Bill Gates made his fortune in the world of operating systems and computers, but it’s an “antiquated” system that he credits for his knowledge. Gates carries a tote bag full of books “everywhere he goes.” 

Books are so critical to Gates’s life, the tote bag plays a recurring role in the new Netflix series, Inside Bill’s Brain. The opening scene begins with a close-up of Gates carefully placing hardcover books in the bag until it reaches the top. The bag holds about fifteen books, some of which are 500-page books which weigh up to two pounds each.

Gates is “joyous about learning,” according to friends. Gates’s assistant refreshes the bag of books every week and packs it for every trip. In one scene, she’s reading off the titles of books as she packs the bag. The books range from popular non-fiction books such as Measure What MattersBad Blood, and Educated to science books that examine topics like vaccines and quantum mechanics. 

One friend recalls a vacation when Gates brought fourteen books along. “He doesn’t read one about about something, he’ll read five books about it, most of which are too dense for any mortal to read. He almost always knows more than the other person he talks to.” 

Gates shares his voracious reading habit with his good friend, Warren Buffett, who once said that knowledge builds up like compound interest. The more you read, the more you know. Although Gates travels to interesting places and meets with the world’s top scientists, “Reading is still the main way that I learn new things and test my understanding,” he once said. “Each book opens up new avenues of knowledge to explore.”

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