UM Today UM Today University of Manitoba UM Today UM Today UM Today
Screen shot from Bill Gates' video on Vaclav Smil's latest book

Gates Notes: What sweat, wine, and electricity can teach us about humanity

August 3, 2021 — 

It’s been no secret that Bill Gates is a fan of Vaclav Smil. Gates has repeatedly cited the Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth, and Resources Distinguished Professor Emeritus as his favourite author.

With Smil’s latest book, Gates gives praise once again.

Vaclav Smil is my favorite author, but I sometimes hesitate to recommend his books to other people. His writing, while brilliant, is often too detailed or obscure for a general audience. (Deep dives on Japanese dining habits or natural gas can be a tough sell for even the smartest, most thoughtful readers.) Still, I’m a big enough fan to keep telling my friends and colleagues about his books, even though I know most of them won’t take me up on my recommendations.

That’s why I was thrilled when Vaclav released his most accessible book yet. Numbers Don’t Lie: 71 Things You Need to Know About the World, which came out last fall, takes everything that makes his writing great and boils it down into an easy-to-read format. I unabashedly recommend this book to anyone who loves learning.

This is probably the most information Vaclav has ever put in a book, and yet it’s by far the most digestible. Each chapter is just a couple pages long and covers one of the 71 facts mentioned in the title.


Here’s what Gates found particularly interesting.

© University of Manitoba • Winnipeg, Manitoba • Canada • R3T 2N2

Emergency: 204-474-9341