Elon Musk Recommends 07 Books that Changed his Life

by Infomance 16 days ago in book review

The best thing about Elon Musk is that he makes us dream big again.

Elon Musk Recommends 07 Books that Changed his Life

Musk, of course, is the billionaire and brilliant mind behind Tesla and SpaceX. In fact, after meeting Musk, people tend to walk away with the same reaction: ‘He’s the smartest guy I’ve ever met.’

Whenever anyone asks him how he learned to build rockets, he says, ‘I read books.’

Here are some of his reading recommendations.

1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

He told the New Yorker that as an “undersized and picked upon smart-aleck,” he turned to reading fantasy and science fiction. “The heroes of the books I read, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and the ‘Foundation’ series, always felt a duty to save the world.”

2. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson.

“He was an entrepreneur,” Musk says in an interview. “He started from nothing. He was just a runaway kid.” In that same interview, he also recommends Einstein: His Life and Universe, also by Isaacson.

3. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel.

I’ve already said this is required reading for Farnam Streeters. On this book, Musk says: “Peter Thiel has built multiple breakthrough companies, and (this book) shows how.”

4. Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom.

“Worth reading Superintelligence by Bostrom. We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes.” Musk tweeted. Of course I bought this.

5. Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele.

Recently, in an interview with CNN, he mentioned having just finished this book. Musk calls it a “cautionary tale.”

6. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

Here is an excerpt from an interview where he explains why this was a key book for him:

Alison van Diggelen: I understand Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, that wonderful book by Douglas Adams, that was a key book for you. What was it about that book that fired your imagination?

Elon Musk: I guess when I was around 12 or 15 … I had an existential crisis, and I was reading various books on trying to figure out the meaning of life and what does it all mean? It all seemed quite meaningless and then we happened to have some books by Nietzsche and Schopenhauer in the house, which you should not read at age 14 (laughter). It is bad, it’s really negative. So then I read Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy which is quite positive I think and it highlighted an important point which is that a lot of times the question is harder than the answer. And if you can properly phrase the question, then the answer is the easy part. So, to the degree that we can better understand the universe, then we can better know what questions to ask. Then whatever the question is that most approximates: what’s the meaning of life? That’s the question we can ultimately get closer to understanding. And so I thought to the degree that we can expand the scope and scale of consciousness and knowledge, then that would be a good thing.”

Finally, we get to the rocket science part...

07. Ignition!: An informal history of liquid rocket propellants by John D. Clark.

“There is a good book on rocket stuff called ‘Ignition!’ by John Clark that’s a really fun one,” Musk said in an interview. Becoming a rocket scientist isn’t cheap.


Elon Musk is an engineer and technology entrepreneur. He is the founder, CEO, and chief engineer/designer of SpaceX; CEO and product architect of Tesla, Inc.; founder of The Boring Company; co-founder of Neuralink; and co-founder and initial co-chairman of OpenAI.

X-tra Fact

Elon Musk grew up reading two books a day, according to his brother. Mark Cuban reads for more than three hours every day.

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