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4.7 out of 5 stars
Steve Jobs
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103 of 117 people found the following review helpful
If you're like me the first thing that strikes in reading this book is how mythological it is.

Put up for closed adoption by unmarried parents who eventually married, rejected by the first would be adoptive parents, then adopted by working class parents, it would be difficult to imagine a more inauspicious beginning, or a more auspicious outcome. Steve Jobs would grow up to prove that an apple can fall quite far from the tree, and still blossom. Abandoned, the chosen one, special.

Firstly, I don't think there is any such thing as an illegitimate child, only illegitimate parents.

The public life and business achievements have been well chronicled, and I didn't want to read a book about Apple. I wondered about the family life, the relationship with Bill Gates, were they collaborators or competitors, some of the other cast of characters. I wondered how much of Apple's great accomplishments were due to Jobs, what effect his passing would have on the future of Apple. I wondered about how he got the Beatles music, and the reputedly fractious relationship with Apple records.

Isaacson has put together a narrative never less than fascinating about a mercurial man. My opinion of Jobs did not change as a result of reading this book. He already struck me as being a highly driven type A personality, narcissistic, aggressive, perfectionistic. Certainly these traits contributed to both his successes and his setbacks, and made him a difficult man to get along with, but those high standards imposed by a drive for perfection, and a demanding lack of compassion, would also draw out of people abilities, creativity, and great accomplishments.

Certainly, Isaacson's unvarnished portrait, means many people will not find Jobs the man appealing, and will not condone certain of his behaviors, and I commend Jobs for his honesty in allowing that. Perhaps the biggest surprise that he let go of his controlling tendencies, and did not seek to approve the book.

Ironically at age 22, he would find himself in the exact same position as his adoptive parents at that age, and would not acknowledge his out of wedlock child Lisa. He would eventually reverse that position before Apple went public agreeing to a DNA test, and making an arrangement. I was interested to discover that he has a lost sister Mona Simpson, an author who has written a book, A Regular Guy : A Novel, the main character based on Jobs and the relationship with his daughter Lisa.

Nemesis follows hubris with punishing fall from grace at Apple, betrayed by his hand picked underling, fired by the company he founded, exiled, buying Pixar off George Lucas for $5 million, selling it to Disney for a reputed $500 million, eventually returning as conquering hero to regain his throne, after many lean years the kingdom would once again prosper.

Among his influences were The Beatles, particularly John Lennon, also rejected by both his parents, and raised by an aunt. The Beatles being greater than the sum of the individual parts would inpsire his own management style of making better products through teamwork. Perhaps more surprising was his relating to Captain Ahab from Moby Dick, and that despotic tyrant King Lear.

The strength of this book, unfettered access to Jobs, the uncensored commentary and insights, of family, friends, business associates, even enemies, and critics.

I enjoyed the story of how he met his wife Laurene Powell. Her name is quite similar to my name, Laurence Power, and she has a degree in Economics. I enjoyed the humor and pranks of the early days with Wosniak. I particularly like calling the Vatican prank pretending to be Kissinger, collecting bootleg Dylan recordings, and illicitly mimicing the long distance beeps. I also enjoyed reading of the reality distortion field sometimes employed effectively, sometimes not. He would one day meet his father in a restaurant but neither would be aware that they met.

The book did answer most of my questions, yet I do not give it five stars. Here is why:

Recently, I have bought several quotation books, and when I learned Jobs illness was fatal, I started looking up quotes by Jobs.

Some quotation books such as Bartlett, Forbes Business quotes, and so forth do not have any Jobs quotes. Oxford and Yale each have two. In fact most quote books do not have many if any quotes by business leaders. Hopefully, this will be addressed. In fact, the The Ultimate Book of Investment Quotations (The Ultimate Series) book I found to be the only decent book that quotes business leaders and investment experts.

If you look at the Stanford commencement speech for example, available where video clips are seen, Jobs has many good quotes, and has great presentation skills. In fact, I understand there are about 100 books due to be published about Jobs.

While Isaacson's book contains many good quotes, most of these are by other people about Jobs, by Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Andy Grove, Al Gore and many others. Perhaps my favorite was the Herman Hermits quote by Bono. What I found curiously lacking were so few great quotes by Jobs himself. When I watched the Stanford speech on youtube, I wrote down six or seven quotes from that speech alone. Isaacson references the speech but barely quotes it.

Certainly, he could have sprinkled some of Jobs best quotes throughout the book. If he had done this I would definitely give the book five stars. Hopefully, this will be addressed in future editions and printings. That would make both an honest depiction and a fitting tribute to a great visionary.

Jobs: The Beatles all want to be on iTunes, but they and EMI are like an old married couple. They hate each other but can't get divorced.

Jobs: Picasso had a saying, good artists copy, great artists steal.

Alan Kay maxim adopted by Jobs: The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

Tim Cook: I realised very early that if you didn't voice your opinion he would mow you down. He takes contrary positions to create more discussion because it may lead to a better result. So, if you don't feel comfortable disagreeing, then you'll never survive.

