BookWatch: Bill Gates reveals his favorite books of 2016

Bill Gates is once again displaying his eclectic taste in books as he offers up his favorite reads of 2016, ranging from a book on tennis to another example of “mundane stuff that are actually fascinating.”

The Microsoft MSFT, +1.64%  co-founder and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation says the one common theme is “they all dropped me down a rabbit hole of unexpected insights and pleasures.”

Gates says he’s been reading about a book a week since childhood. The typical American reads just four in a year, according to Pew Research Center, and 26% of Americans haven’t cracked open a book (including audio books and e-books) in the past year.

Here’s what caught his attention this year:

“String Theory” by David Foster Wallace

Consider this one for your tennis-loving friends. The book, published is May, is a collection of five essays on the sport.

“Here, as in his other brilliant works, Wallace found mind-blowing ways of bending language like a metal spoon,” Gates says. Read more about why he likes the book here.

“Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight

Knight is the co-founder of Nike Inc., and Gates describes the book, published in April, as “a refreshingly honest reminder of what the path to business success really looks like: messy, precarious and riddled with mistakes.” Here’s his full assessment.

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“The Myth of the Strong Leader” by Archie Brown

This book, published in 2014, focuses on political leadership, and Gates says he read it because of this year’s election battle. Brown, he concludes, “shows that the leaders who make the biggest contributions to history and humanity generally are not the ones we perceive to be ‘strong leaders.’ Instead, they tend to be the ones who collaborate, delegate and negotiate — and recognize that no one person can or should have all the answers.”

His full review is here.

“The Gene: An Intimate History” by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Read this to get a glimpse of the future of genome science, including the ethical questions it will bring. Genome-editing technologies will affect us all, and this Columbia University doctor has written the book for non-scientists.

“It’s one thing to reprogram the code that runs our computers. Reprogramming the code that runs our species is a very different thing altogether,” Gates wrote in a November blog post that included this video interview:

Here’s his full book review.

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

This is the one on mundane but fascinating stuff, and Gates gives it an honorable mention.

Here’s his take: “Even if you have never given a moment’s thought to how electricity reaches your outlets, I think this book would convince you that the electrical grid is one of the greatest engineering wonders of the modern world. I think you would also come to see why modernizing the grid is so complex and so critical for building our clean-energy future.”

There’s no full review by Gates for this one. The book was published in July.

Gates recommended a different set of five books this summer. Here’s his list of favorites from 2015 and 2014.

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