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Elon Musk

Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
Written by: Ashlee Vance
Narrated by: Fred Sanders
Length: 13 hrs and 23 mins
5 out of 5 stars (448 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In the spirit of Steve Jobs and Moneyball, Elon Musk is both an illuminating and authorized look at the extraordinary life of one of Silicon Valley's most exciting, unpredictable, and ambitious entrepreneurs - a real-life Tony Stark - and a fascinating exploration of the renewal of American invention and its new makers.

Elon Musk spotlights the technology and vision of Elon Musk, the renowned entrepreneur and innovator behind SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity, who sold one of his Internet companies, PayPal, for $1.5 billion. Ashlee Vance captures the full spectacle and arc of the genius' life and work, from his tumultuous upbringing in South Africa and flight to the United States to his dramatic technical innovations and entrepreneurial pursuits.

Vance uses Musk's story to explore one of the pressing questions of our age: Can the nation of inventors and creators who led the modern world for a century still compete in an age of fierce global competition? He argues that Musk - one of the most unusual and striking figures in American business history - is a contemporary, visionary amalgam of legendary inventors and industrialists, including Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, and Steve Jobs. More than any other entrepreneur today, Musk has dedicated his energies and his own vast fortune to inventing a future that is as rich and far reaching as the visionaries of the golden age of science-fiction fantasy.

©2015 Ashlee Vance (P)2015 HarperCollins Publishers

What the critics say

"Fred Sanders narrates this smartly written biography with the right balance of gravitas and entertainment value, providing accents for some of the major characters including a convincing South African accent for the story's star.... The combination of great narration, well-written and well-researched content, and a bigger-than-life subject propels this nuanced work into the upper atmosphere of audiobook biographies." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Great book!

Loved it, I learned alot, and not just about Elob Musk! Well written, well researched, well performed!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great insight into an interesting man

I found the book well worth the listen. It reminded me of how the great industrialists of the past created the opportunities that made a difference in the way we both live and think.

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  • Mk
  • 2019-07-16

Loved it.

Feels like you really got to know Elon a little. Vance seems to have accomplished an unbiased take on a very controversial figure which alone would be a difficult task. Isn’t a sceptic or a fan boy, but gives Elon credit where it’s due.

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Great inspiration for the unconventional leaders!

absolutely loved this book. seems very raw and authentic. shows the madness behind the genius that is Elon musk. from the humble beginning to great achievements. it makes the process seem so human and possible!

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everything you need to know about musj

It was a great listen i couldnt wait to get to my car and put it on. I was very sad it ended kinda, he still living and i cant wait to see what his creations do for humanity.

the speaker did an awesome job making it very interesting and easy to listen too

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Great!

loved it and looked forward to resuming the book. performance could've been done better in my opinion.

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A glimpse into the mind of a genius and visionary.

It’s an inspiring account of Elon’s world. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is entrepreneurial or scientific.

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I loved it. A great audio book and would recommend

Great insights into the mind of Elon Musk. The way Elon thinks is far beyond anything humans are capable of. He is pure genius. Einstein of the 21st century.

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simple, truthful and powerful mind

A glance into a simple but powerful mind, highly recommended for any INTJ / ENTJ.

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Good read

Good "read". Amazing person and fascinating to get behind the scenes of Musk. Well read by narrator.

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  • Tristan
  • 2016-08-20

The best of competence porn

This book basically exploits your desire to read about extremely competent people, and you'll love it. Books like this are probably so entertaining because there is so much mediocrity in our own lives. It is refreshing to read about someone who apparently suffers from no mere human limitations.

It's a nice complement to Walter Issacson's Steve Jobs. In both, you will read about how an asshole with vision can create wonderful things by brute forcing his way through the inconveniences of reality. Both are fantastic books, but Issacson is the better journalist. Vance is so enamoured with his subject that you find him deflecting criticisms of Musk. He comes off as a bit of a fanboy, but you will forgive him, because it is so much fun to be a fanboy to Musk.

