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9 Books From Elon Musk’s Reading List That Will Change Your Life

When he’s not building rockets, boring tunnels beneath Los Angeles, or sending cars into space, Elon Musk reads a lot. Here are 9 nonfiction books he thinks we should all read.
by Rob Gillham | May 14 2021

Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of SpaceX, Tesla, and other game-changing tech companies, somehow finds time to read a lot of books when he’s not sending rockets into space.

From classic sci-fi works to complex studies on artificial intelligence, Musk credits books with helping him achieve his success. In fact, when asked how he learned to build rockets, he famously replied, “I read books.”

Most people don’t have the luxury of time to read a book every day. According to a study by the Bureau of Labour Statistics, most Americans find time to read just 17 minutes per day. At that rate, it could take you more than a month to read one of Musk’s recommended non-fiction titles.

Enter Blinkist. The award-winning knowledge app that breaks down lengthy non-fiction books into their core concepts. You can get through most of Blinkist’s explainer packs in as little as 15 minutes and even take learning with you using the app’s audio function.

“When we started in 2012, most apps were for social media or gaming. We wanted to do something different and build an app that would help change someone’s life with the power of reading. Now, with collections, we can give our users book recommendations from some of the world’s smartest and most well-read people”.
– Holger Seim, CEO of Blinkist.

Blinkist’s newest feature is collections. They are the top picks from Blinkist’s library of over 4,500 titles based on the reading tips of the world’s most brilliant people. So, let’s see the titles that Elon Musk has credited for changing his life, each available in the Blinkist library.

Elon Musk’s Top Picks

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Just like Musk, Steve Jobs forged his own path in the tech industry. This book chronicles the audacious, adventurous life of the innovative entrepreneur and eccentric founder of Apple. Drawing from Jobs’s earliest experiences with spirituality and LSD to his pinnacle as a worldwide tech icon, Steve Jobs describes the man’s successful ventures as well as the battles he fought along the way. Get the key ideas with Blinkist in just 19 minutes.

Human Compatible by Stuart Russell

Human Compatible explains why the creation of artificial intelligence could be humanity’s final act, a topic that Musk has been very vocal about. The book calls to attention the potential catastrophe that society is heading towards and discusses what needs to be done to avoid it. Get the key ideas with Blinkist in just 12 minutes.

Zero to One by By Peter Thiel with Blake Masters

In praise of this book, Musk tweeted: “Peter Thiel has built multiple breakthrough companies, and (this book) shows how.” Zero to One explores how companies can better predict the future and take action to ensure that their startup is a success. The author enlivens the book’s key takeaways with his own experiences. Get the key ideas with Blinkist in just 18 minutes.

Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes & Erik M. Conway

This book examines some of the world’s foremost scientific debates on the environment, smoking, and nuclear weapons. The explainer will describe how a handful of highly vocal scientists have heavily misrepresented these issues through the mainstream media, often to aid corporate and industry interests. Get the key ideas with Blinkist in just 13 minutes.

Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark

If you’re sensing a common theme among the books on this list, Musk is really into exploring the future of artificial intelligence. In this work, MIT professor Max Tegmark writes about keeping artificial intelligence beneficial for human life and ensuring technological progress remains aligned with humanity’s goals for the future. It’s one of the few books Musk recommends that deals with the possibility of AI being used as a force for good in the world rather than evil. Get the key ideas with Blinkist in just 13 minutes.

The Big Picture by Sean M. Carroll

Musk is all about the future and origins of humanity and making life multi-planetary. The Big Picture is an ambitious look at the world as we know it and how we can use scientific thinking to make sense of most of it. An insightful examination of the origins of life, consciousness, and the universe itself, this book gives readers a deductive way of considering the most challenging questions that philosophy, physics, and biology have to offer. Get the key ideas with Blinkist in just 13 minutes.

Lying by Sam Harris

Lying explains why the act of telling lies is so dangerous. And that means all lies, from the tiny lies that people tell on a daily basis to the massive lies sometimes told on the world stage. All in all, it’s always better. Get the key ideas with Blinkist in just 9 minutes.

Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom

Musk has repeatedly warned against the dangers of unchecked artificial intelligence. “We need to be super careful with AI,” he tweeted in 2014, saying it’s “potentially more dangerous than nukes.” To find out why these risks are so scary, Musk says it’s worth reading Superintelligence. The book makes a daring inquiry into what would happen if computational intelligence surpassed human intelligence. Get the key ideas with Blinkist in just 15 minutes.

The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

The Wealth of Nations is a profoundly influential work in the study of economics and examines precisely how nations become wealthy. Adam Smith — who Musk is a fan of even tweeting “Adam Smith FTW” — advocates that by allowing individuals to freely pursue their self-interest in a free market, without government regulation, nations will prosper. Get the key ideas with Blinkist in just 9 minutes.

Learn from the Best

Blinkist has collections from the world’s CEOs, business leaders, and top thinkers.

Blinkist’s library of nonfiction titles has over 4,500 explainer packs spread across 27 categories of learning. Plus, with the addition of collections, you can see what the world’s top thinkers — not only Elon Musk — recommend. From Thrive Global Founder and CEO Arianna Huffington to podcast host and author Natalie Lue.

Listen and Learn

To allow you to learn on the go, every Blinkist explainer comes in audio format. These audio explainers give you the key ideas from a nonfiction title as read by a professional narrator. Plus, Blinkist’s most popular new feature, Shortcasts, gives users the key messages from popular experts in 15 minutes or less. It’s like a Blinkist explainer pack for a long podcast.

“Blinkist has helped me read more — period. I love that I can get the key learnings from 10+ books a week and immediately implement them in my own life. Blinkist has also helped me filter the books I purchase — if I couldn’t get enough of the Blinks, I buy it. ”
– Hitha Palepu, entrepreneur and author.

Start learning from Elon Musk’s recommended books and take Blinkist for a test drive today.

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