4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent insight into a complicated man
For much of Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs it is easy to forget that this is in account of a successful genius rather than a grumpy failure. Difficult, rude, intemperate, unreasonable and often quite bizarre in his behaviour towards those nominally closest to him, Steve Jobs's personality does not get an easy ride in Isaacson's highly readable book. All these...
Published 13 months ago by Mark Pack
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mildly disappointing
After so much hype, I was really expecting a riveting read here but Apple followers will be a bit let down. The first two thirds of the book cover (obviously) identical ground to iCon (the previous comprehensive biography) and really don't add anything to that. The remaining third is really a whizz through the years of triumph without a lot of the juice, especially in...
Published 13 months ago by Fonaweb
Most Helpful First | Newest First
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent insight into a complicated man,
For much of Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs it is easy to forget that this is in account of a successful genius rather than a grumpy failure. Difficult, rude, intemperate, unreasonable and often quite bizarre in his behaviour towards those nominally closest to him, Steve Jobs's personality does not get an easy ride in Isaacson's highly readable book. All these flaws make the core idea at the heart of Jobs's success stand out all the more starkly: an obsessive belief in the value and power of simplicity. Simple devices, easy to use and a pleasure to have.
From that obsession with simplicity (whose roots perhaps lie in the architectural style of his home when he was a kid), came the greatness of Steve Jobs. Saving that devices should be easy to use can sound so banal you lose sight of just how rare it is to have someone run a technology company that really believes in it and makes it happen. Just look at the mess of multiple remote controls and complicated instructions that make up most people's mix of TV and related devices to see how very different a world Steve Jobs has made for computers, music devices and phones by contrast.
For such a controversial figure as Steve Jobs, and one with such a dramatic working life, Walter Isaacson understandably takes many pages to tell the story. However, for all the book's length, it moves along at a brisk pace, with the detailed research and numerous interviews melded into very clear and readable prose.
It's an excellent read.
206 of 231 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Steve is the star in a rushed, balanced biography,
As an avid tech news fan, and Steve admirer, I couldn't wait for the release and quickly finished the book in two days. Steve, not Isaacson, is the shining star and his life makes for a fascinating story regardless of who is telling it. Steve's accomplishments, boldness, twists and turns, wisdom, intelligence, abrasiveness and intuition all contribute to intriguing reading. However, how good a job did Isaacson do?
Isaacson's job was "fair" for a couple of reasons. On the plus side, Isaacson appeared mainly objective in describing Steve, which is an important and difficult task, giving the controversial nature of someone like Steve. Isaacson, reveals both Steve's brilliant and ugly sides (I was a bit skeptical Steve would insist on a biography only painting him in a positive light). It was great to see his human side and get an understanding of Steve's polarized personality.
However, it was a little frustrating how much Isaacson re-told of which was already out there. I knew much of what he wrote about Steve - elements of his business strategy, dealings and philosophies and the Apple products he helped create and market. Most of the book's contents I was aware of through watching his keynotes, AllThingsD interviews, Stanford address and reading the articles about him on Wired, Time and other tech news sites. In fact, Isaacson often used such sources which I found slightly disappointing - like getting second hand info. On the bright side, I have not noticed any contradiction in these sources with Isaacson's version of Steve - it's accurate.
Having said this, Isaacson does give a fair amount of novel insight into Steve's family life, relationships and younger years which is not readily available through other sources. There is also a fair amount of detail about his Pixar years which I'm sure many are unaware of. Otherwise, light is shed on his relationship with colleagues and much about his personality, health and lifestyle are revealed. I think those unfamiliar with Steve and Apple might find this biography particularly enlightening about this talented, eccentric individual.
Finally, I do have a sense of Isaacson rushing this biography. The early and mid years were well covered, however later years were lacking on fresh insight and thoroughness. Chunks of story seemed glossed over or un-researched such as his relationship with Cook, Mark Papermaster's ousting, the reaction to Steve's passing, the future of Apple and perhaps more about his final days.
Something worth mentioning, is that the book did reinforce lessons I had learnt from Steve, the ones which stand out I will summarise:
* Life is short, make the most of it.
* We stand on the shoulders of giants, and it's our job to extend their work further.
* Focus on a few things you do well.
* Conflict can be very helpful in driving things forward.
* Love what you do and don't do it for money. Money is helpful in that it is there to improve the product/service.
* Keep re-inventing yourself.
Overall I find the biography easy to read, fairly thorough, provides some novel insight and balanced commentary and contains some profound words from Steve too. Reading a book about a man with this amount of intuition, energy, perfectionism, persuasiveness and determination can only enrich your life.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mildly disappointing,
After so much hype, I was really expecting a riveting read here but Apple followers will be a bit let down. The first two thirds of the book cover (obviously) identical ground to iCon (the previous comprehensive biography) and really don't add anything to that. The remaining third is really a whizz through the years of triumph without a lot of the juice, especially in the battles with the music companies which I recall were much more fraught and brutal than depicted here, with not too much fly on the wall dialogue. It's a record - but that's it.
