Book Review : Elon Musk

This is the first of, I hope, many book reviews on Simply Love That. I love a good book, and could read for hours on end if I had the time. My all time favourites are biographies, true stories, thrillers and of course a good old love story in between. I’d love to hear from you about any new books that I should be reading, so please drop me an email.

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Prior to reading Ashlee Vance’s biography on Elon Musk, I knew the man existed, but that was about it. I had heard about the billionaire ex South African who had a passion for building rockets and putting man on Mars, but that’s where it began and ended for me. So, when I saw the book at Exclusive Books, my interest was piqued and I decided to buy it in an attempt to educate myself. And educate myself I did. I learnt quite a few things, one of them being : there are some super intelligent people out there studying things that I have never heard of, and they then go on to have multiple degrees in those very things that I have never heard of!

I also learnt that Elon Musk is a man with a vision, perseverance and determination that few people could ever dream of having. According to Vance ‘he’s an inventor, a celebrity businessman, and industrialist able to take big ideas and turn them into big products. Born in South Africa, Musk now looks like America’s most innovative industrialist and outlandish thinker and the person most likely to set Silicone Valley on a more ambitious course. Because of Musk, Amercians could wake up in ten years with the most modern highway in the world: a transit system run by thousands of solar-powered charging stations and traversed by electric cars. By that time, Space X will be sending up rockets every day, taking people and things to dozens of habitats and making preparations for longer treks to Mars. These advances are simultaneously difficult to fathom and seemingly inevitable if Musk can simply buy enough time to make them work. As his ex-wife, Justine, put it, “He does what he wants, and he is relentless about it. It’s Elon’s world, and the rest of us live in it”‘.

model-s-620 It’s an incredibly frank, no punches pulled look at a man who became a dot-com millionaire in his early twenties, and from there went on to create three other mega companies : PayPal (which he sold to E-bay for an astronomical price), Tesla Motors and Space X. The latter two I had no knowledge of, but since reading the book I could move to the U.S. purely to own a Tesla Model S electric car.  The design and capabilities of the car are sheer genius, and should you use the ubiquitous (free) Tesla Super Charging stations, the price you paid for your Model S will be your last expense on the car – its an electric car so it never needs a service, and software updates are continuously done (don’t ask me how), so your car always has the latest software capabilities on the touch screen that operates everything … oh, and did I mention that you can order your car on-line!

model-s-review-620c Ashlee Vance has managed to capture Elon Musk the visionary, as well as Elon Musk the person, through hundreds of interviews with current and past staffers, family, and wives (he has been married three times, twice to the same woman). Amazingly, Vance managed to obtain the co-operation of Elon too, and spent many hours interviewing him. He is an intensely private and complex person, and Vance has written the book from both Elon’s perspective as well as how he is perceived by others – both friends and enemies.


A few things fascinate me about the man : his unwavering determination to put everything on the line for his companies, Tesla and Space X, and more recently Solar City; his micro management of detail that probably gives most of his staff gastric ulcers; his photographic memory (he never writes anything down); the way he surrounds himself with equally brilliant people; and lastly the fact that he doesn’t sleep very much, and often worked 23 hour days. He certainly won’t win any Boss-of-the-year awards for being ‘nice’, he spends more than half his life in his private jet, yet he is a devoted dad to 5 sons (twins and triplets),and tries to spend 4 days of the week with them.

This is a brilliant read that I found inspiring and educating. If you enjoy biographies, then this is a must read. Definitely something to add to your Christmas shopping list.

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