Elon Musk needs no introduction, you know who he is, , what he’s doing, his net worth is over 20 billion dollars and it’s no secret that we’re big fans of him here at Alux.
It’s been a pleasure digging through all his early interviews and conversations in order to put together a list of books which the man himself thinks everyone should read.
Before we get started on the list, just wanted to let you know that you can purchase every book mentioned in this article by clicking on the Buy Item button which shows on the photos.
Who knows, maybe if you read some of them you’ll get a better understanding of the way Elon’s mind works.
As always, we’ve made a video version of this article which you can enjoy here:
Here are the 15 Books Elon Musk Thinks Everyone Should Read:
Number 1: “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams
Musk read this book as a young teenager in South Africa and became instrumental to his thinking.
The book blends comedy with science fiction and has amassed a cult like following throughout the world. Basically earth is getting demolished in order to make way for a galactic freeway and at the last second, our main character, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect who turns out to be an alien. Arthur learns a lot about the universe and we get to join him through his travels.
Musk referenced the book in a 2015 interview and even hid an easter-egg when he launched his Roadster into space. The words DON’T PANIC were displayed on the dashboard screen as an homage to the book.
If you don’t feel like reading, you can always listen to the book while you’re in traffic or doing repetitive boring work. If you go to alux.com/freebook you can get The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the galaxy or anyone of these books for free when you sign up with audible.
Number 2: “Structures: Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down” by J.E. Gordon
Elon had his first success with paypal, so coming from a coding background it was fairly difficult to jump into revolutionizing rockets. In order to do that, he literally started teaching himself rocket science.
In an interview with a radio station in california he mentioned Structures as “a really good primer for structural design”.
This is the type of book you should embrace if you are interested in making more sense of how the world around you is being built and put together. It’s weirdly fascinating to learn how skyscrapers are built, why suspended bridges don’t collapse during rush hour answered by engineers and architects in a simple and manageable fashion.
Musk has been directly involved with the design and planning of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket. He became chief designer and ceo at SpaceX not because he wanted to, but because nobody good would join the company early on, so he had to step in.
Number 3: “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life” by Walter Isaacson
You know how Elon Musk is our hero?!.. Well, Benjamin Franklin is one of Elon’s Heroes!
For those of you who don’t know Benjamin Franklin’s story, he was an ambitious urban entrepreneur who rose through the social ladder from a shopkeeper to dining with kings.
He’s an inventor, most known for proving that lightning is electricity in his famous kite experiment, which led to the invention of the lightning rod among other things as well as being a founding father for what we know today as the United States of America
In an interview with Foundation musk said: “Franklin is pretty awesome! He was an entrepreneur. He started from nothing. He was just a runaway kid.”
Number 4: “Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies” by Nick Bostrom
We’re all familiar with Elon’s stance on strong AI, in an interview he did at MIT a few years ago, he compared it to “summoning the demon”
Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence breaks down the impact technology will have on humanity in the next 20,40, 100 years and more.
It takes you through how technology is changing the way we live and how it’s accelerating at an unprecedented speed. Musk recommends this book to anyone who is seriously interested in the impact AI will have on us in the coming decades and why we need to be super careful early on in its creation.
Number 5: “Our Final Invention” by James Barrat
Continuing the AI trend, Musk endorsed this book as a “worthy read” via twitter in 2014.
The book dives into the question of whether or not we could co-exist with an entity whose intelligence dwarves that of humans and adds a new layer of “maybe we should be careful about this” to the entire race to the first AI.
In an interview on the topic Elon said: “AI doesn’t have to be evil to destroy humanity — if AI has a goal and humanity just happens in the way, it will destroy humanity as a matter of course without even thinking about it, no hard feelings,”
Artificial intelligence is already here, the issue that remains is in which direction do we choose to move forward with it.
The biggest impact we will see is in the actual workforce with millions ending up unemployable because it’s more efficient to automate everything. A while back we did a video on 15 Jobs which will be replaced by Automation in the near future which you can check out in the top right corner. You might want to check it out and see if it’s time for a career change.
Number 6: “Ignition: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants” by John D. Clark
Musk used Structures as a guide to building the rocket, not it was time to figure out how to get it to go up.
Musk said that Ignition was critical in his development of how his rockets are being fueled and took many of the scientific finding to heart. The book breaks down the science behind rocket fuel and how it all comes together.
Out of Musk’s list of recommendations, this is the only one we’re not keep on tackling and unless you’re really into chemistry or rockets, we personally recommend you skip it, not because it isn’t valuable, but the type of value you’ll find in it, it focused on a very specific field.
Number 7: The “Foundation” trilogy by Isaac Asimov
This trilogy is one of Musk’s favorite reads growing up and we can see how it changed the way he looks at the world based on what he was passionate about early on in his life.
The books center on the fall of the fictional Galactic Empire, which consists of millions of planets settled by humans across the Milky Way galaxy, a goal Elon himself said it is worthy of pursuing.
The problem with empires is that they have a cyclical lifespan poised for an incredible growth, then a tipping point and an inevitable demise as we’ve seen with the Babylonians, the Sumerians, followed by the Egyptians, the Romans and China.