130 of 153 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flawed man, Flawed autobiography,
I was eagerly anticipating this biography. Steve Jobs is a man who has fascinated me for many years and I looked forward into gaining an insight into the man who has had such a big effect on the modern world. Another reason why this biography was so potentially interesting was that it was authorised by a man who for a long time was intensely private, but was now facing his own mortality.
The book itself is written by famed biographer Walter Isaacson, who had previously written critically acclaimed biographies of Einstein and Benjamin Franklin. However interestingly this is the first time he had written one about a living person, especially one he knew well.
The biography itself starts off promisingly with a description of Steve Jobs early life, his adoption, his immersion in the counter culture and the early days of Apple. I think what is most fascinating is the ability for someone like Jobs to just walk into a job with no qualifications or experience, which shows a lot about Silicon Valley in those days. As the story unfolds we see the other side of Jobs, the petulant individual who could antagonise as much as inspire. It becomes clear that one of Jobs talents was his ability to understand the motivations and weaknesses of an individual. However he as often as not used that ability to destroy as much as achieve.
The story moves on to the breakup with Apple, his creation of NeXT and Pixar and his triumphant return to Apple. It is at that point that I feel the autobiography looses steam. The description of his success at Apple could have been written just as well by someone at Apple PR, and while his successes should be celebrated, there is not enough critic of the mistakes made on the way. We also lose Jobs the individual as it concentrates on Apple and some of the individuals there. Maybe its because the author was talking to people still employed at Apple, but we get less of Jobs the petulant tyrant and more of Jobs the inspirational genius. The book ends with Jobs fight against cancer. This is again where we get a better insight of his true character.
If you are buying this book like me to get a insight into the true Steve Jobs, you may be disappointed. I feel it is not often the biographer pierces the veil. Strangely, probably he is the most open when he is discussing the music he had on his iPod. There is also a nagging feeling that Steve Jobs was using this book to extend his famed reality distortion field beyond the grave and I feel the author to often did not go deeply enough into some of the issues raised. For example Jobs stated a number of time that he felt the use of LSD was an important contributor to his success, but the author never questioned his feelings on drug taking and how it affects society. Also the contrast of a man who was proud of his counter culture values, but at the same time amassed billions, sometimes at the expense of close colleagues, and never was a believer in philanthropy was never adequately explored. In some ways you feel the author got too close to the subject and at times loses his objectivity. In that he is not alone, Steve Jobs had that affect on people.
However despite its flaws it is still a recommended read and if nothing else provides a fascinating insight into the early days of Silicon Valley. It is also the closest anyone will now get to the modern day sphinx that was Steve Jobs.
Just one more comment. The kindle version does not include that iconic photo that graces the book versions cover, despite this being the only part of the book that Steve Jobs was directly involved in. If Steve Jobs was alive now I'm sure his reaction would be that that decision sucked.
50 of 59 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Steve Jobs - "Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers .....They push the human race forward".,
While it is only weeks since the untimely death of the great visionary Steve Jobs it is matter of historical certainty to place him firmly in the linage of great inventors and technological pioneers which include names like Bell, Faraday and Edison. Perhaps this book on Jobs life by Walter Isaacson previous biographer of Einstein and Franklin comes to soon after his passing away, alternatively you could argue that's its publication is ironically like a well timed Apple launch. This is particularly the case since it appears that Jobs had typically taken a long view and in 2004 first approached Issacson with this idea of becoming his biographer. The latter hesitated at that point but in 2009 when the tumor inside Jobs pancreas was taking a crippling hold his wife Laurene Powell firmly informed the author "that if you are ever going to do a book on Steve, you'd better do it now" Issacson's biography was informed by over 40 interviews with Jobs, access to friends and colleagues and a complete free hand. Sadly Jobs never got to read it since it is a generally solid if rushed biography and while it is hugely sympathetic to the main protagonist it shows all facets of Jobs not least his infuriating (but understandable) perfectionism, his vindictiveness and the exercise of a level of overpowering influence on those around him. Issacson casts this as Jobs "reality distortion field" a term coined by Apple employees to describe how he created his own unique cultural/organizational norms.
The book starts by covering his adoption by the family of mechanic Paul Jobs who enshrined in his son a love of design and brought him up near Palo Alto the epicentre of a place which was "just about to turn silicon into gold". The development of the Blue Box with Steve Wozniak's innovative design was the starting point. This showed that Jobs brilliance at another key facet namely marketing even though at the time he was a highly opinionated vegan obsessed hippy with a penchant for drugs. The rest as they say is history not least through Wozniak's uber inventive phase in Jobs garage with initially the Apple 2 computer and that seminal moment in 1984. Here the first iteration of the foundation stone of modern computing was released enshrined in the Macintosh where the mouse and GUI sealed the deal. Jobs provided the hard commercial logic behind this although its impact was far from immediate as the world shifted towards its dalliance with Bill Gates.
