Executive Book Club

Book recommendations from Elon Musk, Uber's first employee, Warriors owner and more

SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk at the Kennedy Space Center
Paul Hennessy | SOPA Images | Getty Images

If you're looking for new books to read, former Y Combinator president and current Open AI CEO Sam Altman has collected a list of recommendations from some high-powered people.

On Friday, Altman tweeted a request for book recommendations and — being a big name in Silicon Valley — received responses from several successful entrepreneurs and innovators, like Elon Musk and Uber's first employee, Ryan Graves, who thanks to that gig is a billionaire, according to Forbes.

SpaceX and Tesla boss Musk recommended "The Life of Greece," the second book in an 11-book series called "The Story of Civilization," written over the course of 50 years by spouses Will and Ariel Durant. The Pulitzer Prize-winning series attempts to catalog the history of human beings and through the time of Napoleon and his rule.

According to Musk, the "first book is a little dry, but [the] second book, 'The Life of Greece,' is incredible," he tweeted. "Ancient Greece had it all [and] then committed suicide. Nobody digs your grave better than yourself." (The book details Ancient Greek civilization from the Death of Alexander the Great through when it was conquered by the Romans.)

Chamath Palihapitiya, an early Facebook executive and now part owner and executive board member of the Golden State Warriors NBA basketball team, tweeted a recommendation to read "Americana: A 400-Year History of American Capitalism" by Bhu Srinivasan, a serial entrepreneur who has been involved in start-ups ranging from municipal bond financial data to video game development. 

The book looks at the past four centuries of the United States' economy.

"This book is the stone cold nuts," says Palihapitiya. (Though Palihapitiya does not elaborate on what makes the book "nuts," but it is a tour of innovation and capitalism in the United States from the first European settlers to the age of the internet. "The device that I used was to explore American history as a series of next big things," Srinivasan said in 2017 in an interview with radio show, Knowledge@Wharton.) 

Graves (formerly of Uber and now CEO of private investment company Saltwater) tweeted that he is in a book exchange group where, three times, he has been given the book "Shantaram," "so that says something." (Goldman Sachs strategist David Haber chimed in to confirm the novel is worth reading. "It's excellent," Haber tweeted.) 

"Shantaram," which is nearly 1,000 pages, is author Gregory David Roberts' "fictionalized account of his years in Bombay" in the 1980s, according to The New York Times' 2004 review of the novel. 

In real life, Roberts escaped from Australia after being sentenced to 19 years in prison for a series of armed robberies. He landed in India where he lived on the lam for a decade. During that time he set up a free medical clinic for the poor but also was involved in counterfeiting, smuggling and being a gunrunner, among other nefarious activities.

The tweet thread is filled with many other book suggestions, if by lesser-known recommenders, with some authors promoting their own books.

See also: 

Golden State Warriors co-owner: This job interview question filters out 'boring' Ivy League 'box-checkers' and finds 'genius'

Uber employee No. 1 is a billionaire, and he got the job thanks to a tweet

Malcom Gladwell: Why 'overconfidence is more dangerous than incompetence'

"Anybody that reads it is going to learn a whole, whole lot"
"Anybody that reads it is going to learn a whole, whole lot"