This months book review is a really good one. It is the excellent ‘Elon Musk’ by Walter Isaacson. Isaacson also wrote the equally excellent book ‘Steve Jobs’ about another icon. 

The first thing you notice when you pick up the book is that it is big. There are almost 700 pages and at first glance, you might think this is going to be heavy going. But you would be totally wrong. This book is the one of the most well written books that I have come across. It was so easy to read, and I think it helps that there are 95 chapters so none of the chapters are that long, but as soon as you finish one chapter, you want to read the next. 

It is incredible to read about all the things that Musk has done in his life. Whether you like him or not or whether you agree with his methods or not, no-one can be in any doubt as to the amazing work ethic, which he expects from others too, and what he had achieved so far. He is only in his early 50s and chapter after chapter he does more and more and in different sectors and different industries, each with their own challenges. 

Musk also puts it on the line whenever it is needed. He has regularly put everything he has on the line for one of his businesses, and could potentially lose it all, if circumstances went the other way. He is the ultimate risktaker 

Isaacson had unparalleled access to Musk, his people, his family and his companies for 2 years, and they regularly had text or phone calls in the middle of the night when Musk suddenly wanted to talk about something. Famously Musk never asked to see the book before it was published. It is said that he still has not read the book to this day. Nothing was off limits, which these days with PR machines and social media, I find this quite rare and refreshing that he was given full access.  

The book starts with a quote from Musk on Saturday Night Live from 2021 which sums him up saying,

To anyone I’ve offended, I just want to say, I reinvented electric cars and I’m sending people to Mars in a rocket ship. Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?’ 

Just in list form, here are some of the major businesses he pioneered or has developed (and acquired in the case of X): 

Zip2 

X.com 

PayPal 

SolarCity 

SpaceX 

Starlink 

Tesla 

The Boring Company 

Open AI 

Twitter (acquired) and now X 

Neuralink 

X.AI 

Now for most people, and indeed many successful and famous people, their life’s work could be on just one company in one industry. Musk has conservatively done this in 8 or 9 different businesses and sectors and has excelled in each. 

He is super hands on as an individual and will turn up at the different businesses and work on the factory floor, will work all night (and many nights) and sleep on site until a problem is fixed. He has a unique way of looking at problems and creating solutions. He just sees things other people don’t or can’t. He can be very intense and expects everyone else to be on the same page as him and with the same work ethic, something which is hard for many people to live up to.  

There is a lot of detail in the book without it becoming heavy. For example, the most recent and the most public event has been the acquisition of Twitter by Musk. The book goes into a lot of the behind the scenes information about what went on before, during and after the acquisition. I think many people may have a different view of how Musk was dealing with Twitter when they see the other side of the coin. The public view was of large staff layoffs and fall outs with advertisers, but the other side of the story paints a very different picture. 

The part I enjoyed the most was the SpaceX story and where it all started and how they developed this amazing business by redefining space travel and going back to basics. They would look at each component and ask why it was there, what it did and in many cases why it cost so much when you could buy virtually the same component used in a different industry at a tenth of the cost. As soon as the word ‘space’ was used prices soared, but not with Musk. 

There are so many stories in the book and I deliberately don’t want to go into much detail here, as the book is just so good, that I would just recommend everyone read it. You don’t have to have any technical knowledge for any of the sectors, and I will be surprised if anyone starts reading and then doesn’t get sucked in. I had trouble putting it down. 

I can’t recommend this book enough. I might even read it again now I’ve written this review. Hope you enjoy it……