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

4.8 out of 5 stars 138 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (May 19 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062301233
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062301239
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 612 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars 138 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“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 Back Cover

Elon Musk is the most daring entrepreneur of our time

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 interviewed 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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Customer Reviews

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Format: Hardcover
Elon Musk is arguably the most exciting and visionary entrepreneur alive today. He has often been described as the inspiration behind Iron Man or the next Steve Jobs, and an article in Business Insider observed that “A Lot Of People Think Elon Musk Is Already Greater Than Steve Jobs Ever Was” (Business Insider, August 2013). TED curator Chris Anderson wrote a great portrait of him when Musk was named Fortune magazine’s 2013 Business Person of the Year (“The Shared Genius of Elon Musk and Steve Jobs”, Fortune magazine, December 2013).

In this biography, Ashlee Vance describes Musk’s incredibly impressive evolution from an unhappy childhood in South Africa, to university life as a student here in Canada, and finally to his current position as a Silicon Valley multi-billionaire at the head of no less than 3 revolutionary companies: Tesla, SpaceX and SolarCity.

It is no accident that Musk has focused his efforts on technologies that protect the environment and slow catastrophic climate change. “What Musk has developed that so many of the entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley lack is a meaningful worldview. Where Mark Zuckerberg wants to help you share baby photos, Musk wants to save the human race from self-imposed or accidental annihilation.” Encouragingly, “Musk has visited the White House several times, and has the ear of President Obama.”

“One of Musk’s most ardent admirers is also one of his best friends, Larry Page, the co-founder and CEO of Google. Page comments that: ‘I find Elon to be an inspiring example. He said ‘Well, what should I really do in this world? Solve cars, global warming, and make humans multiplanetary. I mean those are pretty compelling goals, and now he has businesses to do that.
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Format: Hardcover
The biography, "Elon Musk: Inventing the Future" by Ashlee Vance was released yesterday and I finished listening to the audible version today. The life and ambitions and accomplishments of Musk are truly awe inspiring. Musk is a brilliant visionary whom it seems really wants to save mankind from the scourges of climate change and fossil fuels.

Musk is CEO of three of the most disruptive companies in history. Like Stephen Jobs, Musk uses vertical integration of technologies to optimize economic and functional integration rather than farming out pieces of products. Space X completely reinvented space exploratory technology by reconfiguring rocketry technology from the ground up rather than piecing together disparate pieces from different industries. Tesla did likewise by completely re-engineering all aspects of an electric car from the ground up rather than tinkering piece-meal with different aspects. Solar City now not only installs and finances solar panels throughout the US, but now manufactures its own panels in New York which are significantly more efficient than the competition. Tesla's new gigafactory will produce its own advanced versions of Lithium-ion batteries for Tesla electric cars but also as storage reservoirs that will allow solar powered homes to go completely off-grid.

Musk is technically brilliant, but he is also savvy and works slavishly in business arrangements. As author Vance commented, Musk seems to be a genomic cross between Bill Gates and Stephen Jobs. I couldn't stop listening to this biography until the last word was uttered. (I find that I much prefer listening to audible books that are biographical or fictional but not technical.)
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Format: Hardcover
“Where Mark Zuckerberg wants to help you share baby photos, Musk wants to…well…save the human race from self-imposed or accidental annihilation.”

Anyone who has Tony Stark (of Iron Man fame) based on them has a pretty good story to tell. The world first met Elon Musk when a South Africa trade magazine published the source code to a video game he had written. It was only 167 lines of code, but then that is more than most 12 year olds manage. Since then, he has cut up logs in Vancouver, dropped out of a PhD program, binged on video games for days, told a venture capitalist that he was like a samurai because he would rather commit seppuku than fail, and achieved what many thought was impossible in three different sectors – the internet with PayPal, space with SpaceX, and electric cars with Tesla – while trying for a fourth.

He’s also a brutal boss, and sometimes seems to take credit for the work of others or shape narratives to his own advantage, not always truthfully. For that reason, he can be a controversial figure, despite his achievements. One of the first journalists to get full access, Vance aims to show the good with the bad: attempts to capture as much of the character and achievements of Musk as possible.

The biography is excellent: well written, insightful, and interesting. Despite his flaws, Musk comes across as an impressive figure: not perfect, but someone committed to serving humanity, with a towering intellect, tremendous drive, and a penchant for taking enormous risks and making them work through effort and focus.

My one complaint is something I’m not sure could be avoided, at least anytime soon.
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