The heart of the book is the story of 2008, when both SpaceX and Tesla nearly went bankrupt. It's gripping: I couldn't press stop till I finished that section and so was stuck awake in my bed till 1:00am.

The book offers some genuine insights: one good engineer working constant overtime can achieve as much as eleven engineers trying to coordinate with each other. That's how you achieve truly great, new things. Good for them. Personally, I'm happy to listen to audiobooks while tending the garden, and so I'll have to accept that Vance won't write a book about me.

163 of 174 people found this review helpful

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  • Andy
  • 2017-03-15

This is not really a book about Musk...

The book is about the companies. It tells a high level story of their founding and Musk's role.

Unfortunately, it does very little to tell you about Musk. Who is he? What drives him? Why does he make the decisions he makes?

Those questions are essentially skipped. Rather than the writer asking Musk for the answer, he circumvents that conversation by talking to everyone (and like everyone, I'm talking about friends of friends) OTHER than Musk, which is a shame.

Honestly, I feel like I got more about who Musk is, and advice on how to adopt his philosophies from the 15 minute interview he did for TED.

In the end, this was nice because it summarized the stories of Musk's companies, but if you're looking for a book about Elon, and/or hoping to take away some wisdom from Musk's outlooks and experiences, this book is not for you.

124 of 138 people found this review helpful

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  • Don Middleton
  • 2015-06-01

Gifted people should attempt the extrordinary

If anything is to be learned from Ashlee Vance's biography of Elon Musk is that gifted children often have unsettled childhoods. However if those same kids develop into financially successful people the world might be better were they to put those resources and their talents to work doing things that seem to be impossible. I originally ordered this audio book because it seemed to me that Mr. Musk had attempted to do two of the three hardest and most complicated engineering and manufacturing tasks any one could attempt. One was space vehicles, and the other modern cars. I would say that the third is aircraft, which Musk may attempt later. That he has so far succeeded in the two he has tried is amazing. He not only did this but, I was to learn, he and his employees have totally rethought both systems, and are doing it entirely within the US, and with American labor.

His story could have be the all-to-familiar tale of a hi-tech engineer in Silicone Valley or Wall Street physicist-turned-finance-guy that made a pile of money early – in his case as a founder of PayPal – and then retired to live a life of luxury with no more than a dose of philanthropy to “give back to society”. Musk pushed past all of that to pursue childhood fantasies and dreams – turning them into real-life gains for humanity.

Consider that his company, SpaceEx, was the first private company to put a payload in orbit. Only a handful of entire countries had done that before. In fact SpaceEx, I believe, is the only organization (including countries) to have a orbit-payload-enabled booster rocket successfully execute a controlled lift-off, hover and vertical landing. As for electric cars, by starting from scratch, the whole process has been rethought. And going beyond the physical layout of the vehicle, the company is organized differently. Early in the process, his team at Tesla recognized that their vehicle (and electric vehicles in general) will have less need for maintenance and repair – a mainstay of dealerships. So Tesla made the decision to sell them directly through the internet and by showrooms that stand in conjunction with free solar-powered charging stations. He is getting a lot of serious push-back from traditional dealerships and, by extension, several state governments for this. But it really is the most efficient method. Without substantial maintenance income, Tesla dealerships would have had an extremely hard go of it and would have had to raise the already high sticker price too high to be practical. And efficiency is one of the many obsessions of Mr. Musk.

The only quibble I have with the text is that author makes a little too much of the apparent misery of Musk's childhood. Bullying has always been hardest on gifted children and Musk was obviously gifted. Surely the role of his parents, both positive and negative, must have been an even a larger influence than any school beatings. At least Elon as a child never really had to overcome grinding poverty. The book makes it clear that his father (also an engineer) left much to be desired as a parent – although no one in the family agreed to provide examples. But the fact is Musk choose to live much of his teenage years with his father even after his parents split. As strident and pedantic a task-master as anyone could image, his father still allowed his children to roam and explore to a great degree. To the teenage Elon, this must have been worth putting up with the negative stuff.

