10 books that inspired Tesla CEO Elon Musk

Hailed as the “real life Iron Man” by The Guardian, Tesla CEO Elon Musk is an engineer and a tech entrepreneur and probably best known for his company’s electric cars and his plans to inhabit a human colony on Mars. He is also the founder of The Boring Company and chief engineer and designer at SpaceX, an aerospace company. Elon Musk has been reading since he was a kid and considers some of the books he read to be a huge influence. Here we list 10 books that inspired the tech billionaire.


The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien
British author John Ronald Reuel Tolkien is best remembered for his tales of Middle-earth that encompass The Lord of the Rings, the second-most sold book on earth. As a kid in Pretoria, Elon Musk was picked on a lot and even given the name of ‘Muskrat’. At that time, he spent his time reading a lot of fantasy and science fiction. In an interview to The New Yorker, Musk said, “The heroes of the books I read, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and the ‘Foundation’ series, always felt a duty to save the world.”
​The Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov
American author Isaac Asimov, who was born in Russia and is called Father of Robotics, is considered one of the “Big Three” writers of science fiction of his time, the other two being Robert Anson Heinlein and Arthur Charles Clarke. Asimov’s Foundation trilogy consists of three books: Foundation, Foundation and Empire and Second Foundation.
​The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
A science fiction comedy, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was originally a radio comedy that was broadcasted in 1978 on BBC Radio 4. It was later adapted to other formats like novels, comics and TV series. In an interview to freshdialogues.com, Musk said that he had an existential crisis when he was about 12 to 15 years of age. He wanted to know the meaning of life; he found works of German philosophers Freidrich Nietzsche and Arthur Schopenhauer in his home and turned to them for the answer. But reading them didn’t help him. Douglas Adams' book, on the other hand, did seem to have an answer.
“ I read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which is quite positive I think and it highlighted an important point which is that a lot of times the question is harder than the answer. And if you can properly phrase the question, then the answer is the easy part. So, to the degree that we can better understand the universe, then we can better know what questions to ask”, said Musk in an 
​Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson
“He was an entrepreneur. He started from nothing. Actually just like a run-away kid.”, Musk says about Benjamin Franklin in an interview to Foundation. Franklin, a versatile personality who’s one of the founding fathers of the United States, is one of the people he most admires.
​Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
Einstein: His Life and Universe is another biography by author Walter Issacson, who has also penned biographies of Steve Jobs and Henry Kissinger.
​Structures: Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down by J E Gordon
James Edward Gordon is known as one of the founders of materials science and biomechanics and Structures: Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down is one of his popular books. "It is really, really good if you want a primer on structural design,” Musk said in an interview to KCRW.
​Ignition!: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants
John Drury Clark was an American rocket fuel developer, chemist and science fiction writer. Musk said in an interview that Ignition!: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants is “ a good book on rocket stuff”.


Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom
Musk is of the view that artificial intelligence could be dangerous for mankind.
In a Tweet, he warned fellow humans to be “super careful with AI” as it’s “potentially more dangerous than nukes”. Musk thinks 'Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies' by Nick Bostrom is “worth reading”.
​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,” said Musk.
​Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness by Donald L Barlett and James B Steele
Howard Hughes was a man of many talents. He was a business magnate, investor, record-setting pilot, engineer and directed films as well. In his later years, he became eccentric, partly caused due to obsessive compulsive disorder and injuries from a plane crash.



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Thought of the day

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”