan’s Dietary Transition and Its Impacts, by Vaclav Smil and Kazuhiko Kobayashi

Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing, by Vaclav Smil

Prime Movers of Globalization, by Vaclav Smil

The Earth’s Biosphere, by Vaclav Smil

Energy at the Crossroads, by Vaclav Smil

Energies: An Illustrated Guide to the Biosphere and Civilization, by Vaclav Smil

Global Catastrophes and Trends, by Vaclav Smil

Enriching the Earth, by Vaclav Smil

Why America is Not a New Rome, by Vaclav Smil

Transforming the Twentieth Century, by Vaclav Smil

Energy Transitions: History, Requirements, Prospects, by Vaclav Smil

Creating the Twentieth Century, by Vaclav Smil

Development and foreign aid

Poor Numbers: How We are Misled by African Development Statistics and What to Do About it, by Morten Jerven

Getting Better: Why Global Development is Succeeding—and How We Can Improve the World Even More, by Charles Kenny

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, by Katherine Boo

The Man Who Fed the World: Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug and His Battle to End World Hunger, by Leon Hesser

The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change, by Roger Thurow

However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph, by Aimee Molloy

In the Company of the Poor, by Paul Farmer and Gustavo Gutierrez

Mighty be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War, by Leymah Gbowee

One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?, by Gordon Conway

Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty , by Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee and Esther Duflo

How to Spend $50 Billion to Make the World a Better Place, by Bjørn Lomborg

The Foundation: How Private Wealth Is Changing the World, by Joel L. Fleishman

Give Smart: Philanthropy that Gets Results, by Thomas J. Tierney and Joel L. Fleishman

Jim Grant—UNICEF Visionary, by Richard Jolly (Ed.)

Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food, by Pamela Ronald and Raoul Adamchak

The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality, by Angus Deaton

The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty, by Nina Munk

Interventions: A Life in War and Peace, by Kofi Annan


Why Does College Cost So Much?, by Robert B. Archibald and David H. Feldman

A World-Class Education: Learning from International Models of Excellence and Innovation, by Vivien Stewart

Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, by Richard Arum and Joshipa Roksa

Why Don’t Students Like School? A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions about how the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom, by Dan T. Willingham Rebooting for the New Talent Economy, by Andrew Rosen

Unlocking the Gates, by Taylor Walsh

Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools, by Steven Brill

Who’s Teaching your Children?, by Vivian Troen and Katherine C. Boles

Stretching the School Dollar: How Schools and Districts Can Save Money while Serving Students Best, by Frederick M. Hess and Eric Osberg (Eds.)

Where Do School Funds Go?, by Marguerite Roza

Liberating Learning: Technology, Politics, and the Future of American Education, by Terry M. Moe and John E. Chubb

Work Hard. Be Nice: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America, by Jay Mathews

Value-Added Measures in Education: What Every Educator Needs to Know, by Douglas N. Harris


The Gene: An Intimate History, by Siddhartha Mukherjee

For the Love of Physics: From the End of the Rainbow to the Edge of Time, a Journey through the Wonders of Physics, by Walter Lewin

Feynman Lectures on Physics, Vol. 1: Mainly Mechanics, Radiation, and Heat, by Richard P. Feynman, Robert B. Leighton, and Matthew Sands

Feynman Lectures on Physics, Vol 2: Mainly Electromagnetism and Matter, by Richard P. Feynman, Robert B. Leighton, and Matthew Sands

Feynman Lectures on Physics, Vol 3: Quantum Mechanics, by Richard P. Feynman, Robert B. Leighton, and Matthew Sands

The New Science of Strong Materials, by J.E. Gordon

The Hair of the Dog and Other Scientific Surprises, by Karl Sabbagh

13 Things that Don’t Make Sense: The Most Baffling Scientific Mysteries of our Time, by Michael Brooks

Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, by Nathan Myhrvold

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee

I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes within Us and a Grander View of Life, by Ed Yong

Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials that Shape our Man-Made World, by Mark Miodownik

Climate change and energy

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

Sustainable Energy—without the Hot Air, by David J.C. MacKay

Unlocking Energy Innovation, by Richard K. Lester and David M. Hart

World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse, by Lester R. Brown

Global Warming: The Complete Briefing, by John Houghton

Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: Climate Change and Energy in the 21st Century, by Burton Richter

Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution—and How it Can Renew America, by Thomas Friedman

Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era, by Amory B. Lovins and Rocky Mountain Institute

Economics and wealth inequality

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond

The Power to Compete: An Economist and an Entrepreneur on Revitalizing Japan in the Global Economy, by Hiroshi Mikitani and Ryoichi Mikitani

The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living since the Civil War, by Robert Gordon

How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World’s Most Dynamic Region, by Joe Studwell

Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Piketty

Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises, by Timothy F. Geithner

The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and our Gamble over Earth’s Future, by Paul Sabin

The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers our Future, by Joseph E. Stiglitz

Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson

This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff

Beyond the Crash: Overcoming the First Crisis of Globalization, by Gordon Brown

Too Big to Fail, by Andrew Ross Sorkin

The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, by Thomas Friedman

That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World it Invented and How We Can Come Back, by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum

The End of Poverty, by Jeffrey Sachs

In Fed We Trust: Ben Bernanke’s War on the Great Panic, by David Wessel

SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, by Matt Ridley

Disease and public health

Eradication: Ridding the World of Diseases Forever?, by Nancy Leys Stepan

The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years, by Sonia Shah

House on Fire: The Fight to Eradicate Smallpox, by William H. Foege

Smallpox: The Death of a Disease, by D.A. Henderson

Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues, by Paul Farmer

Reinventing American Health Care: How the Affordable Care Act Will Improve our Terribly Complex, Blatantly Unjust, Outrageously Expensive, Grossly Inefficient, Error Prone System, by Ezekiel Emanuel

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, by Atul Gawande

Global Health: An Introductory Textbook, by A. Lindstrand, et al.

Health Care Will Not Reform Itself, by George Halvorson

Dirt and Disease: Polio before FDR, by Naomi Rogers

The Making of a Tropical Disease: A Short History of Malaria, by Randall M. Packard

Priorities in Health, by Dean T. Jamison and Joel G. Breman

Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine’s Greatest Lifesaver, by Arthur Allen

Tropical Infectious Diseases, by Richard L. Guerrant and David H. Walker

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man who Would Cure the World, by Tracy Kidder

Polio: An American Story, by David Oshinsky

Epic Measures: One Doctor. Seven Billion Patients, by Jeremy Smith

Leadership and management

The Myth of the Strong Leader, by Archie Brown

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, by Paul Tough

The Art of Being Unreasonable: Lessons in Unconventional Thinking, by Eli Broad

Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World With OKRs, by John Doerr

Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation, by Tim Brown

Happiness, psychology, and purpose

The Road to Character, by David Brooks

Where Good Ideas Come from, by Steven Johnson

Awakening Joy, by James Baraz and Shoshana Alexander

Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do, by Claude Steele

Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

Showing up for Life, by Bill Gates Sr.

Life Is What You Make It, by Peter Buffett


String Theory, by David Foster Wallace

A Champion’s Mind, by Pete Sampras

Open, by Andre Agassi


Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, by Joshua Foer

The City that Became Safe: New York’s Lessons for Urban Crime and Its Control, by Franklin Zimring

Frank Stewart’s Bridge Club, by Frank Stewart