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Bill Gates names his top book recommendations of the summer—and the one that's a ‘must-read'

Source: Gates Notes

Bill Gates wants you to spend some time this summer reading and watching stories about people helping others.

The billionaire Microsoft co-founder, a voracious reader who regularly shares his top book recommendations, released his newest list of summer reads on Tuesday. This year's list includes one book in particular that Gates "can't recommend ... highly enough," he wrote in a post on his personal blog.

The book is called "How to Know a Person," and it's a bestseller written by New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks. The book, which offers tips to become a better listener, forced Gates to reflect on his own communication skills and habits in ways that "will stay with me for a long time," he wrote.

Gates' recommendations also include a streaming TV series about British secret agents, a novel about a Vietnam War nurse and two non-fiction reads on topics ranging from generosity to artificial intelligence's potential for the education world.

"I didn't intend to go deep on the idea of service, but it's certainly as relevant today as ever," Gates wrote.

Here are the four books, and one TV show, that Gates recommends checking out during your summer downtime.

'The Women,' by Kristin Hannah

Hannah's bestseller, released in February, is a work of historical fiction set during the Vietnam War. It follows protagonist Frances McGrath through a traumatic journey with the Army Nurse Corps, as she contends with the horrors of war and anger and political division upon returning stateside.

Gates read it while vacationing in Vietnam, on the recommendation of his brother-in-law, a Vietnam War veteran himself.

"Although I've read and watched a lot about the war in Vietnam, 'The Women' made me think about it in a new light," wrote Gates. "I didn't know about the critical role so many women played, and it was both eye-opening and inspiring to learn more about the frontline nurses who saved countless lives."

Hannah has written multiple popular novels, including 2015 bestseller "The Nightingale."

"I can see why," wrote Gates, who called Hannah's latest work "a beautifully written tribute to a group of veterans who deserve more appreciation for the incredible sacrifices they made."

'Infectious Generosity,' by Chris Anderson

As head of the TED Conferences, Chris Anderson is no stranger to discussing big, world-changing ideas. In his new book, Anderson argues "that we need to expand our definition of generosity," Gates wrote.

In "Infectious Generosity," Anderson explores the definition of generosity, weighing how to inspire everyone from average people to governments and corporations to commit more generous acts. Beyond giving money to charitable causes, that means finding new ways to give your time, skills and compassion, according to Anderson.

"If you want to help create a more equitable world but don't know where to start, 'Infectious Generosity' is for you," Gates wrote.

'Slow Horses' on Apple TV+

The TV show, which streams on Apple TV+, is right up Gates' alley: "I'm a sucker for stories about spies," he wrote.

"Slow Horses" is based on the "Slough House" series of novels by author Mick Herron. It revolves around members of the British security agency MI5 who remain committed to serving their country —despite the fact their respective careers are languishing in a backwater office.

Gates was particularly taken with the character of Jackson Lamb, portrayed by Gary Oldman.

"Oldman plays the head of Slough House, who's basically the polar opposite of James Bond," wrote Gates. "He's a slob and an alcoholic who is mean to his subordinates, but then he surprises you with some amazing bit of spycraft."

As an entertaining, amusing thriller to binge this summer, Gates highly recommends "Slow Horses," which he puts "up there with the best spy stuff I've seen."

'Brave New Words,' by Sal Khan

This book, written by nonprofit Khan Academy's CEO and founder, makes a case for how and why AI will transform education for the better. Primarily, Khan writes that AI has the potential to help "close the education gap" by assisting overworked teachers and providing low-cost tutoring tailored to individual students' needs.

Gates, who partially funded Khan Academy through a $1.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2010, seems fully bought into the argument.

"Sal argues that AI will radically improve both outcomes for students and the experiences of teachers, and help make sure everyone has access to a world-class education," the billionaire wrote. "He's well aware that innovation has had only a marginal impact in the classroom so far but makes a compelling case that AI will be different."

'How to Know a Person,' by David Brooks

In "How to Know a Person," Brooks offers tips for being a "loud" listener, which he describes as going beyond actively listening to other people — to the point that you are "practically burning calories." 

"More than a guide to better conversations, it's a blueprint for a more connected and humane way of living," Gates wrote. "It's a must-read for anyone looking to deepen their relationships and broaden their perspectives."

It's easy to listen intently when you're talking about one of your passions. The book helped Gates realize "how transformative it can be [for your relationships] to bring that same enthusiasm when listening to someone talk about a hardship they're dealing with or an accomplishment they're proud of," he wrote.

By focusing on the concept of improving how you connect with others, Brooks' book "has the power to make us better friends, colleagues, and citizens," Gates added.

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