10 Book Recommendations From Elon Musk That Will Advance Your Knowledge
Elon Musk, the mastermind behind SpaceX, Tesla, and Paypal is also passionate about reading. He credits most of his success to the books he read as both a child and as an adult. His family says that as a kid, he always had a book with him where ever he went. His mother told Tad Friend of The New Yorker, “Elon would accompany me to dinner parties if I didn’t have a date. I’d bring him to meet some interesting adults, and he’d hide a book under the table to read if they weren’t interesting enough.” His brother had a similar anecdote recalling that Musk would read up to two books in a day.
Take it from one of the most successful people in tech and add these books Musk’s recommends to your Goodreads’ list.
In between all the business books on Musk’s bookshelf are some wonderful pieces of fiction. Musk recommends Lord of the Rings, a book that helped him shape his vision for his future. Musk told Friend, “The heroes of the books I read … always felt a duty to save the world.” By the looks of it today, it appears Tolkien’s whimsical tale inspired Musk in his successes.
A sci-fi novel that inspired Musk as a kid is the Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov. Musk says that it was one novel that inspired him to pursue a business in space exploration. In an interview with The Guardian, Musk explains why. “It’s sort of a futuristic version of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Let’s say you were at the peak of the Roman empire, what would you do, what action could you take, to minimise decline?” Musk is doing his best to build a civilization on Mars by the year 2050.
Musk went from coding to building rockets and attributes J.E. Gordon’s book helpful in doing so. Gordon’s book clearly explains why bridges don’t collapse, or skyscrapers fall over. Musk tells Frances Anderton, creator of KCRW’s Design and Architecture show, “It is really, really good if you want a primer on structural design.” If you’re looking to compete with SpaceX, you’ll want to be sure to start with Gordon’s best-seller.
Something Musk discusses frequently is AI and its effect it will have on humanity at the rate it is being developed now. James Barrat discusses in his book Our Final Invention how AI could become humanity’s competitors. Barrat begs the question of whether or not people can coexist with something that could become more powerful over time. Musk rated Our Final Invention as the top five books people should read pertaining to the future.
Walter Isaacson is the author of many other biographies and has published books on Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo da Vinic, and more. Isaacson happens to be one of Musk’s favorite authors to read, citing his book, Einstein: His Life and Universe as one. The book explains how Einstein became an inventor after many frustrating years of working as a patent officer through letters Einstein wrote.
The seventh book in the Culture Series, Look to Windward takes place 800 years in the future. The 50 billion people who inhabit the fictional planet Masaq, are all grieving the aftermath of one of the most horrific wars society has ever seen. An original novel that anyone who is like Musk and enjoys sci-fi will want to pick up.
You probably read Lord of the Flies in high school. William Golding writes about a group of school children who get stranded on an island. In order to survive, the group of youngsters have to create a working civilization. Things go south, and everything that can go wrong does. An allegory about the dynamics of politics that Musk suggests everyone should read.
Entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel says that if you want to build a better future, you have to believe in secrets. In his book, Zero to One Thiel advocates that progress in business isn’t limited to the tech industry but applies to all industries. It’s this information and positive approach to running a company that made this book a number one best-seller.
Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom is another New York Times best-seller that begs the questions about whether AI with save or destroy humanity. As it stands right now, nothing is more intelligent and powerful than the human brain. If machine superintelligence becomes more powerful than humans, what will happen next?
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams is a childhood favorite of Musk. Musk says that the comedic sci-fi novel was instrumental to his thinking. In 2018 when Musk launched a Tesla Roadster into space, he wrote the words, “Don’t Panic!” an iconic quote from the book, on the car’s center screen.
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