Granted there are times in Issacson's book when things feel quite superficial and judgements are undercooked. An example is the chapter on Jobs love of music that is fashioned in relation to the ubiquitous question "what's on your IPod". It shows an enduring fanaticism for Dylan and a true fondness for Joni Mitchell's song about her daughters adoption "Little Green" which clearly resonated with Jobs. The problem here and in other parts of the book however is that the text feels like an extended magazine interview and not a weighty biography which in turn is a problem with the books immediacy. In one sense it is all too raw and recent, whilst truly great biographies do require distance and the passage of time. As such Issacson certainly will not be the last word on Jobs. Alternatively the book is strong on Jobs re-takeover of Apple and later involvement in Pixar but absolutely essential in describing the development of the IPhone and IPad. Jobs frustration with attempts to partner with Motorola on a new mobile phone with their cumbersome RAZR product is a key moment. As his frustration builds he exclaims, "I'm sick of dealing with these stupid companies...lets do it ourselves" (Kindle location 8024). The world turned at this moment. Equally on the IPad the brilliance of Apple marketing and technology combined to make the Wall Street Journal excitingly comment on its launch that "the last time there was this much excitement about a tablet, it had some commandments written on it" (Location 8474). Immediately the post PC era was born.
His demise at the age 56 begs the question of where Jobs would have taken Apple in the era of cloud computing and how strong is his legacy. Jobs was a restless and impatient innovator and as Issacson observes he launched products that transformed whole industries. But he also concludes that Jobs "Zen training never produced in him a Zen like calm or inner serenity". And yet in 1997 in Apple's "Think Different" campaign Jobs wrote his own obituary when in high rhetoric he stated "Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers .....They push the human race forward".
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting insights into the Steve Jobs success story,
For anyone interested in business and design this is a must read; what is so interesting about it is the extent to which the ultimate success and triumph of the man was built on a succession of what can only be described as failures; getting booted out of Apple; the NeXT adventure which can only be described as random and the chance success of Pixar; a revelation inasfar as it was based as the man himself admitted on luck and instinct against the conventional business tools he had acquired as a leader at Apple. This last deal really made the man and his subsequent unparalleled triumphs with Apple were based on the philosophy that he was true to in his business career; namely the preeminence of good design in creating products of unimaginable beauty and simplicity. Given this life story and the eccentricities of the man (esp. his quite awful behaviour at times) it would be hard to produce a book that was anything but interesting. At times it does go too deep and descend into areas that are unnecessary and irrelevant as is the wont of biographies of major US business success stories and leaders who are viewed as demi-Gods; but it certainly brings out the chain of events that made the man the success he was, exposes his strengths and weaknesses and brings more life to a story that a story that has become a part of our culture. You cannot ask for more than that.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.,
It's a big book. But then again Steve Jobs had a big say on computers and more recently digital music then anyone else in his generation. The book needed to be big.
It took a long while, three weeks or so, to read this book and at the end, I wished there were more chapters. The book isn't an epitaph to Jobs, if it was it would just cover the nice guy that could e Jobs. This book covers Jobs warts and all and is a credit to both Walter Issacson and especially Steve Jobs and those around him who allowed Issacson into their lives to try and portray the real man who was Steve Jobs and the company he made which is currently the most valuable in the World.
I have read business books and biographies over the years and enjoyed them. But I have seen so much hype and self-congratulation that this book is a welcome relief. It seems to me to, at this pint in time at least, to tell the real truth about Jobs and how others saw him or feared him.
Compromise was not a word Jobs recognized and as a stubborn single focused entrepreneur he made many good and bad person and nosiness decisions which are highlighted in the book.
I for one, and one of many, felt sad at his demise and at the way the book makes you feel at its climax. But he will be remembered and for this generation, and hopefully the next, we will be reminded of his Genius in using his Apple products.
Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.
Maybe they have to be crazy.
How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that's never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?
We make tools for these kinds of people.
While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
Well said. Apple. Think Different.
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant beyond words!,
I asked for this book for Christmas but knew very little about Steve Jobs other than he started Apple. I saw the book in Asda and when I saw how thick it was I thought, "oh crap!"
Needless to say it was bought for me from Amazon at an incredible price, and once I started the book I just couldn't put it down. A short way into the book I began to dislike Jobs because of his quirky tantrums and the incredibly rude way in which he dealt with people who worked with him. But, amazingly, I started to warm towards him depite his unusual personality traits and by the end was true Steve Jobs fan in all aspects.
