Inside Bill's Brain

And my favourite hagiographies.

Seven days ago, we welcomed our second child, Noah, into the world. I’d forgotten so many of the details of newborns - they’d blurred into my fatigue-drenched memory.

But what could be more spectacular than a tiny human with their entire existence in your hands, the endless possibilities of life ahead of them, and for now, just soft sleep on warm afternoons.


In the quiet of these first days, I’ve found time to watch Inside Bill’s Brain on Netflix. I loved it, especially seeing Gates’ efforts to create better third-world sanitation, eradicate polio, and invent alternative forms of nuclear energy. But Rotten Tomatoes only gave it 40%, and I didn’t disagree with Brad Slingerland’s SITAL assessment which described it as “30-40 minutes of breezy questioning of Gates spliced into three hours of miscellaneous Microsoft history”.

Perhaps the divergence for me comes from the fact that biographical documentaries are just about my favourite movie genre. To get these movies made, too often they verge on hagiography, which is a great word that means “a biography that treats its subject with undue reverence.

Without further ado then, here are my all-time favourite hagiographies.

Please reply and tell me if I’ve missed a good one!


If you’re interested, I had a great chat last week with Ted Richards on The Richards Report about Blackbird’s investment decision-making process, why and how I track every minute of my time, and the transformative power of storytelling.


In a now iconic line, Lena Dunham’s character in Girls said: "I think I might be the voice of my generation. Or, at least, a voice of a generation." I think Jia Tolentino can rightfully claim that mantle now. I’m enjoying her book Trick Mirror, which is full of crystalline insight into the internet-powered world we all inhabit:

Throughout the eighties and nineties, people had been gathering on the internet in open forums, drawn, like butterflies, to the puddles and blossoms of other people’s curiosity and expertise.

In the twenty-first century it would sometimes be impossible to differentiate between the pretext for an experience, the record of that experience, and the experience itself.

On the internet, a highly functional person is one who can promise everything to an indefinitely increasing audience at all times.


“His dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him.” ― The Great Gatsby

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