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24 Best Nonfiction Books of All Time According to Elon Musk

Elon Musk, the visionary entrepreneur behind SpaceX, Tesla, Neuralink, and The Boring Company, is not only known for his groundbreaking innovations but also for his voracious appetite for knowledge.

He's often seen reading and recommending books that have shaped his thinking and influenced his career.

If you're looking to expand your intellectual horizons, there's no better person to turn to for book recommendations than Elon Musk himself.

Here, we've compiled a list of the 24 Best Nonfiction Books of All Time According to Elon Musk. These books span a wide range of topics, from biographies to science, economics, and technology.

Musk's eclectic taste in literature is a testament to his diverse interests and insatiable curiosity.

Affiliate Disclaimer: This post features Amazon affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through these links.

This biography of Howard Hughes takes readers on a captivating journey through the life of one of the most intriguing and enigmatic figures of the 20th century. From his early successes as a film producer and aviation pioneer to his reclusive later years, Hughes' life is a rollercoaster of innovation, eccentricity, and scandal. Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele provide a meticulously researched and gripping account of this larger-than-life personality.

“The advantage always favors the one who is trying to create fear, over the one who is trying to erase it.”― Donald L. Barlett, Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness

Maye Musk, a registered dietitian and renowned model, shares her remarkable life story in "A Woman Makes a Plan." This memoir not only offers a glimpse into Maye's personal experiences but also serves as an inspiring testament to the power of determination and resilience. Elon Musk's own mother, Maye, provides insights into her journey, which is a testament to her strength and tenacity.

“My advice is to be kind to others, listen to others, and be upbeat. Don’t start talking about your miserable life. Show confidence, respect, interest in others, and smile; that will make you fascinating”― Maye Musk, A Woman Makes a Plan: Advice for a Lifetime of Adventure, Beauty, and Success

Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs is a deep dive into the life of the co-founder of Apple Inc. This book provides a comprehensive and intimate portrait of Jobs, showcasing his brilliance, innovation, and complex personality. Musk recommends it as an essential read for anyone interested in the life and legacy of this iconic tech visionary.

“One way to remember who you are is to remember who your heroes are.”― Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs

In "Screw Business as Usual," entrepreneur Richard Branson challenges traditional notions of business and advocates for a more socially conscious and environmentally responsible approach to entrepreneurship. Branson's book is an inspiring call to action for those seeking to make a positive impact on the world through their business endeavors, making it a recommended read for Elon Musk.

“For those who think business exists to make a profit, I suggest they think again. Business makes a profit to exist. Surely it must exist for some higher, nobler purpose than that’ - Ray Anderson, founder of Interface Inc.”― Richard Branson, Screw Business As Usual

James Barrat's "Our Final Invention" delves into the future of artificial intelligence and the potential risks associated with creating machines that surpass human intelligence. Musk's active involvement in AI research makes this book a pertinent choice, as it explores the ethical and existential questions surrounding advanced AI technology.

“If we build a machine with the intellectual capability of one human, within five years, its successor will be more intelligent than all of humanity combined. After one generation or two generations, they’d just ignore us. Just the way you ignore the ants in your backyard.”― James Barrat, Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era

Naomi Oreskes' investigative work, "Merchants of Doubt," sheds light on how industries and interest groups manipulate public opinion on various scientific issues, from climate change to tobacco regulation. Musk appreciates the book's insights into the complex interplay between science, politics, and public perception, making it a compelling addition to his reading list.

“While the idea of equal time for opposing opinions makes sense in a two-party political system, it does not work for science, because science is not about opinion. It is about evidence.”― Naomi Oreskes, Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming

Max Tegmark's "Life 3.0" takes readers on a journey into the future of artificial general intelligence (AGI) and its profound implications for humanity. The book explores the potential benefits and risks of AGI, emphasizing the importance of responsible AI development—an issue close to Musk's heart.

