Walter Isaacson brings ‘Elon Musk’ to book club this fall

Walter Isaacson is the author of the upcoming biography "Elon Musk."
(Simon & Schuster)

L.A. Times Book Club lineup features Elon Musk biographer Walter Isaacson and Christian Cooper, author of ‘Better Living Through Birds.”


Good morning, and welcome to the L.A. Times Book Club newsletter.

Bestselling author Walter Issacson has penned biographies of some of the most famous minds in history, from Leonardo Da Vinci to Steve Jobs.

For his latest deep dive, the author and historian spent two years shadowing one of the most prominent and controversial CEOs on the scene today, a billionaire entrepreneur who has left his mark on space travel, electric cars and, most recently, the business of social media.

On Oct. 1 Isaacson joins L.A. Times Book Club readers for an in-person conversation about his new work, “Elon Musk.” The biography, hitting bookstores Sept. 12, chronicles the life and “lasting psychological scars” of the innovator who brought us Tesla, SpaceX, Paypal and who turned his latest acquisition, Twitter, into “X.”


To research the book, Isaacson attended Musk’s meetings, walked his factories and interviewed the South Africa-born mogul as well as his friends, co-workers, adversaries and family members.

No matter the subject, Isaacson says he follows the same playbook. “Rule No. 1 for a biographer is that it begins in childhood,” Isaacson tweeted this week on the Musk-owned social platform rebranded as X.

“Elon Musk’s father instilled his drive but also his demons, beginning at an early age,” Isaacson continued. “Elon and his brother, Kimbal, tell vivid and psychologically brutal tales and the scars they left, and their father, Errol, spends hours giving his own side forcefully.”

“Elon and Kimbal and their mother Maye describe the lasting psychological scars.”

Isaacson will be in conversation with Times columnist Anita Chabria on Sunday, Oct. 1 at 2 p.m. at the El Segundo Performing Arts Center. This is our first weekend book club event, a response to requests from readers. Tickets are available through Eventbrite.

What would you like to know about “Elon Musk?” Share your comments and questions for Walter Isaacson through Eventbrite or via email to

What’s next

This month we’re reading “Better Living Through Birding: Notes From a Black Man in the Natural World” by Christian Cooper. “He argues that anyone can learn to take notice anywhere — from backyards to concrete canyons — starting with something as simple as finally recognizing the enchanting flute-like triplet notes of the common robin,” writes Lorraine Berry in this roundup of eight new books to soothe your climate anxiety.

Join us Aug. 16 when Cooper will be in virtual conversation with Times writer Carla Hall about his memoir and new TV series, “Extraordinary Birder.” Get tickets on Eventbrite.

Christian Cooper (right) is the author of "Better Living Through Birding"
(Random House)

On Sept. 19 Rosanna Xia, author of “California Against the Sea,” and Sammy Roth, who writes the popular “Boiling Point” newsletter, will join readers for a livestreaming Ask a Reporter event.

Xia and Roth are part of the team that contributed to Our Climate Change Challenge, an upcoming L.A. Times project exploring topics such as recycling, composting, use of solar energy at home, sustainable design, public transit, reduced waste kitchens and Southern California’s air quality. Readers are invited to share their questions and suggestions before and during the event. Sign up here.

Great escapes

Travel books: “I’m reading ‘Roads’ by Larry McMurtry, a rumination on driving American highways by the writer who gave us ‘Lonesome Dove,’” says Times travel writer Christopher Reynolds. “Because McMurtry had nothing to prove, and because he was a devoted dealer in antiquarian books, he has a wonderfully relaxed tone and a highly literary set of filters when sifting his experiences.” Next on Reynolds’ adventure reading list: “Around the World in 80 Trains” by British journalist Monisha Rajesh.

Enforced Eden: Peter Heller, author of the SoCal surfing memoir “Kook,” roams Yellowstone National Park in his new novel, “The Last Ranger.” Heller’s hero is a seasoned ranger with a literary bent who once dreamed of becoming “a writer of the wild, like Merwin or Dickey or even Conrad.” The opening pages, says reviewer Mark Athitakis, “will make you want to become a better human.”

