How Bill Gates' summer reading list compares to Amazon reviews

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Bill Gates, the world’s richest technologist has published a recommended summer reading list on his blog; it’s a mix of policy, business, and fiction for the ambitious intellectual who wants to ponder world domination while sipping Mai Tai’s in the shade.

The list itself (below) gives us some insight into what powerful people think and how we might emulate their learning habits.

1. Business Adventures (4.5 stars): Proclaimed as Bill Gates’ favorite book, it has skyrocketed to the top of Amazon’s chart. “Even though Brooks wrote more than four decades ago, he offers sharp insights into timeless fundamentals of business,” Gates writes on his blog.

2. Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises (4 stars): Former Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner remarks on his experience with the disastrous 2008 economic crash. “The central irony of Stress Test is that a guy who was accused of being a lousy communicator as U.S. Treasury Secretary has penned a book that is such a good read,” writes Gates. The book’s less-than-stellar rating on Amazon reflects readers who are skeptical that someone involved in the crisis could judge himself objectively.

3. The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism (4.5 stars): Gates loves the book because it answers the questions, “How does social change happen? Can it be driven by a single inspirational leader, or do other factors have to lay the groundwork first?” The book is a solid mix of history and leadership.

4. The Rosie Project: A Novel (4.5 stars): This story of a genetics professor who looks for his wife-to-be with the rigor of a scientist has caught Gates’ heart. “It’s a funny and profound book about being comfortable with who you are and what you’re good at,” he writes. It’s for nerds, obviously.

5. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (4.5 stars): A book that looks at myriad other extinction events humans may cause due to mass production. Climate change, Gates asserts, is “not the only environmental concern on the horizon.” This book seems just original enough to avoid critics of climate change giving it low reviews.

6. Reinventing American Health Care (4 stars): Written by former presidential health advisor and one of the brothers Emanuel, Ezekiel Emanuel, this is an unapologetic defense of Obamacare.

Rarely does a major intellectual figure outline his reading list, so how often would the wisdom of the (book-reading) masses have surfaced these gems to the top on Amazon’s own ranking? Amazon allows readers to rank books by rating, because they know its an important factor. Indeed, when I’m looking for some reading material, I’ll sort by Amazon ranking. Anything below a 4.5 will get often buried. It’s good to know that perhaps the best political books (and those who shape the minds of the nation’s elite) are not rated the highest.

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