Microsoft founder Bill Gates has released his summer reading list - it includes Richard Dawkins' latest, and the XKCD book

Emma Haslett
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He's laughing at one of those XKCD cartoons (Source: Getty)

Now in its third year, Bill Gates' summer reading list has become something of a tradition for Gates-watchers.

While last year's was hardly a laugh a minute (it featured Tim Geithner's Stress Test and Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction. Festive), this year Gates is clearly in a breezier mood - 2015's list even features an anthology of cartoons.

Want to read like the richest man in the world? Here's what Gates recommends.

Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh

"You will rip through it in three hours, tops," enthuses Gates of the book, which features "brief vignettes and comic drawing about [the author's] young life".

"But you'll wish it went on longer, because it's funny and smart as hell."

The Magic of Reality, Richard Dawkins

No matter what you think of Dawkins' brand of outspoken atheism, there's no denying he's popular. Although Gates describes The Magic of Reality as an "engaging, well-illustrated science textbook" (a classic holiday read, then), he also praises Dawkins.

"[His] antagonistic (and, to me, overzealous) view of religion has earned him a lot of angry critics, but I consider him to be one of the great scientific writer/explainers of all time."

What If?, Randall Monroe

With a subtitle of "Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions", Gates reckons this book, which takes a question-and-answer format, is "funny, but the science underpinning [it] is very accurate".

Sample question, courtesy of Gates: "From what height would you need to drop a steak for it to be cooked when it hit the ground?". Answer: "High enough that it would disintegrate".

XKCD, Randall Munroe

There aren't many who haven't stumbled - whether knowingly or not - across a cartoon from the unfailingly brilliant XKCD at some point during their online lives. "It's [a] kind of humour which not everybody loves, but I do," says Gates. We're inclined to disagree. We challenge him to find someone who doesn't snort their tea out laughing at it...

On Immunity, Eula Bliss

Given recent work by the Gates Foundation to distribute vaccinations, this seems like a pretty fitting read for Gates.

"I had no idea what a pleasure reading it would be," he says. "This is a thoughtfully written book about a very important topic."

How to Lie with Statistics, Darrel Huff

This isn't exactly a new release: the book was first published in 1954. But given the prevalence of infographics, charts and numbers "in your Facebook and Twitter feeds these days", Gates suggests this is worthwhile reading.

"A useful introduction to the use of statistics, and a helpful refresher for anyone who is already well versed in it."

Should We Eat Meat? Vaclav Smil

Is meat as bad for the planet as everyone says? Er, apparently so. "The richer the world gets, the more meat it eats. And the more meat it eats, the bigger the threat to the planet. How to we square this circle?" asks Gates.

Spoiler: he doesn't think we can expect "large numbers of people to make drastic reductions" in the amount of meat they chow down on - but "innovation, including higher agricultural productivity and the development of meat substitutes" can help. Although he helpfully points out that while timely, this book is "the least beach-friendly" on the list.

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