“… when people ask about the meaning of life as if it were the job of our cosmos to give meaning to our existence, they’re getting it backward: It’s not our Universe giving meaning to conscious beings, but conscious beings giving meaning to our Universe.”― Max Tegmark, Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Will Durant's "The Age of Napoleon" is a meticulously researched and engaging historical account of one of the most transformative periods in European history. This book offers readers a vivid portrayal of Napoleon Bonaparte's life and times, including his military conquests and impact on the world.

“Drunkenness was endemic, as an escape from cold mists and rains, brutalizing poverty, family warfare, political strains, philosophical despair; Pitt and Fox, otherwise so different, agreed in favoring this anesthesia.”― Will Durant, The Age of Napoleon

J. E. Gordon's "Structures" is a fascinating exploration of the science behind the materials and designs that keep everyday objects standing and functioning. From bridges to buildings, Gordon's book provides valuable insights into the engineering principles that underpin our modern world.

“Mathematics is to the scientist and the engineer a tool, to the professional mathematician a religion, but to the ordinary person a stumbling-block.”― J.E. Gordon, Structures: Or Why Things Don't Fall Down

Karl Marx's "Das Kapital" is a seminal work in economic and political theory. It analyzes the capitalist system, the nature of labor, and the distribution of wealth in society. Musk's inclusion of this book on his list highlights his interest in understanding diverse economic perspectives.

“In reality, the laborer belongs to capital before he has sold himself to capital. His economic bondage is both brought about and concealed by the periodic sale of himself, by his change of masters, and by the oscillation in the market price of labor power.”― Karl Marx, Das Kapital

"Zero to One" by Peter Thiel, one of Musk's fellow co-founders of PayPal, offers a blueprint for creating groundbreaking startups and achieving innovation in business. Thiel's book emphasizes the importance of creating unique and transformative companies—a philosophy that resonates with Musk's own entrepreneurial journey.

“The best entrepreneurs know this: every great business is built around a secret that’s hidden from the outside. A great company is a conspiracy to change the world; when you share your secret, the recipient becomes a fellow conspirator.”― Peter Thiel, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

Will Durant's "The Life of Greece" is a captivating journey into the ancient world of Greece, exploring the cultural, philosophical, and historical achievements that laid the foundation for Western civilization. In this volume of Durant's renowned "Story of Civilization" series, readers gain insights into the lives of influential figures and the cultural richness of ancient Greece.

“Water is the usual drink, but everyone has wine, for no civilization has found life tolerable without narcotics or stimulants.”― Will Durant, The Life of Greece

Robert K. Massie's biography of Catherine the Great provides a detailed and engrossing look into the life and reign of one of history's most powerful women. Readers gain insight into Catherine's leadership, her cultural contributions, and her impact on Russia's history.

“The love of power and the power to attract love were not easy to reconcile.”― Robert K Massie, Catherine The Great

In "The Big Picture," physicist and author Sean Carroll explores fundamental questions about the nature of the universe, our place within it, and the philosophical implications of modern science. Carroll's book offers a thought-provoking perspective on cosmology and the meaning of existence.

“Illusions can be pleasant, but the rewards of truth are enormously better.”― Sean Carroll, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself

Walter Isaacson's biography of Benjamin Franklin paints a vivid portrait of one of America's founding fathers. Readers gain a deeper understanding of Franklin's multifaceted contributions as a scientist, inventor, diplomat, and statesman.

“When another asserted something that I thought an error, I denied myself the pleasure of contradicting him.”― Walter Isaacson, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

"Ignition!" by John Drury Clark is a fascinating exploration of the history and science of rocket propellants. It offers an informative and entertaining look at the development of propulsion systems—a topic that aligns with Elon Musk's passion for space exploration.

“Now it is clear that anyone working with rocket fuels is outstandingly mad. I don’t mean garden-variety crazy or a merely raving lunatic. I mean a record-shattering exponent of far-out insanity.”― John Drury Clark, Ignition!: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants

Simon Sebag Montefiore's biography of Joseph Stalin provides a comprehensive and chilling account of the life and rule of one of history's most ruthless dictators. Montefiore's meticulous research and storytelling shed light on the dark chapters of Soviet history.