This the kind of book that both inspires and repels. It provides insight into much of what drives this extraordinary and often difficult man. And for those of us not blessed with his kind of visual photographic memory (and so very few are) we should take in this story to both marvel at its nuance and sincerely hope that the contributions of Musk continue.

To all of us, but especially to those to whom financial success has come, “Be ashamed to die until you have scored some victory for humanity.” – the educator Horace Mann, as quoted by Neil deGrasse Tyson.

127 of 145 people found this review helpful

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  • Alex Rigo
  • 2015-05-22

A great, in depth look into Elon Musk

I have to admit that I am a Tesla Motors, SpaceX. and overall Elon Musk fan. I knew the skeleton of most of these stories and was excited to listen to all of the additional details that really describe the emotions and atmosphere at the times while these companies were being created. The author definitely did his homework to get all of the most accurate information as possible. This is not a book that was put together based off of someone who is just reading articles and researching on their own.. This book is the cumulative sum of all of the direct conversations the author had with Elon Musk as well as all of the key people in his life that played a part in his entrepreneurial adventure into becoming the industrialist that he is today. There were many moments that I laughed out loud at how candid Elon is about things. It's a very unique perspective on life and tackling challenges in general. Superb all around, I'm going to be listening again soon.

58 of 67 people found this review helpful

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  • Quella
  • 2018-01-09

Genius and all the complications that come with it

He is said to be one of the most polarizing people in the technology industry to date. When asked, most people either love him, or they loathe him. Who is this man with simple roots who later grew up to lead the digital payment industry (Paypal), reinvent the automotive industry (Tesla), disrupt the space industry (SpaceX) and make the solar industry (Solar City) as common as the household telephone? That honor goes to none other than Elon Musk. I’m not a big fan of listening to biographies, but I will say that I found the book titled “Elon Musk”, written by Ashlee Vance and narrated by Fred Sanders, to be a fascinating journey into the life and actions of this brilliant and at time eccentric man. In many ways, because of all his accomplishments, he has been called more of a machine than a man. He rarely sleeps, demands precision, and dedication. And, as this book reveals, you do not want to get in the way while as this machine will steamroll you without question. Sadly, this often impacted his personal relationships and his marriage. If you enjoy books covering the technology industry or the people who make it up, I would highly recommend you listen to this book.

What I found fascinating was, from the beginning of Mr. Musk life, he thought differently from those around him. As a child, he was that one kid who was always picked on because he was different. He loved reading and learning things, and once he ingested a piece of knowledge, it stuck with him because he is said to have perfect recall; both a curse and a blessing. Yet, these are the type of people who do not conform to the pressures or norms of society, but instead think outside of the box and reinvent it. As with most other inventors, Elon Musk did not simply take existing ideas and make them better. Not at all. In most cases he would take an industry and turn it upside down no matter the road blocks, he would move forward until he succeeded. Life for those who were not onboard was often difficult and such people did not last long in any of his companies. One was either on board or thrown overboard.

He often would upset entire industries that have always done it a specific way for nearly a century, just because that is how it was said to be done. He instead would see the weaknesses and failures of an existing industry and try to recreate it from the foundation up. When he saw the inefficiencies of the space industry (NASA), he said to himself that he could do it cheaper, safer, and better than anyone else. He was able to analyze the people, process, and technologies required to launch a space craft, and in his mind, evaluate the many options what would condense the activity to it fundamental parts. Similarly, when he helped to create Paypal, he was not frightened away by all the government regulations or requirements. He just plowed on with his goal and we see how he upset the payment industry with his new way of doing things. One really begins to see how this genius of a man does not confirm to norms, but instead focuses on how to change the world by way of his technology. He does not want to be one of the better providers in a given industry, instead he wants to be the best and by being the best he knows it will ultimately impact the whole world.

