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Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future Hardcover – May 19, 2015

4.6 out of 5 stars 1,423 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Ashlee Vance's new book, 'Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future,' is a tremendous look into arguably the world's most important entrepreneur. Vance paints an unforgettable picture of Musk's unique personality, insatiable drive and ability to thrive through hardship." - The Washington Post
 
"It is the book I have enjoyed most this year." - Tyler Cowen, famed economist and best-selling author

"The best business book I have read in years." - Don Graham, former publisher of The Washington Post 


"Exhaustively reported . . . this work will likely serve as the definitive account of a man whom so far we've seen mostly through caricature. By the final pages, too, any reader will sense the need to put comparisons to Steve Jobs aside. Give Musk credit. There is no one like him." - The New York Times

"Ashlee Vance's portrait of the entrepreneur at mid-life is an essential read . . . a riveting portrait of Silicon Valley's most driven entrepreneur since Steve Jobs." - The Financial Times

"The result is a book that is smart, light on its feet and possesses a crunchy thoroughness. . . . Mr. Vance delivers a well-calibrated portrait of Mr. Musk, so that we comprehend both his friends and his enemies. It's a book with many ancillary pleasures. Mr. Vance brings us up to date on the states of green energy and space launches. He also veers away from his subject just often enough, offering profiles of the frequently brilliant people who work alongside Mr. Musk The best thing Mr. Vance does in this book, though, is tell Mr. Musk's story simply and well."- The New York Times

"Really good biographies stand out in two ways. First, they provide lots of zesty stories that haven't been told before. Beyond that, they explain all the zigzags and false clues of a prominent person's life, in a way that makes the total picture come into focus. . . it's clear that this new Musk bio delivers the goods in both respects. . . Ashlee Vance provides a wealth of insights about how this tech titan operates." - Forbes

"Vance's lively book yields all manner of fascinating insights about Musk's companies, his vision, and his personal life." - Slate

"Of the many profiles of business leaders, Vance's take on Musk is among the best. The author's objective and unbiased viewpoint captures Musk's good and bad, his achievements and failures." - The Motley Fool 

"Vance left few, if any, stones unturned . . . A detailed portrait of a figure both loved and feared--sometimes by the same people at the same time." - The Space Review 

"Vance's book is a masterful piece of reporting." - Vice 

"Musk rivals Jobs in the same way this book rivals Isaacson's classic." - Whitney Tilson Founder, Kase Capital Management


“Mr. Vance tells the stories of both SpaceX and Tesla with intricacy and insight. . . . What does come through is a sense of legitimate wonder at what humans can accomplish when they aim high, and aim weird. (Dwight Garner, New York Times)

“[T]his work will likely serve as the definitive account of a man whom so far we’ve seen mostly through caricature. By the final pages, too, any reader will sense the need to put comparisons to Steve Jobs aside. Give Musk credit. There is no one like him.” (New York Times Book Review)

“[A] spirited and riveting biography.” (Wall Street Journal)

“The SpaceX and Tesla founder certainly sees setbacks as an unavoidable part of innovation. But a brilliant new biography paints a picture of him as an obsessive, intolerant perfectionist.” (Financial Times)

“Fascinating and superbly researched…” (The Guardian UK)

From the Inside Flap

There are few industrialists in history who could match Elon Musk's relentless drive and ingenious vision. A modern alloy of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, and Steve Jobs, Musk is the man behind PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and SolarCity, each of which has sent shock waves throughout American business and industry. More than any other executive today, Musk has dedicated his energies and his own vast fortune to inventing a future that is as rich and far-reaching as a science fiction fantasy.

In this lively, investigative account, veteran technology journalist Ashlee Vance offers an unprecedented look into the remarkable life and times of Silicon Valley's most audacious businessman. Written with exclusive access to Musk, his family, and his friends, the book traces his journey from his difficult upbringing in South Africa to his ascent to the pinnacle of the global business world. Vance spent more than fifty hours in conversation with Musk and inter- viewed close to three hundred people to tell the tumultuous stories of Musk's world-changing companies and to paint a portrait of a complex man who has renewed American industry and sparked new levels of innovation--all while making plenty of enemies along the way.

In 1992, Elon Musk arrived in the United States as a ferociously driven immigrant bent on realizing his wildest dreams. Since then, Musk's roller-coaster life has brought him grave disappointments alongside massive successes. After being forced out of PayPal, fending off a life-threatening case of malaria, and dealing with the death of his infant son, Musk abandoned Silicon Valley for Los Angeles. He spent the next few years baffling his friends by blowing his entire fortune on rocket ships and electric cars. Cut to 2012, however, and Musk had mounted one of the greatest resurrections in business history: Tesla, SpaceX, and SolarCity had enjoyed unparalleled success, and Musk's net worth soared to more than $5 billion.

