A picture of Elon Musk

Elon Musk’s written gems

How to shape a brilliant mind.

“I read books”. That’s what Elon Musk likes to say. Of course, if you also have cravings for the written word, I can see you running to the closest bookstore, or tapping on the Amazon icon in my case.

We can all agree that we admire Musk and his marvellous achievements. This man read the entire Britannica at the age of nine! I’m a bookworm, but I wasn’t one at this age…So, if you are like me and you kept yourself busy with something else when you were younger, I suggest you to catch up and move a bit closer to this great genius by reading some of his favourite books.

These books have always been important to Musk and helped him cope with his tough childhood. According to the billionaire himself, these books helped him to shape, develop and inspire his life.

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams

In an interview, Musk admits he had an “existential crisis” when he was a teenager. This book helped him figure out the meaning of life: “If you can properly phrase the question, then the answer is the easy part”. This was enlightening for him!

“Einstein: His Life and Universe” by Walter Isaacson

It’s not really surprising for one genius to seek for inspiration by another one, right? It’s about the brilliant man who “transforms the world with his intelligence and ambition”. Yep, this book did a good job!

“The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien

Musk, in his loneliness as a child, was always looking for a hero to be inspired by. He admits that this book had helped him shape his vision for his future self. Talking about saving the world, another spot on!

“Benjamin Franklin: An American Life” by Walter Isaacson

Well, finally something I’ve read! Franklin’s life can easily motivate almost everyone. Musk says: “Franklin is pretty awesome!” He started from nowhere, being nothing and reached the top with excellent discipline and hard work.

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

“Peter Thiel has built multiple breakthrough companies and Zero to One shows how,” says Musk. These words, coming from a genius about a fellow billionaire are undoubtedly believable.

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

This is a biography of the curious filmmaker, who got a little wacky at the end of his life.
“Definitely want to make sure I don’t grow my fingernails too long and start peeing in jars,” says Musk. However, if we put the madness on a side, Hughes’ life was undeniably an inspiration for Musk.

“Merchants of Doubt” by Naomi Orestes and Erik M. Conway

Elon Musk recommended this book in 2013 at a D11 conference. Turned into a documentary later, the book is written by two historians of science focused on a series of public-health issues. “Same who tried to deny smoking deaths or denying climate change.” tweeted Musk around the same time.

“I could either watch it happen or be a part of it.”

There are, of course, so many more books that have helped him shape his brilliant millionaire mind. He wasn’t just born with a knowledge of rocket science, artificial intelligence, technology and etc. If you are sharing his passions, here are some more books that he finds rousing:

  1. “Structures: Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down” by J.E. Gordon
  2. “Ignition!: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants” by John D. Clark
  3. “Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies” by Nick Bostrom
  4. The “Foundation” trilogy by Isaac Asimov
  5. “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” by Robert Heinlein
  6. The “Culture” series by Iain M. Banks
  7. “Our Final Invention” by James Barrat
  8. “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding
  9. Nikola Tesla Biographies
  10. “Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence” by Max Tegmark
  11. “Twelve Against the Gods: The Story of Adventure” by William Bolitho


Elon Musk’s written gems


I’ve already purchased some of these gems, others I’ve put in my Goodreads “Want to read” collection and I can’t wait to get a step closer to Musk’s incredible mind. I am sure everyone would find something to be inspired by from this list. It’s clear that we cannot all be geniuses like Elon Musk, but the least we could do is to try to understand him, his way of thinking and what makes him tick. Self-development is something that no one should ever skip and fortunately, there are people like Musk to show us how it’s done.

Written by Darina Kostadinova

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