This pick should come as no surprise — Gates has not been shy about his admiration of Smil's work. On his Gates Notes blog , he said that he has read nearly all of Smil's 37 books, most of which delve into topics like food production, energy, public policy, and the environment.
"The truth is, I’d read just about any topic he found interesting and wanted to dissect," Gates wrote of the Czech-Canadian scientist.
Check out some of Gates' favorite titles by Smil below.
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This nonfiction book explores how energy — from donkey-powered mills to renewable power sources — has shaped societies throughout history.
Smil makes the case that energy consumption and economic growth are undeniably linked.
"Yes, our history has a lot to do with kings and queens and games of thrones," Gates wrote. "Smil shows that it has even more to do with energy innovation."
Gates added that he disagrees with Smil on how quickly the world can completely transition to clean energy sources like solar and wind. Gates believes it will happen faster than Smil anticipates.
In 2015, Gates wrote that he enjoys how Smil never fails to question conventional wisdom in his work.
"Should We Eat Meat?" explores whether eating livestock — something humans have done for an estimated 2.5 million years — is healthy for us and the environment. Smil also covers ethical questions around raising animals for slaughter and details a few simple ways to eliminate cruelty.
The book is full of interesting statistics, Gates said. For example, a quarter of all ice-free land is used for grazing livestock. Every year, the average meat-eating American consumes more than enough blood to fill a soda can. And the US eats so much pepperoni each year that if all the slices were placed side-by-side, they would circle the Earth 50 times.
In "Making the Modern World," Smil considers the basic materials used throughout history, like wood stone, metals, alloys, plastics, and silicon. He then describes how each are produced, their main applications, and their environmental costs.
Smil also questions whether a gradual decline in the production of certain materials would lead to a decline in the global demand for them.
Smil examines different ways humankind has "harvested biomass" (e.g. hunting animals and growing crops), which has helped progress civilizations. At the same time, he argues that these activities are threatening the foundations of our well-being.
" Here he gives as clear and as numeric a picture as is possible of how humans have altered the biosphere," Gates wrote . "The book is a bit dry and I had to look up a number of terms that were unfamiliar to me, but it tells a critical story if you care about the impact we’re having on the planet."
Smil aims to evaluate clean energy promises from the media, politicians, business leaders, activists, and even scientists in "Energy Myths and Realities." Gates said the book's framework is useful in thinking about how to avoid our looming climate crisis.
" If you care about energy issues, I recommend this volume, though its unvarnished look at the realities of energy use and infrastructure may be disconcerting to anyone who thinks solving our energy problems will be easy," Gates wrote in 2014.