Technology is finally approaching a point in which humans might finally be able to settle other planets and create backups for the knowledge we have acquired so far and the foundation puts all that into perspective.
If you’ve got an interest in science fiction we recommend The foundation series as a great starting point to explore this genre if you haven’t already. The regular price is $32 dollars for the first part of the trilogy, but if you go to alux.com/freebook and sign up, you can get it for free, courtesy of our partnership with Audible.
Number 8: “Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence” by Max Tegmark
Out of 15 recommended books, this is the 3rd one with a focus on Artificial Intelligence, so we’re seeing a trend here Elon!
But this time, the book focuses on the positive aspects of AI and how we could use it to further humanity.
The book tackles questions like How can we grow our prosperity through automation without leaving people lacking income or purpose?
What career advice should we give today’s kids?
How can we make future AI systems more robust, so that they do what we want without crashing, malfunctioning or getting hacked?
Should we fear an arms race in lethal autonomous weapons? And more
We would recommend you get all 3 books in order to have a better understanding of the topic, but if you want to get only one, this is the one to buy or listen to.
Number 9: “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien
Growing up, Elon was a nerdy, loner kid, so he immersed himself in these fictional worlds that shaped his character to a great degree.
In an interview he did early on with the New York Times, he mention how “The heroes of the books I read … always felt a duty to save the world,” and we see that corevalue stuck around.
To give a summary of the Lord of the Rings at this point would be pretty much useless since you already know the story from either reading the books are the movies.
Slightly on topic which might be an interest to those of you who are passionate about LOTR, Amazon is currently financing and producing an entire 250 million dollar TV series set in Middle Earth, which we’re expecting to go live sometime in 2020.
Number 10: ‘Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future’ by Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel has been a close acquaintance of Musk, both members of what is now known as the PayPal Mafia.
They both got rich from the sale of PayPal and ended up launching incredible companies afterwards.
Zero to One is a phenomenal and easy to read book which we can’t recommend enough. It’s short, it’s to the point and Thiel’s perspective on how new companies are the change agent for the world is very relatable to those with an entrepreneurial mindset.
It’s easy to see how these two could come together on a mutual project Despite sometimes they’re difference in vision there’s a great deal of respect between the two and they are easily two of our own favorite entrepreneurs.
Peter Thiel isn’t mainstream popular, but we recommend you look into who he is and what he’s working on, you’ll have your mind blown.
If you want a quick rundown of his story, watch the profile we did on him:
Number 11: “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress” by Robert Heinlein
Why don’t we have a Moon colony already? Ain’t that a question we should’ve answered by now?!
Heinlein’s book is set in a close dystopian future where some humans have been exiled from Earth onto the Moon where they have created a libertarian society from which they choose to rebel against the rule of Earth.
It’s another great Sci-Fi novel which Musk regards as “Heinlen’s best work” which he thoroughly enjoyed.
Number 12: “Merchants of Doubt” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway
This is a non-fiction book published by two scientists which bring to light how big companies are using PR to hide the damage they’re doing to both the planet and the humans living on it, from the tobacco industry,to pesticides, to global warming, this book gives you a glimpse behind the curtain.
Merchants of Doubt focuses on how a loose-knit group of very respected scientists paid by and connected to politics and industry, ran effective campaigns with the goal to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge for over 40 years..
Musk himself endorsed the book as worth a read on twitter in 2013.
Number 13: ‘Einstein: His Life and Universe’ by Walter Isaacson
This book, based on Einstein’s personal letters takes us on a journey on how the man went from a young, frustrated patent officer to a Nobel Prize winner and changing the world as we know it in the process.
Musk is very fond of Isaacson’s biographies and it’s easy to see why. The author positions his subjects in a very familiar light as young rebels and nonconformists which are so passionate about the goal of their existence and which in that pursuit end up shifting the way we look at life.
If you’re a big Albert Einstein fan, we have a recommendation for you, there’s this TV series called Genius. The first season covers Albert and we really enjoyed binge watching it before getting back to work.
Number 14: ‘Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness’ by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele
Speaking of people who inspired Elon, Howard Hughes. The man was a legend, fascinating the world during his lifetime. Howard Hughes lived life large. He simply did not exist in the same universe with the rest of the world.
We recommend learning about Howard Hughes because it’s a story many of you Aluxers are interested in living. Money, fame, success beyond belief – all of them can happen, but if you’re not careful the price you’ll pay will match that opulence.
Many people think of Elon as the modern day Howard Hughes, let’s hope this time it ends differently.
Number 15: The ‘Culture’ series by Iain M. Banks
This is an entire series Elon has been inspired by as well. As you’d expect it is another Sci-Fi series made up of 10 books.
Mr. Musk described himself as an “Utopian Anarchist” aligned with Iain M. Banks books and if dystopian futures ruled by machines are probabilistic on our timeline, maybe you’d like to get yourself more acquainted with the possibilities awaiting for us.
Banks is widely regarded as Silicon Valley’s favorite author because the paints a probable image of what the future of society looks like. Although the entire series is made up of 10 books, if you don’t know where to start, we recommend The Player of Games, it’s probably your best introduction to the series no matter if you enjoy the genre or not.
What do you think about Elon’s list Aluxers, which of these books sparked your interest the most? Let us know in the comments!