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130 of 153 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flawed man, Flawed autobiography, 28 Oct 2011
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This review is from: Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography (Kindle Edition)
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.
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 2 Nov 2011 19:33:54 GMT
Last edited by the author on 2 Nov 2011 19:35:36 GMT
Iggle Piggle says:
I take your point about the biographer 'not piercing the veil' but maybe this is a problem with someone of Steve Jobs's type. I haven't read this book yet, but your comment reminds me of how I felt when I read Ian Carr's excellent biography of Miles Davis. At the end I knew a lot more about Miles, but I still didn't really know anything about the man himself. He appears to have been a similar type of person to Steve - endlessly creative and restless and a perfectionist. Also with the same stories of bad behavior from some who knew him, whilst others described as kind. Another contradictory personality.

Posted on 24 Nov 2011 16:54:35 GMT
S. Melax says:
The pictures are not in the middle of the book, like in the hard-cover version, they are at the end.

Posted on 6 Jan 2012 18:45:39 GMT
Last edited by the author on 6 Jan 2012 18:50:13 GMT
ChrisG says:
Actually disagree I think you get a pretty good idea of Steve Jobs the man; from Steve Wozniak's statement that he was conned by Steve Jobs in a deal with Atari in the early days to the endless documentation of Steve Jobs own misdemeanours; the impression that you get is of a man who really has opened himself up to his biographer warts and all - this is revealed (or not if you choose to believe) in a touching episode near the end of the book where Jobs and Isaacson exchange views on what was to be revealed in the book about Jobs's own life. And here I think Jobs was true to himself - flawed in many ways; but ultimately deep down honest. A messy life in many ways as documented in this biography, but Jobs himself was reconciled to that and made a huge impact inspite of that with his obsessive nature. And the most impressive thing of all is that it was about the journey (as he said) and not the destination; I really did get an impression of a man that although unimaginably wealthy was committed to a down to earth family life and not the ostentation of worldly wealth. For that alone we can forgive him his tendency to park in handicapped parking spots and for which I have the utmost respect.

Posted on 1 Apr 2012 17:28:01 BDT
Last edited by the author on 1 Apr 2012 17:28:49 BDT
Kaio says:
Thanks for a nice review (voted Helpful) but wondered why you used the word 'autobiography' unless you wish to imply that Steve Jobs was a contributor; which I think not, and which your own last paragraph confirms as Jobs' contribution being limited only to his photograph.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Jun 2012 21:57:32 BDT
Last edited by the author on 7 Jun 2012 22:00:39 BDT
history fan says:
I am not so sure if agree with you, ChrisG. The biography is definitely flawed. One error I found was that it was basically chronological but jumped around a lot in time and space and became confusing, still the flow of the story was good but it detracted from discerning the truth about Jobs. As for Jobs the man coming through my abiding memory from the book is of someone, a cunning conjoler/abuser and I thought it lacked a dimension of humanity, his character was drawn in broad strokes and it was hard to discern a change from when he was 22 to when he was 52, again the chronology and focus on business matters didn't help. It came across as a case study for an MBA course with personalized elements rather than a biography. The last section on the return to Apple was a list of apple products with specifications and gee-whiz type opinions by the author. Admittedly the book was a rush job, being written only late last year. I liked it but I agree with the reviewer it was flawed.

Posted on 28 May 2013 12:36:43 BDT
SJ Ellison says:
Did you read the book?

The book finished with a monologue written by Steve Jobs, yet you claim his only direct contribution was the cover photo?

Also "I think what is most fascinating is the ability for someone like Jobs to just walk into a job with no qualifications or experience", erm OK, his first job was a summer job on an assembly line, assembling frequency counters, after aged 12, he called the CEO at home to ask questions about building a frequency counter.

He then worked at Atari in the store room, not sure what qualifications he would need for that beyond his previous experience working on an assembly line.

Then he started Apple, where low and behold, he was head of the company until he hired someone else to do that job. Then he started NEXT, where again the founder usually gets a job when they start a company. Then he bought PIXAR, where as the owner he was allowed to chair board meetings. Perfectly normal for corporate America.

Then Apple bought NEXT and Jobs now with the success of PIXAR and NEXT to his credit he Apple eventually offered him a job as interim CEO or iCEO, which is where the lower case 'i' branding comes from.

I genuinely don't believe you read the book and if you did you must have been asleep.

Yes Jobs was flawed and so was the book, but hey, everything is flawed. If you read the book you would know that, right?

Posted on 25 Aug 2013 22:53:21 BDT
[Deleted by Amazon on 26 Aug 2013 09:06:08 BDT]

Posted on 4 Apr 2014 09:54:38 BDT
I can't really relate a lot of your comments to the book I have read. The book goes into intimate detail about the close relationships in his life, including the difficult ones with his daughter, biological parents and offers fly-on-the-wall accounts of the key tumultuous moments in his career. I'm not sure what veil you think exists and what further there is to lie behind it.

You remark that Jobs admitted to taking LSD but the author never asked him what he felt about it. Clearly, from many remarks in the book, he felt that taking LSD was a mind-expanding and consciousness-building experience. He remarks that Bill Gates would have benefited from 'dropping acid' a few times. As for 'how it affects society', what you mean is that Isaacson never judged him with regard to taking drugs. That's not his job - he's a biographer and his role is to give you as clear and insightful picture into someone's life as he can, in an engaging way. His own (or your) particular opinions on drug-taking are entirely irrelevant.
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