A Review of Elon Musk’s New Biography

01 Jun 2015
0062301233 cover image
Emotions: Inspiration, Awe, Intrigue
Locales: South Africa, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles
Also Mentioned: Larry Page, Steve Jobs, Kimbal Musk
Publication Date: May 19, 2015

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The life of Elon Musk is nothing short of inspiring. At only 43 years of age Musk has tackled some of the biggest technological challenges facing humanity including: Electric Cars, Space Flight, and Solar Energy. This is an approved biography – meaning that Musk himself was interviewed and cooperated with the Author, experienced Silicon Valley historian Ashlee Vance.

The book follows Musk through a rough childhood in South Africa, continues through his early career at Zip2 and PayPal, and ends at present day with his involvement’s in SpaceX, Solar City, and Tesla Motors.

Comparing Musk to Steve Jobs is now a common comparison, and I couldn’t help but compare the biographies as well. Jobs’ biography by Walter Isaacson, is longer, more complete and much more dense. It also spends a good amount of time dwelling on Jobs’ flaws as a person, perhaps due to the publication date being after Jobs’ death, or perhaps due to the author’s bias.

In contrast, the biography of Musk is much shorter, coming in at 400 pages, compared to 656 pages for the Jobs biography. This can be expected given that Musk is only 43, still in the brightest part of his innovative career. Elon Musk also reads more like a fan-boy story. Ashlee Vance and Musk have a shared South African heritage, and it shows throughout the book. Vance is clearly a Musk fan (full disclosure, so am I). Despite the favorable angle, the book has integrity, describes some of Musk’s flaws, and accurately portrays his failures as well as his achievements.

If you like science, technology, business, or just reading about incredible people, this book is a must read. While there’s plenty of strife, and conflict through Musk’s life, the takeaway feeling from this book is positive, inspiring, and optimistic.

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Ferol is the COO of Written Word Media. He reads Sci-Fi, Mystery, and Biography. He loves technology and building things.