Maybe the book will be disappointing, but this extract, published in the Guardian, is fascinating. It explains a lot of success. I like to think that it explains why I'm a pretty good economist and why I'm not a very good Laser sailor.
(I say the book may be disappointing because many books are good articles expanded into a book, becoming tedious. This is done, I suspect, because there's a lot more fame and prestige associated with a book than an article, even if the article has 99% of the substance and can be read quickly. Why don't we reward people who write short books? )
Some comments for after you read the article:
1) People like Bill Gates may be the product of their time, but don't forget that there will millions of people who were in his age group who chose not to spend thousands of hours programming. Some were smart enough that they could have been him, but they chose to drink beer, have a social life, and have hobbies other than programming. So Gates deserves some respect for his effort.
2) The people who tried to be Bill Gates but were not in exactly the right circumstances: I bet they have been terrifically successful, even if not in Gates's league. Ending up with millions of dollars may seem to pale in comparison to Gates's billions, but it's not shabbby.