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.
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.
The best biographies plunge us into the life and times of the subject with the page-turning aspects of a novel. They convey the facts of a subject’s life in a compelling narrative, and with extraordinarily famous people, in such a way that we hardly notice we already know many of the details.
Steve Jobs is very much one of those extraordinarily famous people. We already know much of the chronology and the accomplishments of his life, and from media we already have a strong sense of his personality. All the more remarkable then, that noted biographer Walter Isaacson has delivered such a fascinating, compelling and moving portrait.
Jobs asked Isaacson to write the book - he had already written excellent biographies on Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, and Henry Kissinger - and Isaacson has used his considerable biographical skills to produce a fascinating, compelling and moving picture. Unlike many authorized biographies it faced no revisions or restrictions by Mr. Jobs. What you see is what you get, and what you get is a truly remarkable tale of a truly remarkable visionary, innovator, and business leader.
The book unfolds chronologically, and from an early age Jobs is shown to have smarts, moxy, and unusual personality traits. His string of business successes (Apple, NeXT, Pixar), and his string of product successes (MacIntosh, iMac, iTunes, iPod, iPhone, iPad) is legendary, but only time will tell if he accomplished his primary goal - to build a company that would last, a company that would reinvent itself and remain an innovative leader.
Jobs’ odd traits permeate the pages, but Isaacson is non-judgemental, and the book never descends into the voyeuristic sideshow that is a hallmark of so many lesser biographers. For one of the most successful business leaders in history, Jobs also had an unusual indifference to money. When Apple purchased a plane for his use, it was not ostentation, but rather an attempt to give some balance to Jobs’ work and family life. A small detail in a grand life story, but like so many details Isaacson includes, a telling one. The jet, modeled after one owned by his close friend and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, was modified to Jobs’ exacting design standards - the same standards he applied to Apple products. Ellison offers a telling comment about the jet’s completion. “I look at his airplane and mine, and everything he changed was better.” Not more bigger, not faster, not more gold plating ... just “better”, through design.
Isaacson’s biography will seem to the new, fresh minds of future generations even more remarkable than it does to us today. It is rare to have an authoritative and unvarnished biography of such a luminary, and it is difficult to imagine any other biographers adding to what Isaacson has written. Unsurprisingly, Steve Jobs is the best selling biography in history. A biography - the biography - that will be read for decades to come.
on December 3, 2011
I am a long-term Macintosh user and Apple supporter and Steve Jobs has always held a particular fascination for me. So it was with eager anticipation that I looked forward to the publication of his biography. I was not disappointed. Jobs was an extraordinarily complex man and it is no surprise that his life was full of twists and turns, reflecting his volatile personality. The book is almost 600 pages long but clearly his biographer had to decide what to leave out or otherwise the work could not have been contained in a single volume. Jobs' role in the founding of and subsequent involvement in the story of Apple was a case of the right person being in the right place at the right time.
Walter Isaacson's book has the hallmark of having been carefully researched and his writing style is such that once I started to read it I had difficulty putting it down.
on November 3, 2011
From the day I got this book I couldn't put it down. I kept wanting to know more about Steve and the kind of person he was. He is truly inspiring and one of the great visionaries of our time. He had such passion. Love or hate Apple, this is an amazing read.
on November 15, 2011
This book is highly detailed because the writer did over 200 interviews with Steve Jobs, I would strongly recommend this book to people who enjoy biographies and non-fiction books!
Its insanely great!
on March 22, 2012
I already knew a fair bit about jobs but this book is a true biography of a true legend. His story had to be documented and documented well. I am glad Walter Isaacson wrote this book. I doubt anyone else could have told the story in a better way. It does not try to sugarcoat Jobs' personality and takes you on a journey through a brilliant yet crazy mind of Jobs. Oscar Levant once said 'There is a thin line between genius and insanity'. Nothing personifies jobs better.
