Story at a glance

  • As the coronavirus pandemic continues into the winter, many Americans will be staying in even more than usual.
  • Several old and new books are relevant reads in the weeks after the election.
  • Bill Gates recommended several books in a recent interview.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably looking for a break from the coronavirus-election rollercoaster you’ve been on this year. Bill Gates understands. 

“I read less than I had for decades because there was so much disease-related readings that I wasn’t doing other things," he admitted to Fast Company this summer. 

But he’s trying to do better, he said in a virtual "fireside chat" with Stanford Medicine’s Dean Lloyd Minor in October. So whether you’ve run through your pandemic reading list, fallen off and need a good book to sink your teeth into or just need something to take your mind off the election, here are a few Gates-approved reads:


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“The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”  

This book by Michelle Alexander was published two years after President Barack Obama's election and won several awards in addition to critical acclaim from the New York Times and others. A decade later, the issues of mass incarceration and racism in the criminal justice system remain relevant in the wake of police killings of Black Americans and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“There’s a lot of books about racial injustice that I probably should have read more of in the past,” Gates told Minor. 

“Breath from Salt: A Deadly Genetic Disease, a New Era in Science, and the Patients and Families Who Changed Medicine Forever”  

This not-yet-published book has already seen praise from the likes of author Dan Fagin and Preston Campbell, the former president and CEO of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Science journalist Bijal Trivedi tells the story of Joe O'Donnell, a businessman who raised hundreds of millions for the foundation after losing his son to cystic fibrosis. 


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The book is “a great example of where brilliant researchers at the academic level, a company [and] donors came together to achieve something that it wasn’t even clear could be done,” Gates, a billionaire philanthropist himself, told Minor. “To take on a disease like that, it’s very inspiring. There’s a lot of great stories in that.”  

“The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz”

Erik Larson's account of Winston Churchill's response to the Blitz during World War II was released in February ahead of the much anticipated 2020 presidential election and was already on Gate’s list this summer, he told Fast Company. 

At its core, the book is about “a leader who was under a lot of pressure and doubt with things,” Gates told Minor. Sound familiar? “Even though we can get obsessed about political stuff, stepping back and reading thoughtful books is very helpful."  

“Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World”  

Authored by journalist Fareed Zakaria, a host on CNN and writer for the Washington Post, this book gives readers a glimpse into a future after COVID-19, even as coronavirus cases continue to add up in the United States. 

“It’s a very promising title,” Gates said. 

Is reading more one of those lessons? Only one way to find out. 

See the full interview here: 


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Published on Nov 05, 2020