We present 24 books a year at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas, and have done so for eighteen years. Someone asked me once how I keep all this straight, and I don’t. I don’t remember which author said what content in what book. So, living in Texas, I give a greasy answer. I just say, “in a book that I read recently.”
But, I am pretty clear within the year. My pick of the best business book for 2015 is the incredible story entitled Elon Musk : Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future written by Ashlee Vance (Ecco, 2015).
This is a lively spin of one of the most unusual individuals you will ever read about. I can use the words “intelligent” and “weird” in the same sentence to describe him.
I copied these two sentences from the inside flap of the book: 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…..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….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.
I am not the only person to recognize the value of this book. In selecting Vance’s work in its best nonfiction books of the year, the Wall Street Journal said: Elon Musk’s companies employ around 15,000 people and want to employ more in advanced manufacturing in America. He is achieving precisely what we should crave from Silicon Valley: provocative, useful innovation and jobs, as well as monetary value. In this spirited and riveting biography, Ashlee Vance shows us a man capable of great brilliance and low-down deviance, an engineer able to envisage and implement grand ideas but notorious for hogging credit and for acts of astounding insensitivity: an American hero of Whitmanesque vigor, as bad as the worst but as good as the best. (Source: http://graphics.wsj.com/best-books-2015).
What do you know about the author? Ashlee Vance is an award winning columnist and feature writer for Bloomberg Businessweek. Previously, he worked for The New York Times and The Economist. Vance was born in South Africa, grew up in Texas and attended Pomona College. He has spent more than a decade covering the technology industry from San Francisco and is a noted Silicon Valley historian.
This book is still # 1 in three sub-categories on Amazon.com, and at the time we presented its synopsis, it was # 2 on three best-selling lists.