19 Books from Elon Musk's Reading List Recommended for Everyone

Discover the 19 impactful books recommended by Elon Musk and his reading list for everyone, covering nonfiction, fiction, business, and AI books.

Elon Musk has recommended a variety of books across different genres, including non-fiction, science fiction, and business.

Curious about why Elon Musk became Elon Musk? There are many autobiographical books and articles about him, among which Musk is recognized as a complete nerd.

The starting point for each of Musk's amazing achievements is his persistence and desire for words. 

As a child in South Africa, Musk was immersed in reading books (including, of course, comics). 

Musk would immerse himself in science fiction novels for dozens of hours every day and read the Encyclopedia Britannica when he was nine years old.

According to the billionaire tech mogul himself, these 19 books were influential in helping shape and inspire his life and career. 

Today we are going to take a look at these books. Interested children can also try to add them to their reading list!

Elon Musk stands and speaks about Books that Elon Musk Thinks Everyone Should Read, with a background of numerous bookshelves filled with books, and a logo reading "ReadingAndThinking.com" in the top right corner.
Books from Elon Musk's Reading List Recommended for Everyone

19 Books Elon Musk Thinks Everyone Should Read

Who is Elon Musk? I think everyone knows who he is and what he is doing without my introduction. His net worth exceeds $250 billion and many people are his fans.

Silicon Valley’s “Iron Man” Musk once said that reading played a crucial role in his success. He reads a wide range of books. 

Foreign media compiled some of Musk’s past interviews and social media posts and summarized 19 books that the billionaire believes everyone should read.

As the CEO of many legendary technology companies such as SpaceX and Tesla, Musk can still find time to study.

Musk said reading played a crucial role in his success. He read a wide range of books, from the full-length fantasy novel "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy to obscure rocket-building books.

We looked through some of Musk's past interviews and social media posts and compiled 19 books that the billionaire thinks everyone should read.

Below is an introduction to these 19 books.


1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

In one complete volume, here are the five classic novels from Douglas Adams’s beloved Hitchhiker series.

Now celebrating the pivotal 42nd anniversary of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, soon to be a Hulu original series!

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read)Seconds before the Earth is demolished for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is saved by Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised Guide. Together they stick out their thumbs to the stars and begin a wild journey through time and space.

The Restaurant at the End of the UniverseThe moment before annihilation at the hands of warmongers is a curious time to crave tea. It could only happen to the cosmically displaced Arthur Dent and his comrades as they hurtle across the galaxy in a desperate search for a place to eat.

Life, the Universe, and EverythingThe unhappy inhabitants of planet Krikkit are sick of looking at the night sky– so they plan to destroy it. The universe, that is. Now only five individuals can avert Armageddon: mild-mannered Arthur Dent and his stalwart crew.

So Long, and Thanks for All the FishBack on Earth, Arthur Dent is ready to believe that the past eight years were all just a figment of his stressed-out imagination. But a gift-wrapped fishbowl with a cryptic inscription thrusts him back to reality. So to speak.

Mostly HarmlessJust when Arthur Dent makes the terrible mistake of starting to enjoy life, all hell breaks loose. Can he save the Earth from total obliteration? Can he save the Guide from a hostile alien takeover? Can he save his daughter from herself?

“With droll wit, a keen eye for detail and heavy doses of insight . . . Adams makes us laugh until we cry.”—San Diego Union-Tribune

“Lively, sharply satirical, brilliantly written . . . ranks with the best set pieces in Mark Twain.”—The Atlantic.


2. Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down by JE Gordon

In a book that Business Insider noted as one of the "14 Books that inspired Elon Musk," J.E. Gordon strips engineering of its confusing technical terms, communicating its founding principles in accessible, witty prose.

For anyone who has ever wondered why suspension bridges don't collapse under eight lanes of traffic, how dams hold back--or give way under--thousands of gallons of water, or what principles guide the design of a skyscraper, a bias-cut dress, or a kangaroo, this book will ease your anxiety and answer your questions.

Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down is an informal explanation of the basic forces that hold together the ordinary and essential things of this world--from buildings and bodies to flying aircraft and eggshells. In a style that combines wit, a masterful command of his subject, and an encyclopedic range of references, Gordon includes such chapters as "How to Design a Worm" and "The Advantage of Being a Beam," offering humorous insights into human and natural creation.

Architects and engineers will appreciate the clear and cogent explanations of the concepts of stress, shear, torsion, fracture, and compression. If you're building a house, a sailboat, or a catapult, here is a handy tool for understanding the mechanics of joinery, floors, ceilings, hulls, masts--or flying buttresses.

Without jargon or oversimplification, Structures opens up the marvels of technology to anyone interested in the foundations of our everyday lives.


3. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was an American industrialist, scientist, social activist, thinker, and diplomat in the 18th century.

He was the first scientist, inventor, and musician in American history to achieve international fame. To explore electricity, he once conducted the famous "kite experiment" and made remarkable achievements in electricity. 

To deeply explore the laws of electrical motion, many special terms such as positive electricity, negative electricity, conductor, battery, charge, discharge, etc. were created and became common vocabulary in the world.

He borrowed the concepts of positive and negative from mathematics and was the first to scientifically use the concepts of positive and negative electricity to express the nature of charge. He also put forward the idea that electric charge cannot be created or destroyed. 

On this basis, later generations discovered the law of conservation of electric charge. He was the first to put forward the idea of ​​lightning rods. The lightning rods he created avoided lightning disasters and broke superstition.

He is an excellent politician. He was a veteran of the American Revolutionary War. He participated in drafting the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Actively advocating the abolition of slavery, he is deeply respected by the American people and enjoys a high reputation in the world.

4. Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom

What happens when machine intelligence surpasses human intelligence? Will artificial intelligence save humanity or destroy it?

The author mentioned that we are not the fastest creatures on the planet, but we invented cars, trains, and airplanes. We may not be the strongest, but we invented the bulldozer. Our teeth aren't the sharpest, but we can invent knives that are stronger than any animal's teeth. 

We control the planet because our brains are far more complex than those of even the most intelligent animals. If machines are smarter than humans, we will no longer be the masters of this planet. When this happens, machines will outperform humans.

The human brain has some functions that other animal brains do not. It is these unique features that allow our species to dominate. If machine brains surpass humans in general intelligence, this emerging superintelligence could be extremely powerful and potentially uncontrollable. 

Just as the fate of gorillas now lies more in the hands of humans than in our own, so too will the future fate of humanity depend on the behavior of machine superintelligence.

But we have one advantage: we have the opportunity to act first. Is it possible to build a seed AI that creates specific initial conditions so that the outcome of an intelligent burst allows for human survival? How do we achieve this controlled detonation?

The author believes that superintelligence will be a huge threat to us humans. In this book, the author talks about the risks posed by the advantages of superintelligence and how humans can address these risks. The author believes that the issues addressed in his book will be the greatest risks we face as humanity.

This book is ambitious and original, opening up a new path in the field of artificial intelligence. This book takes you on a fascinating journey, bringing you to the forefront of thinking about the human condition and the future of intelligent life. 

Nick Bostrom's new book lays the foundation for understanding the future of humanity and intelligent life and is truly a redefinition of the fundamental tasks of our time.

5. Our Final Invention by James Barrat

Elon Musk named Our Final Invention one of the 5 books everyone should read about the future

A Huffington Post Definitive Tech Book of 2013

Artificial Intelligence helps choose what books you buy, what movies you see, and even who you date. It puts the "smart" in your smartphone and soon it will drive your car. 

It makes most of the trades on Wall Street and controls vital energy, water, and transportation infrastructure. But Artificial Intelligence can also threaten our existence.

In as little as a decade, AI could match and then surpass human intelligence. Corporations and government agencies are pouring billions into achieving AI's Holy Grail—human-level intelligence. 

Once AI has attained it, scientists argue, it will have survival drives much like our own. We may be forced to compete with a rival more cunning, more powerful, and more alien than we can imagine.

