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Visualizing the Books That Bill Gates Loves and Recommends



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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United States

Mapped: How Much Does it Take to be the Top 1% in Each U.S. State?

An annual income anywhere between $360,000-$950,000 can grant entry into the top 1%—depending on where you live in America.



A cropped map of the U.S. listing the annual income needed to be in the top 1% in each state.

How Much Does it Take to be the Top 1% in Each U.S. State?

There’s an old saying: everyone thinks that they’re middle-class.

But how many people think, or know, that they really belong to the top 1% in the country?

Data from personal finance advisory services company, SmartAsset, reveals the annual income threshold at which a household can be considered part of the top 1% in their state.

Some states demand a much higher yearly earnings from their residents to be a part of the rarefied league, but which ones are they, and how much does one need to earn to make it to the very top echelon of income?

Ranking U.S. States By Income to Be in the Top 1%

At the top of the list, a household in Connecticut needs to earn nearly $953,000 annually to be part of the one-percenters. This is the highest minimum threshold across the country.

In the same region, Massachusetts requires a minimum annual earnings of $903,401 from its top 1% residents.

Here’s the list of all 50 U.S. states along with the annual income needed to be in the 1%.

RankStateTop 1% Income
Top 1% Tax Rate
(% of annual income)
4New Jersey$817,34628.01%
6New York$776,66228.29%
10New Hampshire$659,03726.25%
N/ANational Average$652,657N/A
18South Dakota$590,37322.99%
20North Dakota$585,55624.76%
25North Carolina$559,76225.31%
28Rhode Island$548,53125.26%
35South Carolina$508,42724.40%
48New Mexico$411,39523.35%
50West Virginia$367,58223.26%
N/ANational Median
Household Income

California ($844,266), New Jersey ($817,346), and Washington ($804,853) round out the top five states with the highest minimum thresholds to make it to their exclusive rich club.

On the other end of the spectrum, the top one-percenters in West Virginia make a minimum of $367,582 a year, the lowest of all the states, and about one-third of the threshold in Connecticut. And just down southwest of the Mountain State, Mississippi’s one-percenters need to make at least $381,919 a year to qualify for the 1%.

A quick glance at the map above also reveals some regional insights.

The Northeast and West Coast, with their large urban and economic hubs, have higher income entry requirements for the top 1% than states in the American South.

This also correlates to the median income by state, a measure showing Massachusetts households make nearly $90,000 a year, compared to Mississippians who take home $49,000 annually.

How Much Do the Top 1% Pay in Taxes?

Meanwhile, if one does make it to the top 1% in states like Connecticut and Massachusetts, expect to pay more in taxes than other states, according to SmartAsset’s analysis.

A chart showing how states with the top highest and lowest average tax rates for their top 1% residents.

The one-percenters in the top five states pay, on average, between 26–28% of their income in tax, compared to those in the bottom five who pay between 21–23%.

And this pattern exists through the dataset, with higher top 1% income thresholds correlating with higher average tax rates for the wealthy.

State RanksMedian Tax Rate
Top 1026.65%

These higher tax rates point to attempts to reign in the increasing wealth disparity in the nation where the top 1% hold more than one-third of the country’s wealth, up from 27% in 1989.

Where Does This Data Come From?

Source: SmartAsset’s America’s Top 1% Is Different in Each State uses data from 2020 individual tax filings from the IRS, adjusted to 2023 dollars using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index.

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