I thought the narration by Fred Sanders was professional and the right fit for the book. For material that at times could be dry and slow, Mr. Sanders did a good job of keeping the listener engaged and entertained. From an audio perspective, the quality was excellent, the volume levels were consistent, and I do not recall any audio artifacts would listening. This is my first listen to this narrator, and I was not surprised to see that nearly all of his other works on Audible have between four and five star ratings.

If you enjoy stories of both success and failure, I think you will really enjoy this book. It does not pull any punches and during my listen I found that my opinions of this man would go between genius and crazy idiot. It is a fascinating story and one that is both worth your Audible credit and the nearly fourteen hours of audio.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Drake
  • 2017-09-19

WARNING: this is one stressful rollercoaster ride

life is anything but easy. Elon musk? well, he makes us all look like babies. Be prepared to go head first into what it means to start a company that does against conventional thinking

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • 2015-05-27

Inspiring

I've listened to it sometimes feeling that i was reading science fiction, sometimes feeling frustrated for wasted time, lost opportunities and abandoned dreams. How deeply humane, how inspiring, how essentially American! Up to this point Elon Musk has a legacy and his life and achievements will inspire generations to come. But I want to thank Ashlee Vance for embarking on such a project and delivering in such an elegant form. One of the best biographies I've read, unbiased, unintimidated and above all timely. We still need heroes.

44 of 52 people found this review helpful

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  • Nathan
  • 2017-04-10

excellent read!

makes you want to change and be a better person. The reader was amazing. highly recommended

12 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • zachery
  • 2015-05-29

awsome biography

a great telling of the most amazing industrialist of our time....very entertaining.

out of a 100 audio books...the first one I've ever listened to twice. .back to back.

52 of 64 people found this review helpful

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  • SAMA
  • 2016-05-08

Never knew what the guy did before this

I knew of the companies he runs, the product of his thoughts, but never knew the mastermind behind them. I left the book fully aware of the man most likely to change the world in the very near future. Very well written biography of a very interesting man.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • ReactionDude
  • 2016-05-30

Great audiobook!

great story and very good narration, it was interesting to learn about a man like Elon Musk , his way of thinking and his personality, great visionary

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Vincent Karaboulad
  • 2019-03-31

Very inspiring

I just finished listening to it for the third time. A great companion to reach upwards.

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  • Sarp Gogebakan
  • 2019-01-14

Very well told

If you are into biographies of such entrepreneurs this is a great one. The narrative, the story and emotions are very well given. Very much enjoyed.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-01-06

Super inspiring and accurate

This book has changed my vision on life. The life story of Elon musk is accurately transcripted.

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  • Julien
  • 2019-01-01

Very interesting story!

The story of Elon Musk is told in a very comprehensible way. He keeps Tesla, SpaceX and personal events grouped in separate chapters which greatly improves the experience. Especially when you listen to a chapter everyday. Each chapter stands on its own. My only issue with this book is the vast difference in chapter length. Some chapter are around 48 minutes long and some are almost two hours long.

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  • Client Amazon
  • 2018-12-20

Inspiring

An inspiring biography that show how talent, willpower and resilience can pay. Next stop: Mars?

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2018-09-17

Can't wait for the sequel!

Can't wait for the sequel, after 2016 when they unveiled the new Teslas and landed all these rockets.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2018-05-18

An adventure to fulfill the purpose of a lifetime.

This book reads like a great adventure to fulfill the purpose of a lifetime. The quest of a man pursuing improvements and creating the future without limitation.

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  • AmShagar
  • 2018-04-06

Inspiring and thrilling story

An inspiring insight about a visionary who ambitions nothing less than to enhance humanity, from a rather objective perspective. Some lengths in the detailed description of early high profile recruits to the companies, but nothing too annoying. The story of the up and downs of Tesla, SpaceX and to a lesser extent of Solar City, Wich are all linked to the up and down of Musk's personnal life, is truly thrilling.
Definitely a must to have in your library if you are remotely interested in business, space, cars or silicon valley.

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  • champi
  • 2018-03-21

Motivant

Un aperçu de la vie de l'un des plus grand entrepreneur de notre temps. Vraiment intéressant et inspirant