Bill Gates is one of the most famous and voracious readers in the world, so how does your summer reading list compare to his?

On his blog, the Microsoft billionaire and philanthropist has published biannual reading lists for the past eight years. This year’s summer list includes just one novel – A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – and four hefty non-fiction tomes on blood, war, capitalism and how nations manage existential challenges.

If that all seems a bit daunting, Gates keeps it real by admitting that, like the rest of us, he often ends up taking more books on holiday that he could possibly read.

“I always like to pick out a bunch of books to bring with me whenever I get ready to go on vacation,” he says. “My philosophy is that I’d rather have too much to read on a trip than too little.”

Past suggestions include Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler, from the 2012 list; and Business Adventures by John Brooks, from 2014, a book Gates says Warren Buffett recommended to him.

If these don’t seem like your average beach reads, Gates in 2015 tried to pick a few on the “lighter side”, including Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh, as well as How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff.

Reading less?

The average American spends around 15 minutes a day reading, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data released by Eurostat last year presents a varied picture across the EU - from 2 minutes per day on average in France, up to 13 minutes per day in Estonia. Studies suggest that growing up surrounded by books bolsters literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills.

Those skills are increasingly important as the Fourth Industrial Revolution takes hold, with the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report underscoring how demand is shifting toward softer skill sets.

Reading could help foster vital skills for the future.
Image: Future of Jobs Survey 2018

And while the US data shows the average number of minutes spent reading physical books has fallen since 2003, it’s not all bad news, since the way we consume books is also changing. The US audiobook market was worth nearly $1 billion last year, according to a survey from the Audio Publishers Association.

And, in the UK, a study from The Publishers Association showed that while growth in overall book sales slowed in 2018, audiobook sales soared 43%.

The average American spends around a quarter of an hour a day reading.
Image: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

“Audiobooks have grown phenomenally as ever-increasing numbers of people opt to enjoy books in a way that suits new technologies and keeps pace with our busy lives,” said Stephen Lotinga, chief executive of The Publishers Association. “Investment in digital is paying off, driving growth and meeting reader demand to access books at any time in the format of their choice.”

Perhaps by switching to audio, Bill Gates might make a bit more headway with his summer reading list. Could you?

How many of Bill Gates' book recommendations have you read?

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Bill Gates’ 2019 summer reading list:

Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis – Jared Diamond

Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood – Rose George

A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles

Presidents of War – Michael Beschloss

The Future of Capitalism: Facing the New Anxieties – Paul Collier

Image: World Economic Forum