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20 Books That Elon Musk Finds Inspirational

Elon Musk is a controversial figure, but his genius and accomplishments in technology and business are undeniable. He's an avid reader, and Blinkist has compiled a list of 20 books that have inspired him, including works by Richard Feynman, Benjamin Franklin, and Steve Jobs.
by Chris Allmer | Apr 2 2023
Elon Musk Inspiration

Dream Big: Elon Musk Takes Inspiration From Brilliant People

“Controversial, insensitive, arrogant!” People hold different opinions about Elon Musk, but they can’t deny that he’s a genius and one of the most brilliant people of his generation. Elon Musk is an inspiration to so many! Considering his intimidating track record of achievements in technology and business, every knowledge-seeker is probably keen to know about the top 10 Elon Musk Book Recommendations.

But we can do better than that! Read on for an exclusive list of 20 books Elon Musk finds inspirational. After all, they say that what a man reads, shapes who he becomes.

Despite his busy schedule, Elon Musk is an avid reader and lifelong learner who reads for several hours daily. There are a great many books on Elon Musk’s reading list that he has talked about over the years, and we have compiled a list of 20 favorites.

As the saying goes, “Iron sharpens iron,” so it’s a no-brainer that Elon Musk’s inspiration comes from some of the world’s most brilliant people. He has listed people like Richard Feynman, Benjamin Franklin, Steve Jobs, and even Kanye West as some of the people he admires for their thought patterns, innovation, and approach to business.

1. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson

Musk claims that this biography has inspired him a lot. It digs into Benjamin Franklin’s philosophy of consistent self-improvement, leadership style, and strategies for achieving success in business and leadership as a successful inventor.

2. Screw Business as Usual: Turning Capitalism Into a Force for Good by Richard Branson

In this book, Branson focuses on the idea that it’s time to turn capitalism upside down and to engender a shift of values from profit as the ultimate goal towards caring for the planet and its inhabitants.

3. Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson

This fascinating biography seeks to explore the genius of Albert Einstein, demonstrating how his scientific brilliance was fuelled by his creative and rebellious nature.

4. The Age of Napoleon by Will & Ariel Durant

Napoleon Bonaparte was an incredibly controversial figure, but he undeniably shaped a whole era. This book delves into the politics, arts, science, economy and lifestyle of Europe in the late 18th and early 19th Century.

5. Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie

This masterpiece almost reads like a novel and recounts the dramatic life of a minor German Princess, who fearlessly and ruthlessly turned herself into one of the most compelling and influential women in history.

Elon Musk’s Suggested Books on Management and Leadership

6. The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen

The Innovation Dilemma is one of Elon Musk’s favorite books and influenced his approach to business management and innovation. The book explores the challenges that established companies face in innovating, and how startups with disruptive technologies can overtake them and dominate the industry. Here is your shortcut.

7. Good to Great by Jim Collins

In this book, Collins examines the intrinsic factors behind the success of companies that transitioned from simply being good companies to becoming truly great. Having conducted an in-depth study of 28 companies that made the big leap from good to great, the author highlights the common traits among them, and how these characteristics helped sustain their progress. Go to your Blink.

8. Zero to One by Peter Thiel

Elon Musk doesn’t hold back when advising aspiring entrepreneurs, so it’s not surprising to see Peter Thiel’s Zero to One on Elon Musk’s book list. The author establishes the idea that creating new and innovative products and services is more rewarding than copying or re-creating existing ones. This book shares valuable insights on how startups can create monopolies from scratch through innovation instead of competing in already saturated markets.

9. The Art of Startup Fundraising by Alejandro Cremades

Cremades aims to help Startups develop funding strategies and navigate their way around the confusing realities of startup funding and changing regulations. This book is indispensable for young startup entrepreneurs keen to learn how to raise money for their business.

10. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

While this book dates back to 1776, its witty and eloquent take on economic analysis is still relevant today. Although Smith’s book is almost 250 years old, it’s still one of the classics when it comes to describing how a market economy really works. Click here to read or listen to this Blink.

Elon Musk’s Book Recommendations for Science Topics

11. Ignition!: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants by John D. Clark

As one who’s obsessed with rockets, this is one of Elon Musk’s favorite books, and he recommends it to anyone who wants to get an intelligent insight into the history of rocket development. The author uses his experience as a rocket scientist to explain what happens behind the scenes in the process of creating some of the world’s most disruptive technologies.

