Recommended reading: Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

tl;dr: The biography of Elon Musk is exciting in large parts, but unfortunately falls off towards the end. She is primarily concerned with Musk as an entrepreneur, but remains impersonal. Nevertheless, the book is worth reading because of the way of thinking and the view of the world it conveys.

Elon Musk is an outstanding entrepreneur. He founded PayPal and SpaceX. He is CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors. He developed the idea for the Hyperloop. According to his own statement, his goal in life is to enable mankind to find and colonize a second earth by interplanetary space travel.

Recommended readings

On the other hand, the fact that he is using Tesla Motors to make electric mobility suitable for the masses seems almost insignificant in contrast. In reality, however, most entrepreneurs would be extremely happy if only a fraction of Tesla's success were granted to them. Few people dare to think about goals like those of SpaceX.

X.com and PayPal

How could that be? Who's Elon Musk? What is his motivation? The American journalist Ashlee Vance explores these questions in the biography Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, published in 2015.

It begins with Musk's harsh childhood in South Africa, his emigration to Canada and the USA, and the success of his first company Zip2, which he sold to Compaq after just four years. The foundation of X.com, which was later to become PayPal, completes the introduction.

SpaceX and Tesla Motors

Afterwards, the two focal points of the book begin, which deal in detail with the foundation and structure of SpaceX and Tesla Motors respectively. Thanks to Vance's relaxed narrative style, both are easy to read and extremely entertaining.

Elon Musk's marriages, first with the writer Justine Wilson, then with the actress Talulah Riley, are woven into these two narrative strands. However, the reader does not learn too many details from Musk's private life. This clearly distinguishes the book from other, much more personal biographies, such as Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. This reduces the book a little, because Musk is described in this way as a remarkable entrepreneur, but the image of him as a human being remains extremely blurred and superficial.

Hyperloop and plans of Mars

If one overlooks this shortcoming, the book has succeeded. Unfortunately, the positive impression in itself is increasingly clouded towards the end, as the author is jumping through time more and more often and switching back and forth between different topics, although they were initially introduced in a clearly structured way.

This makes reading increasingly tedious and annoying, especially since Vance also begins to repeat himself. It seems as if there was hardly time to finish the manuscript properly towards the end. This is a pity, because the description of the extremely exciting ideas and plans around Hyperloop and the settlement on Mars suffers clearly.

Summary

Nevertheless, the book is well worth reading. This is mainly due to the fact that it works out very clearly what the goals and motivation of Elon Musk are. The goals may seem crazy at first glance. In fact, however, he follows a concrete plan for the future, builds mosaic pieces around mosaic pieces and assembles them one by one until finally a large whole is created.

This big whole revolutionizes not only different industries, but can above all motivate to see the world again with more curiosity and an exploratory view and not to resign oneself to the statu quo. If there is something exciting new to discover, that is already a value in itself.

It would be nice to see this way of thinking more often.

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Golo Roden

Founder, CTO, and managing partner

Since we want to deliver elegant yet simple solutions of high quality for complex problems, we care about details with love: things are done when they are done, and we give them the time they need to mature.