Bill Gates has had plenty of time to read this year, or so it says in the introduction to its holiday book list. And it’s like, we get it, Bill; you are rich and have time to read for pleasure. No need to scrub it.
In a redemptive turn, however, he has collaborated with a number of local independent booksellers to donate sets of his selected readings, and admittedly it’s a solid range, especially for anyone with a science-minded bent. fiction.
There will be 100 sets available for pickup on a first-come, first-served basis today and tomorrow, November 23, at the following bookstores: Elliott Bay Book Company, Paper Boat Booksellers, Phinney Books, Madison Books and University Book Store. Now let’s move on to the playlist.
A thousand brains: a new theory of intelligence, Jeff Hawkin
Gates calls neuroscientist Jeff Hawkins’ second book “modest advances in suggesting brain structure,” which may sound like modest praise. But when it comes to a subject as complex as human cognition and neurophysiology, it’s actually a ringing endorsement. Hawkins focuses on the biggest question in the field: how do brain cells fit together to form something as vast and abstract as intelligence?
The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, gene editing and the future of the human race, Walter Isaacson
Gates declares himself a great admirer of Isaacson’s work, which includes biographies of Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin and Leonardo DaVinci. Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Jennifer Doudna joins these distinguished ranks in her latest book, which delves into the radically revolutionary development of the CRISPR method of gene editing and its implications for the future of humanity.
Clara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishigurō
This work of speculative fiction by British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro (Leftovers of the day and Never let Me Go) reflects a philosophical underpinning that unites all of Gates’ selections; it meditates on the nature of consciousness and intelligence and examines how technology shapes our sense of self as individuals and as a species, through the story of a dystopian future where children are optimized through genetic engineering and mostly socialize with their robot companions while they attend homeschool (sounds a little too real? That’s sort of the point).
Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell
A slight respite from the strong sci-fi bent of the other selections, this historical fiction novel won last year’s National Book Critics Circle Award with its moving and deeply personal look at one of the most imposing and most mythologized in history.
Project Hail Mary, Andy Weier
The lone survivor of a desperate, ultimate mission to save the human race wakes up with his memory in tatters millions of miles away from the nearest sentient lifeform – or so he believes. From the author of The Martian, this new work from Andy Weir completes the list with high science fiction.