Through profiles of tech visionaries, industry watchdogs, and groundbreaking AI systems, Our Final Invention explores the perils of the heedless pursuit of advanced AI. 

Until now, human intelligence has had no rival. Can we coexist with beings whose intelligence dwarfs our own? And will they allow us to?

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

This book was a great help to Musk as he learned and mastered the complexities of rocket science.

John D. Clark was an American chemist who was actively involved in the development of rocket fuel in the 1960s and 1970s. This book tells the history of the field of rocket fuel and explains the relevant principles of rocket fuel science.

While working on the development of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket system, Musk knew the knowledge in this book by heart. SpaceX uses cryogenically cooled RP-1 rocket fuel, a type of kerosene used in jets, to burn rocket launch fuel with liquid oxygen.

7. The “Foundation” trilogy by Isaac Asimov

In addition to the "Lord of the Rings" series, Musk's early fascination with science fiction and fantasy novels included the "Foundation" series written by Isaac Asimov.

The "Foundation" series tells the story of the fall of the fictional Galactic Empire. The Galactic Empire consists of millions of planets inhabited by humans across the galaxy.

The stories in the book had a huge impact on Musk's career. He said in an interview with the Guardian in 2013:

"The lessons of history tell us that the development of civilization is a cyclical process. We can see this from the development of ancient Babylon, ancient Sumer, ancient Egyptian civilization, ancient Rome, and ancient China.

We are in an upward cycle now, and hopefully, we will stay in this cycle. But it may backfire, because something may happen in the future that will cause technological regression.

For the first time in 4.5 billion years, we have seen the hope of human beings surviving on other planets. We must act early while we have the opportunity, and do not expect there will be opportunities for a long time in the future."

8. Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark

How will Artificial Intelligence affect crime, war, justice, jobs, society, and our very sense of being human? 

The rise of AI has the potential to transform our future more than any other technology—and there’s nobody better qualified or situated to explore that future than Max Tegmark, an MIT professor who’s helped mainstream research on how to keep AI beneficial.

How can we grow our prosperity through automation without leaving people lacking income or purpose? What career advice should we give today’s kids? 

How can we make future AI systems more robust, so that they do what we want without crashing, malfunctioning, or getting hacked? Should we fear an arms race in lethal autonomous weapons? 

Will machines eventually outsmart us at all tasks, replacing humans on the job market and perhaps altogether? Will AI help life flourish like never before or give us more power than we can handle?

What sort of future do you want? This book empowers you to join what may be the most important conversation of our time. 

It doesn’t shy away from the full range of viewpoints or from the most controversial issues—from superintelligence to meaning, consciousness, and the ultimate physical limits on life in the cosmos.

9. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his power so that he could rule all others. 

But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages, it fell by chance into the hands of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins.

From Sauron's fastness in the Dark Tower of Mordor, his power spread far and wide. Sauron gathered all the Great Rings him, but always he searched for the One Ring that would complete his dominion.

When Bilbo reached his eleventy-first birthday he disappeared, bequeathing to his young cousin Frodo the Ruling Ring and a perilous quest: to journey across Middle-earth, deep into the shadow of the Dark Lord, and destroy the Ring by casting it into the Cracks of Doom.

The Lord of the Rings tells of the great quest undertaken by Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring: Gandalf the Wizard; the hobbits Merry, Pippin, and Sam; Gimli the Dwarf; Legolas the Elf; Boromir of Gondor; and a tall, mysterious stranger called Strider.

This new edition includes the fiftieth-anniversary fully corrected text setting and, for the first time, an extensive new index.

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), beloved throughout the world as the creator of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, was a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, a fellow of Pembroke College, and a fellow of Merton College until his retirement in 1959. 

His chief interest was the linguistic aspects of the early English written tradition, but while he studied classic works of the past, he was creating a set of his own.

10. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future" by Peter Thiel

The great secret of our time is that there are still uncharted frontiers to explore and new inventions to create. 

