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swchairman (London, UK)

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Inside Steve's Brain: Business Lessons from Steve Jobs, the Man Who Saved Apple
Inside Steve's Brain: Business Lessons from Steve Jobs, the Man Who Saved Apple
by Leander Kahney
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.17

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Some interesting asides but not the best Apple book out there, 4 May 2009
The problem with this book is that it doesn't really know what it's meant to be. It tries to be a part corporate history of Apple - but it's so myopically focussed on Steve Jobs that it managed to miss out anything to do with his tussles with John Sculley and his subsequent exit from the company. It is almost silent about the decade Apple spent without Jobs at the helm, limiting its comments to nothing more than the idea that somehow Apple went off the rails in this period.

It tries to be part biography of Jobs - but the background and attempt to understand the man is so limited that it doesn't pass muster as that, either. We find out that Jobs has temper tantrums, but that he also inspires loyalty. He remains aloof from the company, associating with only his direct reports; but he also has Friends of Steve scattered around the company and apparently will go and sit on employee's desks to find out what they do.

It even tries to be a self-help book, with a box-out at the end of each chapter summarising the traits of Steve that (I suppose) one should try to employ in order to be as insanely great as he is. But the summaries are trite and aren't always picked out of the preceeding narrative. Besides, who, seriously, buys a book about Apple and wants lifestyle advice from it?

It stops early - ahead of Jobs's current period of absence from the company - and ahead even of the release of the SDK for the iPhone and the resulting wild acceptance of that product as a new, open-ish platform for mobile computer. A shame, then, that the last chapter spends quite so much time using the iPhone-as-a-completely-closed-platform as a metaphor for everything else Apple has ever achieved.

Finally, it's also quite annoyingly sub-edited - information is frequently repeated in successive paragraphs; the book tries to refer in the text across itself to other places. And there's a sense that most of what the book is about is a meta-analysis of historical interviews granted by Jobs and others to magazines, such is the heavy quoting from other publications.

I'd recommend Steven Levy's books much more than this: give Insanely Great a go for a history of the Mac project (and hence Apple until Job's departure in the mid-1980s); and The Perfect Thing is a tiny but much more energetic account of the development of the iPod.

Attention All Shipping: A Journey Round the Shipping Forecast
Attention All Shipping: A Journey Round the Shipping Forecast
by Charlie Connelly
Edition: Paperback

51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable journey around our shores, 24 Jun 2004
Ever since I was a lad, I've wanted to read the Shipping Forecast on Radio 4. Which is why I'm now an engineer. But there remains a great charm and poetry to the forecast which, since its first broadcast in 1911, has become a fixture of British radio. For me, there's the comfort of shutting up the shop, drawing in the curtains, as the announcer makes his (or her) way around this island and its territorial waters, starting in the north-east and working clockwise to Iceland. At twelve minutes to one in the morning, it's comforting; a precise definition of all of the land, and sea, that Britain encompasses. As I've grown older, the coastal reports mean more to me, as I recognise places I've been, headlands I've stood upon. As sleep rushes over me, I try to picture the island and tick the places off - Channel Light Vessel Automatic; Aberporth; Sangette Automatic; and so on.
Charlie Connelly's book is like a manifesto for Shipping Forecast Aholics Anonymous. He starts with the same love of the thing and attempts to visit all of the areas, to better make the mental pictures in later life. It's a fantastic piece of scheduling to have this as the Late Book on Radio 4 - how post-modern! A book reading about the very next programme!
Connelly's book has kinsmen in the Tony Hawks triology, Pete McCarthy's books, and others like 'Tilting at Windmills' but, for me, it is so much better than those. He explores the areas wittily, and there's a fair amount of personal experience built into his tales, but there's also a real care and passion in the histories he tells of each area. In short, it's great fun but really interesting too - highly recommended.
Two very minor quibbles. First, why no photographs? In the chapter about the Isle of Man, Connelly talks about having a photographer with him - a few plates would be excellent. Second, twice, when quoting the forecast in reported speech, Connelly writes '...And now the shipping forecast as issued by the Met Office at 0048...'. But, as all afficianados know, 0048 is when the forecast starts; never when it's been prepared - that's usually around midnight. Gr.
But overall, a really good book - it rattles along, it's good fun, and it's about something that matters. What more could you want?
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 23, 2011 11:17 AM GMT

American Century
American Century
by Martin Walker
Edition: Paperback

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 26 Fascinating Pen Portraits, 26 Oct 2001
This review is from: American Century (Paperback)
With such a bombastic title as the 'Makers of the American Century', you might expect this book to be absolutely set in its way and resolutely positive about the American dream. Whilst it doesn't set out to criticise the nation, it is, nevertheless, a fair and easy-to-read book which doesn't attempt to lecture the reader on the greatness of America.
Walker has done a remarkable job of spinning twenty-six tales about Americans (including, as far as I could see, one half-American, Winston Churchill), all of which are authorative, engaging and informative. Yet each is used to define one particular facet of cultural life - Churchill as the type of the American diaspora (his mother was a member of the American elite, his father a member of the British aristocracy); Disney as the type of American entertainment; Graham as the type of American religion and so on.
Each portrait is entirely self-contained, which makes it ideal for reading on the train on the way to work. And they're all hugely enjoyable. For me, one paragraph stands out above all others - a passage in the portrait of Billy Graham where Walker discurses on the state of American religious freedom, making the point that it is freedom at a price.
A terrific book.

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