He was such an amazing visionary who knew how to get the best out of people. Having been fired by his own board at Apple, he made the most amazing comeback 10 years later, taking Apple from virtual bankruptcy to being the world's most valuable company. That takes some doing, and I am in absolute awe at how he did it!
It's a long book but the chapters are relatively short, which makes it easier to read in chunks. I finished it in a week and a half, and looked forward to getting my Steve Jobs fix every evening. The author isn't one of these people who writes biographies based on conjecture and poor research, he was asked personally by Jobs to write the book 9 years ago but only got round to doing it in the last 2 years. Jobs had no influence over what was written and it is based on countless interviews with Jobs and others over that period. The narrative style makes it an easy but dynamic read. I felt incredibly inspired and uplifted after reading it, reinforcing my belief that 'anything is possible.' GREAT BOOK. YOU WON'T BE DISAPPOINTED!
3.0 out of 5 stars flawed,
This is not an easy book to review, perhaps because it is really two books roughly glued together. The first book tells the story of Steve Jobs and the setting up of Apple and how it came to become one of the iconic brands of our time. The second books tells of the slow death from cancer of someone the author is clearly a close friend of. Unfortunately the first book is much the better of the two, and while the second seeks to maintain its dispassionate, warts and all account of Jobs, the author is clearly far to close to his subject, hanging out with his family and friends, to be objective. He is totally within the famed Jobs reality distortion field.
It is easy enough to see why Jobs chose Isaacson to pen an authorised biography. The man is whip smart, he knows his stuff, this is no mere hack job. There are only a few apple trivia items I would query, the iPod does not connect via Firewire, strictly speaking it is not an MP3 player either and iCloud is far from the triumph that the book paints, in truth it is little better than MobileMe was.
I started the book as a huge Apple and Jobs fan, and the book provides a far more warts and all approach than the upbeat Steven Levy book Insanely Great. However the book really made me dislike Jobs. Although being consistently rude to folk paid a fraction of what you are, does not make you Hitler, it is fairly inexcusable. To borrow the terminology from the Bob Sutton book, Jobs was not just an ‘armhole’ he was the whole jumper. The Apple ethos of minimalism and informality increasingly seemed to be an ostentatious gimmick, while Jobs burned through mountains of cash and burnt out employees on arty minimalist vanity projects.
I would give the first half of the book five stars, the second scrapes two stars. The editor should have split this into two books, there is a decent and important story here, but as it progressed this feels increasingly like a folksy and rushed job, cobbled together from interviews and press releases.
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written and commendable,
This is a very readable account of Steve Job’s life. Whilst it does go into some detail as to how each Apple product was produced this is not overly technical and so for me, as a non-techy, I did not find it boring. Rather I found that I developed a real appreciation for their products and to view them in a whole new light.
What shines through is Jobs’ unique personality which enabled him to achieve great things, namely ground breaking digital products combined with ground breaking designs with an emphasis on purity and simplicity. Uniquely Jobs worked at the interface of art and technology.
Oh, and did I fail to mention that he also, and at the same time! developed a world-class animation film company that slapped Disney around the face.
Now of course Jobs did not achieve all of these single-handedly he made great partnerships and then selected A players to be on his team. Jobs’ uniqueness is the way that he brought out the best of people’s abilities; he regularly made them go further than they thought they as people could go and that it was possible to go period. How he did this is not particularly pretty with a combination of staring, timed silences and simply telling somebody that what they had produced what s**t and that they could do a whole load better. Jobs’ world was black or white, something was either great or s**t and his opinion on a person or their work could vacillate between the two within the space of one working day! He said it like it was and regarded it as his job to do this.
He must have been a boss from hell but yet so great was his enthusiasm and so great was the product that was being developed that people stepped up to the plate to deliver. Their job satisfaction was in the delivery and getting that final ounce of praise, even if on occasion Jobs’ took all of the credit.
He was also a charismatic and fearless negotiator who would charm and bully the necessary people to get the best deal.
By him not shilly-shallying around and taking people’s feelings into account and being fearless he was able to achieve greatness.
Jobs’ attention to finite detail and laser-like focus was such that he would not baulk from going to a major re-design, just weeks away from the launch of a product. Design meant everything to him.
His laser-like focus enabled him to block out of his life things that he did not want to deal with. Most notably this occurred in his personal life when he was deciding whether to marry Laurenne Powel, or, most dramatically his own health. We’ll never know whether if Jobs had had the surgery on his pancreas when his doctors first advised him to have it, he would still be here continuing to develop great products.
The last one hundred pages left me with a heavy heart. It is within these pages that Jobs’ battle with cancer is recounted. I found myself willing him to beat the cancer, whilst knowing that he was already dead. His passing is a great loss because of the uniqueness that I have described above, namely the dove-tailing of art and technology.
So even if you’re a non-techy you will still enjoy this book. I highly commend it to you.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson (Paperback - 10 Sep 2013)