Any person in business must read this book. The most successful CEO of all times - this is a story of how self-belief, tenacity and iron-will can change the impossible into possible. Focus and follow your vision rest is mere distraction. If you are sane enough you'll disapprove of him, if you are crazy enough, you'll understand him. Here's to the crazies...
on August 20, 2013
I'm not a super techie person and I'm not a long time loyal Mac user. My ipad is the first and only apple product I have owned. But reading this book (or listening to it on audio to be precise) has been a wonderful experience on many levels. Steve Jobs is a fascinating person. It takes a passionate a personality such to have accomplished all the things he did. This book is also an exciting history of the digital revolution. Told from the Apple perspective, changes in technology and consumer devices that happened in chaotic and unrefined fashion each culminate in an apple device that represents a mature manifestation of a technology. I find it interesting that the book, which often mentioned jobs' desire for simplicity was also able to tell the history of the era in similarly simple terms. This was a great book. I would come home from listening to it in the car and talk endlessly about it and be excited to go on a long drive so I could hear more. Kudos to Dylan Baker for great narration! The only downside to having read this book is I may now become an Apple only person... And I may have developed an unhealthy desire for great functional and aesthetic design.
on April 29, 2013
Before reading Jobs biography, I had no idea about the kind of person Steve Jobs was and had very little knowledge of Apple history. As an I-Phone owner for 1 yr. + and a MacBook Pro Owner for a year - formerly a Windows user (and fixer) - I fell in love with the products. So, I was curious about one of their founders.
Jobs is not what one would call the "nicest" person one might meet in their lifetime. However, he was definitely a catalyst in developing technology that was... user friendly, great design and leading technology for the consumer who has better things to do with their time than "tweak" and "maintain" less than good products = Windows.
Jobs put "design" and "simple" ahead of technology as his priorities. "OUT of the BOX" thinking! Most companies even today give technology the first consideration and the user the last.
I am a bit of a tech guy, so reading about how Apple evolved to introduce new technology and set the industry standards for consumer electronics/music/e-books, has been interesting to say the least. Learning about who Steve Jobs was has been even more interesting from a business standpoint. He was breakthrough as a CEO for both Apple and Pixar = great consumer products. He cared with passion about everything he did!
After reading... I am a FAN! Let's hope there are more people as creative and caring about their products that end up in CEO positions.
Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs lands with a solid, weighty thud. In fitting tribute, it is a painstakingly-designed product that conveys the Steve Jobs experience. From the discomforting Jobs stare on the front cover to the final chapter that insists on giving Jobs the last word, it looks and feels like Jobs.
Isaacson does the usual bio stuff. We get capsule sketches of Jobs' birth parents, of his adoptive parents, and of some influential adults from his childhood. Anecdotes from the teen years uncover the roots of his interests in technology, his love of good design and careful craftsmanship, and his near-obsessive attention to detail. We see the roots of the darker Jobs, too. He was a black-and-white thinker, seeing everything as either "$#!+" or insanely great, sometimes in rapid alternation. Steve Jobs saw people this way, too. Although there are examples of his sensitivity, they are outnumbered by episodes of manipulation, confrontation, and even cruelty.
No matter how outrageous his behavior, we overlook it, minimize it, even revel in it. And we try to understand how it underlies his achievements. The Macintosh, iPod, iPhone, iPad...revolutions in personal computing, computer animation, and the music industry. And--cliché that it is, it has to be said again--starting Apple Computer in a garage and shepherding its growth into the largest and most profitable company on the planet. Isaacson's book helps us understand Steve Jobs' personality, his management style, his design philosophy, and his relentless drive for perfect products.
A brief story gives a sense of Jobs, his friend-and-foe relationship with Bill Gates, and the book's overall tone. Soon after iTunes for Windows was released, Jobs told the press that it was like "offering a glass of ice water to people in Hell." Infuriated by this latest swipe at Microsoft, Gates encountered Jobs behind stage at a conference. "So I am the representative from Hell?" he fumed. Jobs was startled, then grinned broadly and handed Gates a chilled bottle of water from the nearby refreshment table. And Gates laughed.
I don't know what Steve Jobs thought of this book. I suspect he approved, then disapproved, then demanded a chance to do it over completely. And then suddenly he loved it and believed he wrote it himself. Well, he did, really. Nicely done, Walter Isaacson. Nicely done.
This book is highly recommended to everyone influenced by Steve Jobs and his creations.