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Visualizing the Books That Bill Gates Loves and Recommends

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Bill Gates loves books.

The co-founder of Microsoft and heavyweight philanthropist says he reads around 50 books each year, or the equivalent of one per week for those keeping score at home.

The Stamp of Approval

On occasion, a book is so good that Mr. Gates will recommend it on his popular blog, Gates Notes. Over the years, there have been nearly 190 such recommendations on his blog, with underlying themes such as how things work and the quirks of human nature.

Today’s visualization below breaks down over 150 of Gates’ nonfiction recommendations by plotting each book based on review scores from GoodReads, one of the world’s most popular sites for book reviews. Meanwhile, the bubbles are sized based on the number of reviews, giving an approximation of the book’s overall popularity.

As an avid reader and influential person, Gates’ book recommendations hold a lot of weight, so it’s worth taking a closer look at the list.

Bill Reads Bestsellers, Too

When between scientific tomes and tennis player autobiographies, Bill Gates reads the bestsellers just like everyone else. More prominent circles on our visualization include now iconic books such as Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond, and Steve Jobs, the biography written by Walter Isaacson.

There’s something comforting in the fact that one of the world’s richest people is gaining insight from the same book you can borrow from the library for free. There’s no billionaire version of Enlightenment Now.

bill gates books popularity

Vaclav Smil’s Biggest Fan

While Bill Gates has recommended some hugely successful books, he’s also not afraid to introduce his audience to niche selections. A prime example of this is the long list of books by Czech-Canadian scientist and policy analyst, Vaclav Smil.

A prolific author, Smil has published dozens of books over his distinguished career that cover topics ranging from global energy to whether humans should be eating meat.

Vaclav Smil books

I wait for new Smil books the way some people wait for the next Star Wars movie.

– Bill Gates

Rich Visual Content

Within the long list of books with a conventional format are a few titles that have a decidedly more visual component. Interestingly, they come from books published over a half-century apart.

The first example is How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff and illustrated by Irving Geis. This unique book is full of inventive illustrations that help demonstrate concepts that would be cumbersome to explain in text form. In the age of fake news, How to Lie with Statistics has seen renewed popularity, with come help from Bill Gates’ recommendation.

Bill Gates' Visual Recommendations

Next, are two books published by Randall Munroe of XKCD fame. These books embrace a more diagrammatic approach to explaining complex concepts in Munroe’s quirky style.

Summer Reading

Based on the popularity of Gates’ recent 5 Books Worth Reading This Summer post, it’s safe to say this body of recommendations will continue to grow.

In case you missed it: Visual Capitalist recently published a book called Visualizing Change.

Correction: One of the graphics in this post previously listed the book Hillbilly Elegy as “Hillbilly Eulogy”. We regret the error.

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Personal Finance

Mapped: The Income a Family Needs to Live Comfortably in Every U.S. State

Families in expensive states require over $270,000 annually to live comfortably.

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A map showing the income that two working adults with two children need to live comfortably in each U.S. state.

The Income a Family Needs to Live Comfortably in Every U.S. State

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Families in the top five most expensive U.S. states require an annual income exceeding $270,000 to live comfortably.

This visualization illustrates the income necessary for two working adults with two children to maintain a comfortable lifestyle in each state.

“Comfortable” is defined as the income needed to cover a 50/30/20 budget, with 50% allocated to necessities like housing and utilities, 30% to discretionary spending, and 20% to savings or investments.

The calculations for family income needed in each state were done by SmartAsset, using the cost of necessities sourced from the MIT Living Wage Calculator, last updated on Feb. 14, 2024.

Massachusetts Tops the List

Massachusetts is the most expensive state to live comfortably in, requiring a total family income of about $301,184. Hawaii ($294,611) comes in second, followed by Connecticut ($279,885).

Housing is one main reason Massachusetts is an expensive state to live in, particularly in the Boston area. In addition, the state also has a high cost of living, including expenses such as healthcare and utilities.

RankStateIncome for 2 working adults raising 2 children
1Massachusetts$301,184
2Hawaii$294,611
3Connecticut$279,885
4New York$278,970
5California$276,723
6Colorado$264,992
7Washington$257,421
8Oregon$257,338
9New Jersey$251,181
10Rhode Island$249,267
11Vermont$248,352
12Minnesota$244,774
13New Hampshire$244,109
14Alaska$242,611
15Maryland$239,450
16Nevada$237,286
17Virginia$235,206
18Illinois$231,962
19Arizona$230,630
20Pennsylvania$230,464
21Maine$229,549
22Delaware$228,966
23Wisconsin$225,056
24Utah$218,483
25Michigan$214,490
26Nebraska$213,075
27Georgia$212,826
28Montana$211,411
28Iowa$211,411
30Idaho$211,245
31North Carolina$209,331
31Ohio$209,331
33Florida$209,082
34Indiana$206,003
35New Mexico$203,923
36Wyoming$203,424
37Missouri$202,259
38North Dakota$202,176
39Texas$201,344
40South Carolina$200,762
41Kansas$196,768
42Tennessee$195,770
43Oklahoma$194,106
44Alabama$193,606
45South Dakota$192,608
46Kentucky$190,112
47Louisiana$189,613
48West Virginia$189,363
49Arkansas$180,794
50Mississippi$177,798

Meanwhile, Mississippi is the least expensive state for a family to live comfortably, requiring $177,798 per year. Arkansas ($180,794) comes in second, followed by West Virginia ($189,363). In common, all these states share low prices of housing.

Learn More About Cost of Living From Visual Capitalist

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out this graphic, which ranks the median down payment for a house by U.S. state.

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