Book on rational optimism recommended by Bill Gates soars up Amazon charts

The Better Angels of Our Nature by Harvard academic Steven Pinker climbs online retailer's sales rankings after tech entrepreneur's endorsement

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The Independent Online

Since stepping down as Microsoft's chief executive in 2000, Bill Gates's reputation has transformed from that of a hard-nosed businessman intent on shutting out the competition - which produced comparisons to oil magnate John D. Rockefeller - to that of a wise, inspiring philanthropist who's sought to solve some of the world's toughest social challenges.

Now, Gates regularly dispenses the wisdom he's learned over the years in an effort to get people to dream bigger, think more positively and be a force for good. He's even willing to give all this advice for free.

On Monday, Gates delivered what seemed like an entire graduation speech in the span of 14 tweets. Like the best commencement speeches, Gates's tweetstorm is a personal reflection on the ways he's grown since his time as a young adult. He admits it took him “decades” to learn about inequality, and he says he no longer believes that there is only one way to measure intelligence. He also articulates a philosophy that drives what he does: The notion that the world is steadily getting better, not worse.

The argument for that, said Gates, is laid out in a book called The Better Angels of Our Nature. Written in 2011 by the Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker, the book attempts to explain why, as the New York Times put it, “our era is less violent, less cruel and more peaceful than any previous period of human existence,” despite headlines that may scream to the contrary.

“That matters,” Gates tweeted, “because if you think the world is getting better, you want to spread the progress to more people and places.”

So it's probably no surprise that, in light of Gates's recommendation, Better Angels is surging on Amazon. As of Monday afternoon, it had risen in Amazon's sales rankings by more than 6,000 percent in the previous 24 hours.

“If I could give each of you a graduation present, it would be this — the most inspiring book I've ever read,” Gates tweeted.

New grads or otherwise, many people appear to be taking his advice.

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