Browsing Ojai: Rachel Schnalzer Stewart explores the charms of Bart’s Books, which beckons readers from far and wide to the quiet corner of Matilija and Canada streets. “Over the years, the outdoor bookstore — think: rows of bookshelves covered by tin roofing and surrounded by lush greenery — has become a fixture on lists such as ‘The Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World’ and ‘Bookstores Every Book Lover Must Visit in Their Lifetime.’”

Keep reading

Out this week: Four years after “The Dutch House,” bestselling author, indie bookstore owner and previous book club guest Ann Patchett returns with a new family saga, “Tom Lake.” “She writes with deep attention to our country’s changing culture while never taking her eye off narrative,” says reviewer Bethanne Patrick.

More new releases: Check out 10 recommended books for August.


Surf culture: Melanie Benjamin’s novel “California Golden” takes on a broken family of surfers and SoCal beach life after World War II.

Book to screen noshing: Just in time for the latest installment of “The Lincoln Lawyer,” based on Michael Connelly’s novels, food columnist Jenn Harris does a downtown taco crawl with actor Manuel Garcia-Rulfo. “Food is a big part of the show and my character,” Garcia-Rulfo says. “There is something about Mickey Haller where he’s always moving. Eating gives him movement and it’s part of how he focuses.

California stories: Lee Herrick talks with Lynne Thompson about his appointment as California’s tenth poet laureate and reads from his latest collection, “Scar and Flower,” in a Poetry.LA video.

Santa Barbara spiral: The finishing stroke of Santa Barbara’s newspaper came without fanfare or public notice. “All of our jobs are eliminated, and the News-Press has stopped publishing,” Managing Editor Dave Mason wrote to the staff. “They ran out of money to pay us.” James Rainey explains how Santa Barbara lost its local newspaper.

RIP Pee Wee Herman: Paul Reubens, who died this week at age 70, was writing a memoir that his team hopes to publish posthumously. “I wrote all my funniest stories first and then moved on to more serious stuff,” he said in a 2020 interview.

ICYMI: Luis Alberto Urrea

Bestselling author Luis Alberto Urrea joined us July 19 to discuss “Good Night, Irene,” a novel inspired by his mother’s front line service with the Red Cross “Donut Dollies” during World War II. Seattle librarian, author and literary critic Nancy Pearl kicked off the evening by sharing her favorite passage.

Urrea spent more than a decade researching this little-known volunteer unit and talked about how he brought the experiences of his mother and other women to life using oral histories. “Without their relationship to each other keeping the stories alive, it may have disappeared.” Watch the conversation here.

Phyllis McLaughlin de Urrea with fellow Red Cross volunteers
From left: Phyllis McLaughlin de Urrea with fellow Red Cross volunteers Jill Pitts Knappenberger and Helen Anderson and their WWII Clubmobile.
(Courtesy of Luis Alberto Urrea)

Become a Book Club benefactor

I’m proud to say, there’s nothing else quite like our L.A. Times Book Club. We’ve welcomed a U.S. president and the priest who founded Homeboy Industries. We’ve read works by activists and actors, National Book Award honorees, poets laureate and Pulitzer Prize winners. Acclaimed filmmakers, world-class chefs, bestselling novelists, the world’s most renowned naturalist, two “Star Trek” icons, and a tennis legend who learned to play on the public courts of Long Beach have all come to our club and shared their stories with our readers. Here are some of those memorable moments from our first four years.

Thank you to all of the readers who join us every month and share so many comments, questions and suggestions. We’re so grateful to everyone who already made a 2023 contribution to support our community book club through the Los Angeles Times Community Fund.
We depend on readers to help us produce book club events both in-person and virtual throughout the year. If you haven’t already given, please make your tax-deductible donation and become a book club benefactor. We’ll feature your name at the next book club meetup and online as you help the LA Times Book Club continue and thrive.

Tell us: what books are you enjoying this summer and what authors would you most like to meet? Send your comments to