Elon Musk is a modern-day visionary with an audacious plan: to terraform and colonize Mars, making it the new home for the human civilization. Musk credits reading as the secret behind his astounding accomplishments and his cathedral thinking. Like all brilliant minds, Musk is a certifiable bookworm with a voracious appetite for the written word. These are 8 books that inspired him, shaped his life and career, and played a crucial role in his success.
A book that perfectly blends wit and comedy with the science-fiction genre, this iconic sci-fi novel is a childhood favorite of Musk. In his early teen years, Musk found himself in an existential crisis after having read too much of philosophers like Nietzsche. Then he came upon The Hitchhiker's Guide to Galaxy, and was instantly hooked. At the center of the book is a supercomputer tasked with finding out the meaning of life; Musk said the book was instructive because it taught him that sometimes the answer is the easy part, and phrasing the question correctly is the real challenge.
Walter Isaacson is one of Musk's favorite authors. Among the many books Isaacson has authored, Einstein's biography is one of Musk's favorites. The book explains how Einstein became an inventor after several frustrating years of working as a patent clerk and tells the story of the brilliant man who changed the world with his intelligence and ambition.
Nick Bostrom's Superintelligence addresses a frightening question: What would happen if artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence. In the ongoing debate about the potential dangers of AI, Musk holds the view that AI is "potentially more deadly than nukes," stating that "we need to be super careful with Artificial Intelligence." In the same tweet, Musk cites Superintelligence as a helpful guide on understanding the potential hazards of AI.
As head of SpaceX, Elon Musk has a vested interest in rockets. He recommends Ignition by John Clark as a great way to learn about the early days of rocket science. John Clark was an American Chemist involved in the development of rocket fuels back in the 1960s and 1970s, he had a lot of enthusiasm for rockets and in this book he explains how the field of rockets developed and how the science behind rockets works. Ignition is available online for a free reading here.
Peter Thiel is the co-founder of Paypal and a billionaire venture capitalist. Thiel has founded several revolutionary billion-dollar companies like Paypal and Palantir Technologies and this book is his account of how to build a successful start-up. Musk has endorsed Thiel as someone he learned from saying that "Thiel has built multiple breakthrough companies and 'Zero to One' shows how."
Elon Musk plans to build a human civilization on Mars by the year 2050 and terraform the planet to support human life, an ambition that stems from his days spent reading science fiction novels as a teen. Apart from The Hitchhiker's Guide to Galaxy, another sci-fi novel that was Musk's favorite growing up is the Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov. In a 2013 Interview with The Guardian, Musk said that the Foundation series, which centers on the waning days of a future Galactic Empire, played a significant role in shaping his ambitions to pursue a venture in space exploration.
Musk has a deep interest in AI and it's one of the subjects he discusses frequently. Our Final Invention is a book that explores how AI can become a competitor to human intelligence and examines the all-important question: Can humans coexist with an intelligence growing ever more powerful at a staggering pace, potentially surpassing human intelligence in the foreseeable future? Musk has ranked this book as one of top 5 books everyone should read concerning the future of humanity.
It's easy to understand Elon Musk's fascination with the trailblazing and record-setting Howard Hughes, an eccentric film-maker and an influential figure in aviation history. Hughes had a charismatic personality and was an ambitious dreamer, this book is his painstakingly and incredibly detailed biography and is one of Musk's all-time favorites.