Editor's note: This popular story from the Daily Briefing's archives was republished on June 7, 2019.
Bill Gates is an avid reader and prolific book-recommender: Since starting his blog in January 2010, he has recommended 185 books to his readers—of which 17 are related to health care.
Thu-Huong Ha compiled the recommendations into a list for Quartz, although Ha notes that it does not include books that Gates has recommended in interviews rather than on his blog.
Ha writes that Gates reads very little fiction "but will dabble in [young adult], comedic memoir, and graphic novels on occasion." Ha adds that Gates, who is co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is "wont to recommend books on development, poverty, disease, and education."
Of the 185 books that Gates has recommended over the years, the 17 health care books are:
- Dirt and Disease: Polio before FDR by Naomi Rogers. Gates wrote that in the early 1900s, "the poor were often blamed for the spread of polio," a "distressing" misunderstanding that "took a lot to overcome";
- Epic Measures: One Doctor. Seven Billion Patients by Jeremy Smith, which Gates called a "highly readable account" of the work of Chris Murray, who established the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation;
- Eradication: Ridding the World of Diseases Forever? by Nancy Leys Stepan, which Gates wrote is an exploration of efforts to eradicate diseases that "gives you a good sense of how involved the effort to eradicate a disease can get, how many different kinds of approaches have been tried without success, and how much we've learned from our failures";
- Global Health: An Introductory Textbook by A. Lindstrand, et al., which Gates called "a great resource for public health students" that "clearly shows the relationship between health and social, environmental, and economic factors";
- Health Care Will Not Reform Itself by George Halvorson, which Gates wrote describes "the potential of 'Obamacare' to improve the [health care] system";
- House on Fire: The Fight to Eradicate Smallpox by William H. Foege, which Gates called a "great view from the front lines" of the effort to eliminate smallpox;
- Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues by Paul Farmer, which Gates described as a book by "an amazing advocate for the health of the world's poorest people" that "really opens your eyes to the vast differences" in the health of the rich and the poor;
- Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder, which Gates wrote describes Farmer's "life fighting infectious disease across several countries";
- Polio: An American Story by David Oshinsky, which Gates called "a fascinating account of the search for a vaccine" to prevent polio by "a gifted storyteller who makes complex scientific subjects easy to understand";
- Priorities in Health by Dean T. Jamison and Joel G. Breman, which Gates wrote offers "an overview of the scope of diseases and the work needed to fight them";
- Reinventing American Health Care: How the Affordable Care Act Will Improve our Terribly Complex, Blatantly Unjust, Outrageously Expensive, Grossly Inefficient, Error Prone System by Ezekiel Emanuel, a case for health reform by one of the architects of the Affordable Care Act that Gates writes "would be useful to anyone involved in the debate over health care, no matter what their point of view is";
- Smallpox: The Death of a Disease by D.A. Henderson, which details a personal story of the World Health Organization's effort to eradicate smallpox;
- The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande, whose work "testing the use of a simple checklist to increase the maternal and infant survival rate during childbirth in developing countries" Gates wrote "fascinated" him;
- The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years by Sonia Shah, "the best choice," according to Gates, "[i]f you want to read just one book about malaria";
- The Making of a Tropical Disease: A Short History of Malaria by Randall M. Packard, which Gates wrote explains how "[c]limate change and other factors" made malaria "a disease of the tropics";
- Tropical Infectious Diseases by Richard L. Guerrant and David H. Walker, which Gates praised for reviewing the challenges of diagnosing and treating a broad range of tropical diseases"; and
- Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine's Greatest Lifesaver by Arthur Allen, which Gates called a "really interesting history of the big medical and social challenges" that had to be overcome to make vaccines publicly available (Ha, Quartz, 5/26).
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