At a time when many American companies are more interested in chasing easy money than in taking bold risks on radical new technology, Musk stands out as the only businessman with enough dynamism and vision to tackle--and even revolutionize--three industries at once. Vance makes the case that Musk's success heralds a return to the original ambition and invention that made America an economic and intellectual powerhouse. Elon Musk is a brilliant, penetrating examination of what Musk's career means for a technology industry undergoing dramatic change and offers a taste of what could be an incredible century ahead.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco (May 19, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062301233
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062301239
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,423 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By TM massage TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 19, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The best thing I have read on Elon Musk so far (and from what I understand, the only one that he has participated in himself). Vance is an excellent writer, and you may or may not be familiar with him from Bloomberg Business and other high profile writings. I loved the insight into Musk and how he operates, and you get a very broad and complete picture of Musk as a driven visionary that is absolutely set on delivering some of the most aspirational goals of any human in history. You also get some great insight into the overall ecosystem around Musk - his companies (SpaceX and Tesla primarily), relationships with other companies and gov entities, as well as the important people around him. Many bios give you a timeline of the person, but little insight into the broader context and I appreciated that in this book.

You get unique insight into his personal relationships, how he coped with things that went wrong (not always a pretty story), and how he manages through both failure and success. Since you learn so much about his childhood and formative years, you get a good grounding on why he is the way he is, and how those relationships developed.

Finally, you get a lot of detail around 'green' industry, space exploration, etc. which really fills out this ecosystem and delivers an inspiring and educational view of one of the most intriguing people of our lifetimes. The book almost seems to ask "What are you going to go out and reinvent?" Well worth reading and even gifting to friends who may be fans.
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Format: Hardcover
When I walked into Barnes & Noble two weeks ago, I wasn't actually looking to purchase a book. Usually, I go in, browse for 30 minutes, and get out. But when I walked around to the Physics and Science section, the first thing I saw was Elon Musk's face.

Inevitably, I picked it up and began reading.

2 pages in, I decided I was in this for the long haul and sat on the floor, right there in the middle of the store. 15 pages in, my friends finally found me and forced me to leave. But I couldn't part with this. I needed this book. Those first 15 pages captured me like so few books do (in fact, only one book in the past year has totally stolen my attention like this).

So I bought Elon Musk feeling on top of the world and excited to keep reading.

I travel a lot between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, PA, so, since I'm in the middle of taking classes in Pittsburgh, I swore to only read this book on the bus, because I knew once I picked it up again, I wouldn't put down.

I was right.

The next day, I got on the bus, got to reading, and tuned out the world. Three hours later, I was nearly halfway through -- and WOW. Vance's writing style flowed right through my mind. No clunky sentences, no jarring phrases. It's such an easy book to read, despite the complex nature of the contents.

Elon Musk, if you don't know, is a biography. Yes, a biography. You'd expect the case-study of someone's life to be boring and uneventful, dragging until the very end.

This wasn't the case at all.

Vance opens the book at an interview with Elon Musk himself. The first line, a quote from Musk, "Do you think I'm insane?", perfectly captures the whole context of the biography.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Solid, well researched book about Musk's early life, early companies (Zip2 and PayPal), and current companies (Tesla, SpaceX and SolarCity). Throughout the book, Vance doesn't just let a startling assertion or quote stand still, he researches events to give the reader a balanced view of what transpired. This is especially important as there have more than a few highly charged emotional events in Musk's life and it would have been all too easy for a biographer to highlight the sensational at the expense of providing insight about complex events.

Vance starts the biography by delving just enough into Musk's early life to help understand who he has become.He then launches into fairly detailed accounts of his early companies (Zip2 and PayPal). These accounts are invaluable as there is little else available about these companies that is reliable and not agenda driven reporting.

SpaceX gets the most coverage in the book, befitting Musk's passion and time spent, although there is a reasonable amount of time devoted to Tesla and a relatively quick overview of SolarCity.

Oddly enough for a 400 page book, I sometimes wished he would provide a more blow by blow account - for instance there was no insight at all into any board meetings in any of the companies. In addition, Vance does not delve in any real depth into the complex technology that Musk has created, relegating the very few verbatim explanations from Musk to footnotes. There was a lot of boosterism about the companies, and while Vance did try to describe a timeline, in the end the book had a lot of unconnected vignettes and stories.

Having said all this, it is a very readable, very interesting book. The 2008 triple Musk meltdown (personal life, SpaceX and Tesla) was gripping. Most people who have not been watching Musk's every move for the past 20 years will find lots of new information here, presented in a very balanced and entertaining way.
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