We have all seen the adverts about billionaires who read about 10 books a day (or something along those lines) which often causes the phrase, “I need to read more” to be mumbled to oneself. If you do know where to start, we have compiled this list of 15 books Elon Musk and Bill Gates have read- that are available online currently. Because they must be doing something right, right?
To start us off, there is “The Choice”, a favourite of Bill Gates’. Written by the New York Times bestseller, Edith Eva Eger, she bases her memoir on her survival of the death camp, Auschwitz, when she was 16 years old. What Eger wants readers to take away is that there is no “hierarchy of suffering,” as she referred to it in the book.
2. “The Smartest Person in the Room: The Root Cause and New Solution for Cybersecurity” by Christian Espinosa
Next on the list is “The Smartest Person in the Room: The Root Cause and New Solution for Cybersecurity” written by Founder and Alpine Security CEO, Christian Espinosa. It is no surprise that we see this title making Elon Musk’s ‘to read’ list. Readers can look forward to a culmination of Espinosa’s expertise and decades of experience as a cybersecurity engineer, trainer, and white hat hacker to help you develop an approach “to winning the cybersecurity war.” Cybersecurity is not a new topic, but if you are just getting into it or looking for tips to improve, this book is a great step to building a successful cybersecurity strategy, starting with finding and developing the right people for your team.
3. Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson
It comes at no surprise that Musk would look to another business giant’s life, the late Steve Jobs to bring insight to his own. This biography is based on Jobs' interviews and information collected from family and friends, colleagues, and rivals over a two-year-period. Interestingly enough, before his unfortunate passing in 2011, Jobs requested this book be written.
4. “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell
Following that, we have “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell. Gates thoroughly enjoyed this 2004 prize-winning novel commenting that is, “A touching and very clever story about moral choices.”
If you enjoy a novel that varies from the traditional style, Mitchell’s writing is structured uniquely throughout. By weaving together 6 interrelated stories set in different times and places, there is never a dull moment on the page.
5. “Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies,” Nick Bostrom
Published in 2014, Swedish philosopher, Nick Bostrom, presents us with another good read about artificial intelligence. Given that the AI industry is extremely fast-changing (and that Musk himself has stated that AI has the potential to be more dangerous than nuclear weapons), this book provides ways to tackle the giant tech industry. It poses the question: When (or will) machine intelligence surpass human intelligence? And if so, what happens next?
6. “The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War,” by Ben Macintyre
Moving to a different genre, history lovers will enjoy this book by Ben Macintyre. This nonfiction account focuses on Oleg Gordievsky, a KGB officer who became a double agent for the British, and Aldrich Ames, the American turncoat who likely betrayed him. Even if you are not particularly a history fan, Gates commented that “It’s every bit as exciting as my favourite spy novels.”
7. “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Climate Change,” Naomi Oreskes and Erik M
A controversial read from Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway is next on the list. This book received lots of feedback globally, not all positive. The book encompasses delicate matters that have affected humanity: global warming, cancer, acid rains, ozone hole, and more.
8. “The Ride of a Lifetime” by Robert Iger
A memoir written by former Disney CEO Bob Iger, it is a must-read for business boffs. Gates calls this 2019 piece, “one of the best business books I’ve read in several years.” Readers can enjoy getting unique business insights into running a large company as well as going along for the ride of being entertained.
9. “The Machine Stops,” E.M. Forster
If you enjoy novels set in an era of dystopia, you will enjoy E.M. Forster's short story, "The Machine Stops." This 1909 novel revolves around humans who live underground and have lost contact with one another. Their days are occupied by sitting idly in their room, waiting for (and worshipping) an entity called "The Machine."
10. “Good Economics for Hard Times” by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo
Next is a book that dives into the world of economics. This husband and wife power duo authors (and Nobel Prize winners) are “two of the smartest economists working today,” according to Gates. Even if you are not the most economics-minded, do not be afraid to give this a read as the language is accessible to all- including those who do not have an economics degree.
11. “Waiting for Godot,” Samuel Beckett
You may have already read this 1953 classic theatre masterpiece sometime during school or college. However, Musk recommends having another read of it. Claiming that he, “Has recently come to appreciate the awesome, absurdist humor of this book.”
12. “Breath from Salt: A Deadly Genetic Disease, a New Era in Science, and the Patients and Families Who Changed Medicine,” by Bijal P. Trivedi
If you have a particular interest in diseases or medicine, this book by Bijal P. Trivedi should be on your list. It is an uplifting piece according to Gates that documents a story of remarkable scientific innovation and how it has improved the lives of almost all cystic fibrosis patients and their families.
13. “Dune,” Frank Herbert
Dipping now into a different genre, Musk recommends the science-fiction book series “Dune” by Frank Herbert. Set in the distant future and on another planet, Musk praises the author calling it “brilliant.” The good news is that if you enjoy it as much as Musk did, the saga has 5 sequels.
14. “Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence,” Max Tegmark
Sticking with the theme of AI, we come to the next book. Readers can enjoy MIT professor Max Tegmark discussing frequently-asked questions about the future of artificial intelligence such as: How is AI going to affect the world of tomorrow? Musk refers to it as "A compelling guide to the challenges and choices in our quest for a great future of life, intelligence, and consciousness — on Earth and beyond."
15. “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand
Another dystopian favourite from Musk is "Atlas Shrugged.” Written in 1957, the book shows us a dystopian future with a sinking economy and a crumbling society under government oppression. The writer has been praised as a true visionary for their work and Musk commented it is, “A counterpoint to communism and useful as such, but should be tempered with kindness.”
It is no secret that reading expands your knowledge. Whenever anyone asks Elon Musk how he learned to build rockets, he says, ‘I read books.’ Tackle some on the list and gain valuable insight.