Musk exemplifies why people should make time to read, especially at an early age. Musk's brother, Kimbal, says young Elon "would go through two books in one day."
Musk taught himself how to build rockets and cars. Whenever someone asks how he accomplished that, he says, "I read books."
Now, relatively young entrepreneurs like Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel have just started building their careers by reaching into the past to mine its lessons for millennials who hope to become the next Musk.
Whether your goal is to disrupt an industry or just improve a small business, the insights in these books will help. They're also just great fun to read.
1. Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance
What better to kick-off this list? Musk is, literally, changing the world. Maybe that's because the world belongs to him.
Anyone who doubts that can ask his ex-wife Justine Musk, who said in an interview for the book, "He does what he wants, and he is relentless about it. It's Elon's world, and the rest of us live in it."
Musk is only interested in the spectacular--with no compromises. As discussed in the book, he considers any other mode of operation a failure.
Musk has always known what he wanted. Vance writes that Musk arrived at his mission statement as a teenager: "The only thing that makes sense to do is strive for greater collective enlightenment."
This book offers the first deep dive into Musk's life, and it skillfully illuminates the path and continued promise of a Silicon Valley titan.
2. A Paperboy's Fable by Deep Patel
Patel's father, who was once a paperboy in Boston, started his paper route at the age of 17, the same age as Patel when he started writing this book.
His father saved enough money from the paper route to buy a rundown dry-cleaning operation, and went on to buy a hotel and start a small real-estate business. Patel writes that being a paperboy taught his father "many of the essentials of business that he still carries with him today."
Patel uses the paperboy fable to outline those essentials, and he also interviewed experts, including Vine co-founder Rus Yusupov, Warren Buffett scholar and author Robert P. Miles, and former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus (who was also once a paperboy).
Their insights help inform the fable, which takes us through the 11 principles chapter by chapter, starting with "recognizing opportunity" and ending with "branding for the future."
3. Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Garcia Martinez
Antonio Garcia Martinez went from Wall Street to the tech world. He worked alongside Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook before leaving to become an advisor at Twitter.
Martinez's unique perspective of Silicon Valley makes for an incredible read. Perhaps the most interesting bit of all is that he's not afraid to tell it exactly as he sees it.
He's also not afraid to brag or to burn bridges, and he has even dedicated the book to the people who want him to fail: "To all my enemies: I could not have done it without you," Martinez writes.
It's clear Martinez does not care who might be bothered by this book--not even the mighty Zuck, whose desk Martinez accidentally flooded when he brewed illegal beer while working at Facebook.
But none of this comes without purpose. Martinez's irresistible and entertaining book will change the way you view Silicon Valley.
4. Live Free or DIY by Justin E. Crawford
DIY, or do-it-yourself, is a source of pride for people who wish to handle every facet of an operation. But in this book, Crawford identifies the DIY attitude as a cause of problems rather than the cure.
DIYing is one of the biggest hurdles that small-business owners face because it sucks up all their time--time that should be spent focusing on the core of their business. Even if an entrepreneur is capable of doing everything, it's still a bad idea, and Crawford does a great job of explaining why.
He also offers easy solutions that will help both the workaholic and the entrepreneur who wants to spend more time with family. It's essential to properly manage time, as well as to value that time properly.
As Crawford writes: "Time is the ultimate non-renewable resource."
5. Originals by Adam Grant
The beauty of Grant's work is that he presents ideas that are so counterintuitive it makes even smart people scratch their heads--until Grant unloads volumes of data and research to back up those ideas.
If you're thinking about starting a business, don't quit your day job. "Entrepreneurs who kept their day jobs had 33 percent lower odds of failure than those who quit," Grant writes.
Grant continues, "If you're risk averse and have some doubts about the feasibility of your ideas, it's likely that your business will be built to last. If you're a freewheeling gambler, your startup is far more fragile."
Grant is the youngest person ever awarded tenure at the Wharton School, receiving it at the age of 29. He's at his best in this book, exploring what it means to be creative and influence our culture.
Grant writes: "By my definition, originality involves introducing and advancing an idea that's relatively unusual within a particular domain, and that has the potential to improve it."