One of Library of America’s highest-profile releases of 2016 received an additional, unexpected boost yesterday when philanthropist Bill Gates named String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis one of his five favorite books of 2016.
The plug appeared on Gate’s personal blog, Gates Notes, at the top of a short but eclectic list that also includes a memoir by sneaker magnate Phil Knight and The Gene by Pulitzer Prize-winning physician Siddhartha Mukherjee. All of the books, Gates writes, “dropped me down a rabbit hole of unexpected insights and pleasures.”
The Microsoft co-founder tells his audience that String Theory “has nothing to do with physics, but its title will make you look super smart if you’re reading it on a train or plane. . . . . You don’t have to play or even watch tennis to love this book. The late author wielded a pen as skillfully as Roger Federer wields a tennis racket. Here, as in his other brilliant works, Wallace found mind-blowing ways of bending language like a metal spoon.”
Gates also shared his recommendations via a short animated video, which you can watch below:
The Gates boost follows an earlier wave of year-end acclaim for String Theory. The San Francisco Chronicle included it in its 2016 holiday gift books guide, and in a similar list in the Wall Street Journal, Will Leitch argued that Wallace’s tennis essays “make just about everything else written about sports, before or since, seem facile.”