In Zero to One, legendary entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel shows how we can find singular ways to create those new things.

Thiel begins with the contrarian premise that we live in an age of technological stagnation, even if we’re too distracted by shiny mobile devices to notice. 

Information technology has improved rapidly, but there is no reason why progress should be limited to computers or Silicon Valley. 

Progress can be achieved in any industry or area of business. It comes from the most important skill that every leader must master: learning to think for yourself.

Doing what someone else already knows how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. 

But when you do something new, you go from 0 to 1. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. 

Tomorrow’s champions will not win by competing ruthlessly in today’s marketplace. They will escape competition altogether because their businesses will be unique.

Zero to One presents at once an optimistic view of the future of progress in America and a new way of thinking about innovation: it starts by learning to ask the questions that lead you to find value in unexpected places.

11. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein was the most influential science fiction writer of his era, an influence so large that, as Samuel R. Delany notes, "modern critics attempting to wrestle with that influence find themselves dealing with an object rather like the sky or an ocean." 

He won the Hugo Award for Best Novel four times, a record that still stands. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was the last of these Hugo-winning novels, and it is widely considered his finest work.

It is a tale of Revolution, of the rebellion of the former Lunar penal colony against the Lunar Authority that controls it from Earth. 

It is the tale of the disparate people--a computer technician, a vigorous young female agitator, and an elderly academic--who become the rebel movement's leaders. 

And it is the story of Mike, the supercomputer whose sentience is known only to this inner circle, and who for reasons of his own is committed to the Revolution's ultimate success.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is one of the high points of modern science fiction, a novel bursting with politics, humanity, passion, innovative technical speculation, and a firm belief in the pursuit of human freedom.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is the winner of the 1967 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

12. Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway

The U.S. scientific community has long led the world in research on such areas as public health, environmental science, and issues affecting quality of life. Our scientists have produced landmark studies on the dangers of DDT, tobacco smoke, acid rain, and global warming. 

But at the same time, a small yet potent subset of this community leads the world in vehement denial of these dangers.

Merchants of Doubt tells the story of how a loose-knit group of high-level scientists and scientific advisers, with deep connections in politics and industry, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades. 

Remarkably, the same individuals surface repeatedly of the same figures who have claimed that the science of global warming is "not settled" denied the truth of studies linking smoking to lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole. "Doubt is our product," wrote one tobacco executive. These "experts" supplied it.

Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, historians of science, roll back the rug on this dark corner of the American scientific community, showing how ideology and corporate interests, aided by a too-compliant media, have skewed public understanding of some of the most pressing issues of our era.

In 2013, Musk himself tweeted that the book was worth reading.

13. Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson

By the author of the acclaimed bestsellers Benjamin Franklin and Steve Jobs, this is the definitive biography of Albert Einstein.

How did his mind work? What made him a genius? Isaacson’s biography shows how his scientific imagination sprang from the rebellious nature of his personality. 

His fascinating story is a testament to the connection between creativity and freedom.

Based on newly released personal letters of Einstein, this book explores how an imaginative, impertinent patent clerk—a struggling father in a difficult marriage who couldn’t get a teaching job or a doctorate—became the mind reader of the creator of the cosmos, the locksmith of the mysteries of the atom, and the universe. 

His success came from questioning conventional wisdom and marveling at mysteries that struck others as mundane. 

This led him to embrace a morality and politics based on respect for free minds, free spirits, and free individuals.

These traits are just as vital for this new century of globalization, in which our success will depend on our creativity, as they were at the beginning of the last century when Einstein helped usher in the modern age.

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

Howard Hughes is someone who inspires Musk. This man is a legend and his life fascinates us. Howard Hughes was a great man. I suggest everyone get to know Howard Hughes. In his story, the money, the fame, the success are incredible.

Many people believe that Musk is a modern version of Howard Hughes and hope that the ending of the two men will be different.

15. The 'Culture' series by Iain M. Banks

This is a science fiction series consisting of 10 books, and Musk was also inspired by this series of books.