The book really brings home the importance of trial and error, and how groundbreaking breakthroughs came from accidents and other unexpected occurrences in the laboratory. It’s a 302-page book, but don’t worry! You will be able to grasp the key ideas within a few minutes on Blinkist.

12. Structures: Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down by J.E Gordon

You will love this book as it gives an introduction to engineering and the principles of structural design in the clearest and most humorous style possible. The book expounds on the importance of understanding the fundamental principles that hold structures in place, and how they can fail. The author also demystifies the physics and mathematical aspects of structural designs, using bridges, airplanes, and buildings as case studies.

13. The Feynman Lectures on Physics by Richard Feynman

Elon Musk believes that this book can help anyone to understand the fundamentals of physics and the natural world. It is a combination of lectures given by Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman, at the California Institute of Technology.

The author uses a simple conversational approach and relatable analogies to explain the most complex concepts in physics and the natural world. This is why this book is regarded as one of the most influential works of physics and is used in universities globally.

14. Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era by James Barrat

Artificial Intelligence is definitely a topic that keeps Elon Musk awake at night. He has stated repeatedly that he is concerned about AI, especially about ensuring that it is only deployed in the public interest. Barrat shares these concerns and explores the dangers of an unobservant pursuit of AI. A slightly troubling and fascinating read!

 15. The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself by Sean M. Carroll

This riveting book combines physics with existential questions. Carroll demonstrates the insignificance of our lives, if you will, in the context of space and time, but celebrates our ability

to understand the working of the universe and to derive meaning from this.

Elon Musk’s Fictional Reading List

16. Foundation by Isaac Asimov

“Foundation” is one of Elon Musk’s favorite books because he claims that this book is his key inspiration for aspiring to extend human civilization to Mars. The futuristic science fiction novel predicts the collapse of the Galactic Empire and the entire human civilization, forcing a group of scientists to work assiduously to preserve all human knowledge, history, and legacy in a central facility, for use in building a new world.

17. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

This hilarious science-fiction romp uses satire to touch on different aspects of human culture and civilization. It tells the story of the hapless Arthur Dent, who is rescued from the destruction of planet earth by an alien researcher, Ford Prefect. The duo embark on a series of humorous and bizarre adventures around the galaxy.

18. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Tolkien’s masterpiece is one of the world’s most popular trilogies. It narrates the plight of a hobbit called Frodo Baggins and his army of followers in their quest to destroy the Dark Lord’s ring, which has the power to control all other rings in the kingdoms.

19. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

A bitter-sweet Young Adult novel may strike many as an unusual choice on Elon Musk’s inspirational list, but this heart-breaking and achingly relevant story and its enchanting protagonists have catapulted the book onto the bestseller lists. Elon Musk’s book summary is short and sweet: it’s “sad, romantic and beautifully named.”

20. Waiting For Godot by Samuel Beckett

This world-famous, poetic and enigmatic play is both hilarious and horrendous in its bleak depiction of the search for meaning and the ultimate futility of human existence. Vladimir and Estragon have been placed on hold by life: waiting for the elusive Godot and entertaining each other – and us – with absurd speculations.

Curated Collections: The Blinkist Reading Lists

Some of the books that Elon Musk finds inspirational can also be found on the Blinkist list of popular titles. If you’re inspired to find out what’s so awesome about the titles from Elon Musk’s book list, check out other carefully curated Blinkist reading lists. It may seem challenging to spend long hours reading these books, but Blinkist has made the process easy for you. You can now acquire new knowledge in record time, by listening to the key ideas on Blinkist.

The handy Blinkist audio explainers extract the essence and all the key points of non-fiction books and give you both a solid understanding of the book and a good idea of its flavor and style. For many Blinkist fans, one of the most popular takeaways is the fact that there’s at least one key quote from the book.

Create Your Own Blinkist List, based on Elon Musk’s Inspiration

Why don’t you embark on a journey towards expanding the horizons of your reading and knowledge, like the influential people you admire? Browse the existing Blinkist reading lists or start your own list, and soak up all the knowledge contained in any book in 15 minutes or less.

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