As I read the book, three quotes by George Bernard Shaw came to mind:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him. The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself. All progress depends on the unreasonable man.

If I give you an apple, and you give me an apple we each have an apple. If I give you an idea, and you give me an idea, we each have two ideas. Jobs certainly turned apples and ideas into dollars).

Some people see things as they are and ask why. Steve Jobs dreamed things that never were and asked, why not?

As a result we have iPad, iPod, iPhone, iTunes, iMac, iBooks.

I think you will enjoy it, if you choose to get it, and I hope this was helpful.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2011
I found the book captivatingly brilliant. Isaacson gets a solid grade "A" for his homework, and the manner in which he structured his book. That said, the one thing that stood out to me like a sore thumb, perhaps because I'm a step father who hates it when people differentiate me as being something other than my daughter's "real" dad, is that a number of times in the book, when speaking of Steve's lifelong search for mentors, a reference is made to him "looking for a father figure". Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, the lessons he learned from Paul Jobs shaped him for life. He had a father. We all seek out mentors, but we never consider those mentors as parents unless we missed out on parenting. Jobs did not. That said, from one author to another, It is a solid work that will stand the test of time. Thank you for being so painstakingly thorough.
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on February 20, 2012
For a book aptly timed, about a person whose rise was at its peak when he passed, Isaacson handles his task beautifully providing a colour to the story that biographies often lack. He perfectly situates Jobs' beginnings in a telling context - 1970s, counter-culture in San Francisco - that really impacted the way Jobs ticked throughout his life. I often had trouble putting the book down, knocking off the 600-pages in a week. This is up there with McCullough's 'Truman'.

Job himself is a polarizing figure, because he was a scumbag in his personal life - abandoning his daughter; cutting close friends out of stock options; constantly dressing down people; etc - but geniuses are often forgiven for such behaviour in our society. Do we have to take the bad with the good and does the good outweigh the bad? Most would say yes.

The genius about Jobs is that he never invented anything himself. He piggybacked on the brains of Wozniak or Xerox, but he understood what it took to make the best integrated product possible. He understood where the market was going, what product category was being under-serviced and improved it drastically, where most forget about the predecessors before it. There were MP3 players before the iPod, but the iPod is the quintessential representative of that category, dominating both market share and perception.

Jobs and Apple has always been the underdogs in the industry. Jobs would always identify as such, which came from the time and place he grew up. Now that Apple is the most valued company in the world, who dominates market share in various categories, I wonder what will happen as they start leading from the front? It was important to Jobs that he left Apple full of A players, but as time goes on and smaller companies who see themselves as the Apple of the 1980s start poking, it's going to be interesting to see how Apple will respond.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2011
I found the book captivatingly brilliant. Isaacson gets a solid grade "A" for his homework, and the manner in which he structured his book. That said, the one thing that stood out to me like a sore thumb, perhaps because I'm a step father who hates it when people differentiate me as being something other than my daughter's "real" dad, is that a number of times in the book, when speaking of Steve's lifelong search for mentors, a reference is made to him "looking for a father figure". Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, the lessons he learned from Paul Jobs shaped him for life. He had a father. We all seek out mentors, but we never consider those mentors as parents unless we missed out on parenting. Jobs did not. That said, from one author to another, It is a solid work that will stand the test of time. Thank you for being so painstakingly thorough.
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on April 5, 2013
I like reading about successful and famous people and this book hits the nail on the head. You start to feel that you understand who Steve Jobs was and what drove him. The book covers most of his life right up to the end. He becomes a character you can both get excited about and amazed at how ruthless he could treat other people in his search for excellence. The author seems to have caputured the inside story. By the end you realize how complex Steve was and I felt there was still more that will never be truly understood about the man and what made him tick.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2011
I love hearing about people who just don't quite no matter what the odds and succeed. Everyone has a dark side, it is just how you deal with your deamons that makes you whom you are.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon April 3, 2012
The one thing this biography does not provide is in depth analysis of Steve Jobs' importance and contribution. Way too early for that. But we have a balanced portrait here, from multiple perspectives, firmly focused on Jobs' career for the most part. Jobs comes through clearly as inspiring and visionary, controlling and cruel. This is a work that is entertaining and balanced, informative and fair. Hard to say how we could ask for more at this stage.
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on March 19, 2012
What a compelling read. The name-dropping in this book underscores the influence of Jobs and others during the start of the computer revolution. A thought provoking read which provides many unknown insights into Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, etc... A very honest (and sometimes disturbing) look into the life and times of one of the greats of the computer generation.
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on February 10, 2015
Although the writing is just alright the content is great. You will not like Steve Jobs for a lot of reasons but you will not be able resist him either. What is really wonderful about this book is that the author tells it all good and bad and that for me made it believable. There are quotes from many many people which is great.
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on July 21, 2012
I first borrowed a copy from the school library, and decided to order one later. The paper quality is good, but it is really a pity the pictures (the separate portfolio photos) are a bit blurred, not so good as the ones in the library copy).... It is a fascinating book and I am still glad I have a copy of my own.
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