If you’re in the mood to stay inside this holiday season, Bill Gates might have the right thing to keep you company during the festivities. To round off the year, he’s shared five of his favorite books for the holidays—including a couple that he wished his sci-fi-loving kid self could have read.
“When I was a kid, I was obsessed with science fiction. [Microsoft co-founder] Paul Allen and I would spend countless hours discussing Isaac Asimov’s original Foundation trilogy,” Gates reveals on his blog, GatesNotes. “There was something so thrilling to me about these stories that pushed the limits of what was possible.”
Then, life happened: “As I got older, I started reading a lot more non-fiction,” Gates acknowledges. “I was still interested in books that explored the implications of innovation, but it felt more important to learn something about our real world along the way.”
Two of the books in this list—Jeff Hawkins’ A Thousand Brains and Walter Isaacson’s The Code Breaker—are non-fiction explorations of artificial intelligence and the ethics of gene editing respectively.
It could be due to the rocky year he’s had, but Gates has been gravitating towards science fiction for comfort these days. “Lately, though, I’ve found myself drawn back to the kinds of books I would’ve loved as a kid.” In this category, he recommends Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun, both of which happen to be among Barack Obama’s favorite 2021 reads too.
In Project Hail Mary, a high school science teacher wakes up in a spaceship in another star system. “It’s a fun read, and I finished the whole thing in one weekend,” describes Gates. Meanwhile, Klara and the Sun follows a friendship between a 14-year-old girl and a robot named Klara. “This book made me think about what life with super intelligent robots might look like—and whether we’ll treat these kinds of machines as pieces of technology or as something more,” he adds.
The Microsoft co-founder has also included a wild card: a novel about William Shakespeare’s personal life. Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet imagines events that could have led to the Bard penning Hamlet. “His son Hamnet died at the age of 11, and a couple years later, Shakespeare wrote a tragedy called Hamlet,” details Gates. “I especially enjoyed reading about his wife, Anne, who is imagined here as an almost supernatural figure.”
Check out Gates’ top holiday reads below.