“Perhaps 20 million had been killed; 28 million deported, of whom 18 million had slaved in the Gulags. Yet, after so much slaughter, they were still believers.”― Simon Sebag Montefiore, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar

Stephen Webb's book explores the Fermi Paradox—the apparent contradiction between the high probability of extraterrestrial life in the universe and the lack of observable contact with alien civilizations. Webb delves into the possible explanations for this paradox, making it a fascinating read for those intrigued by the mysteries of the cosmos.

“Believing the world is calm because we have never seen it otherwise is like taking the attitude of a man who jumps off the top of a tall building and figures that, since 29 of the 30 floors have passed without incident, he is going to be okay.”― Stephen Webb, If the Universe Is Teeming with Aliens... Where Is Everybody? Fifty Solutions to Fermi's Paradox and the Problem of Extraterrestrial Life

In "Lying," Sam Harris delves into the concept of dishonesty, its moral implications, and the impact of honesty on our personal and societal well-being. The book encourages readers to explore the complex nature of truth and deception.

“Lying is, almost by definition, a refusal to cooperate with others. It condenses a lack of trust and trustworthiness into a single act. It is both a failure of understanding and an unwillingness to be understood. To lie is to recoil from relationship.”― Sam Harris, Lying

Buy "Lying" by Sam Harris On Amazon

Nick Bostrom's "Superintelligence" is a comprehensive exploration of the potential consequences and risks associated with the development of artificial superintelligence. It delves into the ethical and existential challenges posed by advanced AI systems—a topic of great significance to Musk's work in the field.

“Far from being the smartest possible biological species, we are probably better thought of as the stupidest possible biological species capable of starting a technological civilization - a niche we filled because we got there first, not because we are in any sense optimally adapted to it.”― Nick Bostrom, Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies

Stuart Russell's "Human Compatible" addresses the ethical challenges of designing AI systems that align with human values. Russell explores the implications of AI development and advocates for responsible and safe AI technology—a subject of increasing importance in today's world.

“Alas, the human race is not a single, rational entity. It is composed of nasty, envy-driven, irrational, inconsistent, unstable, computationally limited, complex, evolving, heterogeneous entities. Loads and loads of them. These issues are the staple diet—perhaps even raisons d'être—of the social sciences.”― Stuart Russell, Human Compatible: Artificial Intelligence and the Problem of Control

Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations" is a cornerstone work in the field of economics. It lays the foundation for modern economic theory by examining the principles of capitalism, the role of self-interest, and the factors that drive economic prosperity.

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”― Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Books 1-3

"Twelve Against the Gods" by William Bolitho profiles twelve historical figures who defied the odds, challenged conventions, and achieved greatness in their respective fields. This book serves as a source of inspiration for those with ambitious goals and a desire to break free from societal constraints.

“The adventurer, by minimum definition, is an individualist. The life of adventure is an unsocial game; therefore in direct contrast with the married, supported life which is nuclear society itself.”― William Bolitho, Twelve Against the Gods

Elon Musk's passion for rocketry and space exploration is well-documented. "Modern Engineering for Design of Liquid-Propellant Rocket Engines" by Dieter K. Huzel is a technical manual that delves into the intricacies of designing liquid-propellant rocket engines. It showcases Musk's dedication to mastering the technical aspects of rocket science, reflecting his commitment to advancing space exploration.


If you enjoyed these book recommendations, check out more similar list on my on my blog —

In conclusion, Elon Musk's reading list reflects his diverse interests, from technology and science to history and ethics.

Whether you're an aspiring entrepreneur, a science enthusiast, or simply someone looking for thought-provoking reads, these 24 books offer a wide range of perspectives and insights to explore.

So, grab a book and embark on your own intellectual journey inspired by the choices of one of the most innovative minds of our time.


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