A Blog of Seattle Arts & Lectures

Summer Book Bingo: What Mark Suzman is Reading

We love getting a window into what our friends and community members are reading—and Summer Book Bingo, our free summer reading program with The Seattle Public Library, is our favorite way to spark those conversations. Download your card here. Engage with other bingo players and find out their own reading adventures by using the hashtag #BookBingoNW2020 on social media.

Below, Mark Suzman—the CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—tells us his game plan for getting back into reading for pleasure during this demanding time. Bonus: if you’re a fan of biographies, he’s got suggestions that will work for multiple Summer Book Bingo categories!

By Mark Suzman

Like many people, I have been working from home for months. And since my study is where we keep all our non-fiction books—novels live in the basement—I’m surrounded every day now with all these biographies and great works of politics, history, economics, and so on.

Some I’ve been meaning to read. For years. But most I’ve actually read.

Among my favorites is David Remnick’s very powerful biography of Muhammad Ali, King of the World. And I’m forever returning to George Orwell’s essays. I wish I could write like him. They’re just so fascinating on the politics of the English language, and always seem relevant, which I find kind of amazing.

Over the Fourth of July week, I started Thomas Piketty’s Capital and Ideology—a nice, light holiday read! But, sadly, books have come a distant second to articles and essays since I took on the demands of leading the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation earlier this year, especially now that we’re in the midst of a pandemic.

This summer, though, I plan to get back on track with the phenomenal biography of Richard Holbrooke, Our Man by George Packer.

As an international relations student, political junkie, and someone who’s operated in the same diplomatic circles as Holbrooke from time to time, it’s an enticing prospect. To say I knew him would be too strong, but I certainly interacted with him in different roles. So Our Man promises to be not only a fascinating portrait of a legendary and complex individual, but also an insight into the broader history of U.S. diplomacy through one of its most powerful exponents.

As Packer says, “He was our man,” meaning America’s. “Our confidence and energy, our reach and grasp, our excess and blindness – they were not so different from Holbrooke’s.”

I can’t wait to get stuck in.

A native of South Africa, Suzman joined the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2007 as director of Global Development Policy & Advocacy, becoming president of Global Policy & Advocacy in 2012 and taking on the additional responsibilities of the foundation’s first chief strategy officer in 2016. As president, he helped build and manage the foundation’s growing global presence in Europe, Africa, India, and China, as well as overseeing all government relations, philanthropic partnerships, and strategic communications in the United States and globally. As chief strategy officer, he led an overhaul of the foundation’s approach to developing and measuring strategic priorities.

Before joining the foundation, Suzman held multiple positions at the United Nations, including senior advisor for policy and strategic communications in the Office of Secretary-General Kofi Annan and policy director at the United Nations Development Program. Prior to that, he was a correspondent for the Financial Times, serving in Johannesburg, London, and Washington, D.C. He holds a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

Posted in Summer Book Bingo