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#1 New York Times non-fiction bestseller
#2 Sunday Times non-fiction bestseller


Epic feats. Epic failures. An epic story.

Walter Isaacson charts Elon Musk’s journey from humble beginnings to one of the wealthiest people on the planet – but is Musk a genius or a jerk?

From the author of Steve Jobs and other bestselling biographies, this is the astonishingly intimate story of Elon Musk, the most fascinating and controversial innovator of our era – a rule-breaking visionary who helped to lead the world into the era of electric vehicles, private space exploration and artificial intelligence. Oh, and took over Twitter.

When Elon Musk was a kid in South Africa, he was regularly beaten by bullies. One day a group pushed him down some concrete steps and kicked him until his face was a swollen ball of flesh. He was in the hospital for a week. But the physical scars were minor compared to the emotional ones inflicted by his father, an engineer, rogue and charismatic fantasist.

His father’s impact on his psyche would linger. He developed into a tough yet vulnerable man-child with an exceedingly high tolerance for risk, a craving for drama, an epic sense of mission, and a maniacal intensity that was callous and at times destructive.

At the beginning of 2022 – after a year marked by SpaceX launching thirty-one rockets into orbit, Tesla selling a million cars, and him becoming the richest man on earth – Musk spoke ruefully about his compulsion to stir up dramas. ‘I need to shift my mindset away from being in crisis mode, which it has been for about fourteen years now, or arguably most of my life,’ he said.

It was a wistful comment, not a New Year’s resolution. Even as he said it, he was secretly buying up shares of Twitter, the world’s ultimate playground. Over the years, whenever he was in a dark place, his mind went back to being bullied on the playground. Now he had the chance to own the playground.

For two years, Walter Isaacson had unprecedented access. He shadowed Musk, attended his meetings, walked his factories with him and spent hours interviewing him, his family, friends, coworkers and adversaries. The result is the revealing inside story, filled with amazing tales of triumphs and turmoil, that addresses the question: are the demons that drive Musk also what it takes to drive innovation and progress?

About The Author

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Walter Isaacson is the bestselling author of biographies of Jennifer Doudna, Leonardo da Vinci, Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein. He is a professor of history at Tulane and was CEO of the Aspen Institute, chair of CNN, and editor of Time. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2023. Visit him at

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Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio UK (September 12, 2023)
  • Runtime: 20 hours and 27 minutes
  • ISBN13: 9781398527522

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Raves and Reviews

‘Its portrait of the tech maverick is fascinating. . . a persuasive mixture of alarm and deep admiration'

– Daily Telegraph

‘[Isaacson] has done something amazing with the Musk biography which is to write a 688-page quick read’

– Financial Times

‘Whatever you think of Mr Musk, he is a man worth understanding – which makes this a book worth reading’

– The Economist

‘A penetrating new biography’

– Daily Mail

‘A beat-by-beat book that follows the tycoon inside important rooms, as well as exploring obscure regions of his mind’

– The Times

‘A comprehensive, deeply reported chronicle of the world-shaping tech mogul’s life’

– Politico

‘An experienced biographer’s comprehensive study’

– Observer

‘He forms his own conclusions, which are mostly admirably balanced and mature. . . Isaacson, in his quest for a comprehensive audit of the Musk phenomenon, errs slightly on the side of the voyeur in these encounters, but I can’t blame him. It’s quite the spectacle’

– Independent

‘The book contains a series of illuminating anecdotes about Musk’

– Guardian

'Isaacson offers both an engaging chronicle of his subject’s busy life so far and some compelling answers’

– Wall Street Journal

‘The most complete profile of Musk yet

– Time Magazine

'There’s not much middle ground on Musk – people love him or hate him – but Isaacson is best positioned to figure out what makes him tick’

– Los Angeles Times

The resulting book delves deep into the billionaire’s demons, including childhood bullies and a difficult father, and interrogates their relationship to his success

– New York Times

‘Isaacson deftly handles complicated matters like the development of electric vehicles, rockets and artificial intelligence while also deeply exploring Musk’s background and family’

– AP News

‘This fast-paced biography. . . [is] a head-spinning tale about a vain, brilliant, sometimes cruel figure whose ambitions are actively shaping the future of human life'

– Ron Charles, CBS Sunday Morning

‘Everything you'd expect from a book on Musk. . . While the stories are fascinating and guaranteed to spark a mountain of coverage, founders and entrepreneurs will also unearth valuable lessons’

– Inc.

‘The book is bursting with stories. . . A deeply engrossing tale of a spectacular American innovator’

– New York Journal of Books

‘Walter Isaacson’s intimate account of a tech titan’


‘this biography of Elon Musk is still fascinating. How could it not be? . . . He has spoken to practically everybody’

– Evening Standard

‘a highly readable portrait of a very unusual personality. . . It is a considerable achievement on Isaacson’s part to have persuaded this reviewer. . . to adopt a more sympathetic view of Musk and set aside much of the familiar media caricature of him.’

– Literary Review

‘Described by the FT as a “688-page quick read” for the TikTok generation, Isaacson’s biography of the South African entrepreneur races along at bone-rattling speed. That certainly makes for an entertaining exploration of Musk the celebrity’

– Financial Times, Technology

‘From its cover… to its size (nearly 700 pages), this account of the world’s highest profile technology entrepreneur shouts importance… Isaacson does a good job of illustrating the crazy genius of his multiple projects'

– Financial Times, Business

‘[There are] few biographers who have had so much access to powerful people as Walter Isaacson. So his biography Elon Musk is a must-read. . . in my view, it is the details about his attitude towards artificial intelligence at Tesla, or his dealings with the Ukrainian government, which are most fascinating. Whatever you think of Musk, [this is] an illuminating book that forces us to confront a crucial question: are innovators always half-mad?’

– Gillian Tett, Financial Times

‘This biography, written with his approval, follows him from his dweebish, unhappy childhood to Twitter trolling adulthood’

– The Times, Books of the Year

'Isaacson, a highly respected biographer, does an excellent job in tying him down. Musk cooperated in its writing, but it's no hagiography, delving into dark family secrets, exposing Musk's anti-social nature, his addiction to drama and risk, his tendency to, in the words of his ex-wife, go "king-crazy"'

– Daily Mail, Biographies of the Year

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