Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, has always been an avid reader, and he’s not one to shy away from recommending books he finds thought-provoking. During a speech at his old high school where he met Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Gates highlighted two books he thinks are “pretty fundamental” to read for the people he hires.
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Factfulness, the first book on Gates’ recommended list, is about ten instincts that distort our perceptions of the world and how to overcome those distortions. In a 2018 blog post about the book, Gates had this to say:
Hans [Rosling], the brilliant global-health lecturer who died last year, gives you a breakthrough way of understanding basic truths about the world—how life is getting better, and where the world still needs to improve. And he weaves in unforgettable anecdotes from his life. It’s a fitting final word from a brilliant man, and one of the best books I’ve ever read.
Gates noted that Factfulness is especially valuable to anyone graduating from college and making the transition into the next phase of life.
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The Better Angels of Our Nature, written by Steven Pinker, is the other book on Gates recommended list. In another blog post, Gates wrote that it “offers a really fresh perspective on how to achieve positive outcomes in the world”
Steven Pinker shows us ways we can make those positive trajectories a little more likely. That’s a contribution, not just to historical scholarship, but to the world.
Gates has said that these couple of books are key to his mission as a philanthropist. But overall, the “key metric” that Gates says everyone needs to develop in order to be successful is “self-confidence as a learner and willingness to keep learning.”
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