Banks is widely regarded as Silicon Valley's most popular author because he paints a picture of a possible social future. The entire series consists of 10 books. If you don't know where to start, you can read "The Gamer" first. 

16. On War by Carl von Clausewitz

"On War" is a classic of modern Western military theory. It was created by the author Clausewitz based on his summary of past wars, especially the Napoleonic Wars. After hundreds of years of historical testing, its core ideas are still enduring today. 

The wisdom and thinking methods contained in the book are widely used in politics, economics, diplomacy, and other fields. The author Clausewitz bluntly stated that the scientific nature of this book lies in exploring the essence of war and pointing out the connection between war and the things that constitute it. 

We never want to avoid philosophical conclusions, but when they are insufficient to explain the problem, the author prefers to abandon them and use corresponding phenomena in experience to illustrate the problem.

17. Deep Learning by Ian Goodfellow, Yoshua Bengio, and Aaron Courville

"Deep Learning" is written by three world-renowned experts, Ian Goodfellow, Yoshua Bengio, and Aaron Courville, and is a foundational classic textbook in the field of deep learning. 

The content of the book consists of three parts: 

  • Part 1 introduces basic mathematical tools and machine learning concepts, which are preparatory knowledge for deep learning; 
  • Part 2 systematically explains in depth the current mature deep learning methods and technologies; 
  • Part 3 Discuss some forward-looking directions and ideas that are recognized as future research priorities in deep learning.

"Deep Learning" is suitable for all types of readers, including college students or graduate students in related majors, as well as software engineers who do not have a background in machine learning or statistics, but want to quickly supplement their deep learning knowledge for application in actual products or platforms.

18. The Extended Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

"The Selfish Gene" was first published in 1976 and has sold well all over the world. It is one of the top 100 classics of the 20th century. 

It is a subversive and revolutionary classic work not only in the field of genes but also in the field of social sciences.

Where do we come from and where will we go? What is the meaning of life and how do we know ourselves? "The Selfish Gene" answers these important questions with an imaginative narrative. 

Dawkins puts forward a bold idea in this book: We are born selfish, and any living thing, including ourselves, is just a survival machine. 

This book is a real cognitive science. The three simple mechanisms of replication, mutation, and elimination can evolve all kinds of life phenomena in the world.

19. Dune

Copernicus proposed the "heliocentric theory", and we learned that this world is not the center of the universe. Hubble used the telescope to reveal the mystery of extragalactic galaxies, and we learned that there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe. 

"Freedom" discovered the existence of black holes, and we learned that maybe there is a universe outside the universe, and we are just a tiny grain of sand in eternity. Every time human beings face up to their own insignificance, it is a huge progress for themselves. 

"Dune" is the legendary masterpiece of science fiction writer Frank Herbert. It won both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award, and is known as "a milestone in the history of science fiction."

AI books recommended by Elon Musk:

  • Human Compatible by Stuart Russell
  • Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom
  • Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark
  • The Master Algorithm by Pedro Domingos
  • Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach by Stuart Russell and Peter Norvig
  • Artificial Intelligence: Structures and Strategies for Complex Problem Solving by George F. Luger
  • Machine Learning: A Probabilistic Perspective by Kevin P. Murphy
  • Deep Learning by Ian Goodfellow, Yoshua Bengio, and Aaron Courville
  • Reinforcement Learning: An Introduction by Richard Sutton and Andrew Barto

Fiction books recommended by Elon Musk:

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov
  • The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson
  • The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Non-fiction books recommended by Elon Musk:

  • Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson
  • Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
  • The Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen
  • The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Business books recommended by Elon Musk:

  • Zero to One by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters
  • The Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen
  • The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  • Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't by Jim Collins
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
  • Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio
  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu
  • Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

Books that Elon Musk read as a kid:

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
  • The World as Will and Idea by Arthur Schopenhauer
  • The Big Picture by Sean M. Carroll
  • The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan
  • The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
  • The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

Note: Some books may appear in multiple categories as Elon Musk has recommended them in different contexts.

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