15 Books Elon Musk Thinks Everyone Should Read
In this article, I’m going to share 15 books Elon Musk thinks everyone should read.
Elon Musk needs no introduction you know who he is what he’s doing and it’s no secret. It’s been a pleasure digging through all of his early interviews and conversations in order to put together a list of books that the man himself thinks everyone should read.
“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams.
Musk read this book as a young teenager in South Africa and it 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 being demolished in order to make way for the Galactic freeway and at the last second. Our main character Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford perfect, who turns out to be an alien. Arthur learns a lot about the universe and we get to join him through his travels. Musk reference the book in a 2015 interview and even hit an Easter Egg when he launched his Roadster into space. The words don’t panic or displayed on the dashboard screen as an homage to the book if you don’t feel like reading it you can always list the book while you’re in traffic or doing repetitive boring work.
“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 difficult to jump into revolutionizing rockets in order to do that he literally started teaching himself rocket science. In an interview with the 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’re interested in making more sense of how the world around you is being built and put together hits weirdly fascinating to learn 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 enough would join the company early on so he had to step in.
“Benjamin Franklin: An American Life” by Walter Isaacson.
He’s an inventor who’s most known for proving that lightning is electricity with his famous kite experiment which led to the invention of the lightning rod among many other things as well as being a founding father of 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.
“Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies” by Nick Bostrom.
We are all familiar with Elon’s stance on strong Artificial Intelligence. In an interview, he compared it to summoning the demon Nick Bostrom’s super intelligence breaks down the impact technology will have on humanity in the next 20, 40 and 100 years or 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 Artificial Intelligence will have on all of us in the coming decades and why we need to be super careful early on its creation.
“Our Final Invention” by James Barrat
Continuing on the Artificial Intelligence 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 coexist with an entity whose intelligence Dwarfs that of humans and that adds a new layer of maybe we should be careful about this to the entire race of the first AI. In an interview on the topic, Elon said Artificial Intelligence doesn’t have to be evil to destroy humanity if Artificial Intelligence has a goal and humanity just happens to be in the way it’ll destroy humanity as a matter of course even without thinking about it.
No hard feelings Artificial Intelligence is already here the issue that remains is which direction do you choose to move forward with it. The biggest impact we’ll see is in the actual workforce with millions ending up unemployable because it’s more efficient to automate everything.
“Ignition: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants” by John D. Clark
Musk used structures as a guide to building the rocket now it was time to figure out how to get it up and go. Musk said that ignition was critical in his development of how his rockets are being fueled and took much of the scientific findings to heart. The book breaks down the science behind rocket fuel and how it all comes together out of Musk’s recommendations this is the only one will tell you to skip unless you’re really into chemistry or rockets.
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 book centers 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 is worthy of pursuing the problem with empires is they have a cyclical life span poised for an incredible growth than a tipping point and the inevitable demise.
- As we’ve seen with the Babylonians.
- The Sumerians followed by the Egyptians.
- The Romans, and even 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 trilogy puts all of that into perspective and lectures if you’ve got an interest in science fiction.
“Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence” by Max Tegmark
Out of 15 recommended books, this is the third one with a focus on Artificial Intelligence so I guess you could say we’re seeing a trend but this time the book focuses on the positive aspects of Artificial Intelligence 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 Artificial Intelligence systems more robust so they do what they want without crashing malfunctioning or getting hacked should we fear an arms race in lethal autonomous weapons and more.
“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 characters to a great degree.
In an interview, he did early on with the New York Times he mentions how the heroes of the books he read always felt a duty to save the world and we can surely see that core value of his stuck around to give a summary at the Lord of the Rings. At this point would be pretty much useless since you already know the story either from reading the books or watching the movies.
“Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future” by Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel has been a close acquaintance of Elon 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 afterward. Zero to one is a phenomenal and easy-to-read book which I can’t recommend enough it’s short it’s to the point and heels 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 their differences in a vision there’s a great deal of respect between the two of them and they are easily two of my favorite entrepreneurs. Peter Thiel isn’t mainstream popular but I recommend you look into who he is and what he’s working on.
“The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” by Robert Heinlein
Why don’t we have a moon colony already paint that the question we should have answered by now. Heinlein’s book is set in a closed dystopian future where some humans have been exiled from Earth on to the moon where they have created libertarian Society from which they choose to rebel against and rule the earth. It’s another great sci-fi novel which must regard as Heinlein’s best work which he thoroughly enjoyed.
“Merchants of Doubt” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway
This is a fiction book published by two scientists which bring to light how many 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 glimpse behind the curtain. Merchants of Doubt focuses on how loose-knit groups of very respected scientists paid by and connected to politicians and Industry ran an effective campaign with the goal to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge for over 40 years. Musk himself endorsed this book as a worthy read on Twitter back in 2013.
‘Einstein: His Life and Universe’ by Walter Isaacson
This book based on Einstein personal letters takes us on a journey of how the man went from a young frustrated patent officer to 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 the young rebels and non conformists 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 I have a recommendation for you there’s This TV series called genius.
‘Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness’ by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele.
Speaking of people who inspired Elon Musk is Howard Hughes the man was a legend fascinating the world during his lifetime. Howard Hughes lives of large he simply did not exist in the same universe with the rest of the world.
He recommended learning about Howard Hughes because it’s a story many of you people 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 the opulence. Many people think of Elon’s modern-day Howard Hughes.
The ‘Culture’ series by Iain M. Banks
This is an entire series that Elon has also been inspired by. As you would expect it’s another sci-fi series made up of ten books. Mr. Musk once described himself as utopian anarchist aligned with Iain M. Banks’s books and if dystopian futures ruled by machines are probably in our timeline maybe you’d like to get yourself more acquainted with the possibility awaiting for us. Banks is widely regarded as Silicon Valley’s favorite author because he paints realistic images 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 I 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 lists people which of these books sparked your interest the most? Let me know in the comments!
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