Monday, April 2, 2012

Book Review: Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson

Let me start off this book review by saying that, prior to reading this book, I really didn't know much about Steve Jobs (other than he was the "Big Cheese" at Apple) and I am not a drinker of the "Apple Kool-Aid", so to speak. Nevertheless, I have been on the waiting list for this book at the library for more than 4 months and I was really looking forward to reading it.

Walter Isaacson is a well known biographer that is responsible for the best selling biographies of several iconic figures such as Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and Henry Kissinger. When Steve Jobs became painfully aware that his time on earth was drawing to a close, he contacted Mr. Isaacson himself and requested to be the subject of his next book. Steve gave Mr. Isaacson "exclusive and unprecedented" access to all aspects of his life, and requested no control over what was written, nor the right to read it prior to publishing. In true "Steve Jobs" fashion (the packaging is just as important as the content) his only request was to be able to select the image to be used on the cover.

The book is based on more than 40 interviews with Jobs himself as well as countless interviews with more than 100 family members, friends, colleagues and adversaries. The result of more than 2 years of hard work is an engaging, well-crafted story of a man so complex that, despite being a prominent public figure for over 30 years, very few people truly knew him. It could be argued that after completing this book, Mr. Isaacson himself might know him better than most others that were main characters in the story of his life.

Beautifully and sensitively written, Mr. Isaacson pulls no punches and paints a picture of Jobs' life that includes the good, the bad and the ugly. Jobs could go from Tyrant to Teddy Bear and from Tree-Hugger to Tech-Wizard in the blink of an eye, and Isaacson captured it all with just the right tone.

You come to realize that Jobs, while brilliant, was a complex and flawed individual with many layers. The book was written in such a way that I grew intensely attached to a man I barely know, and I cried my way through many of the final chapters (since we already know Jobs' story doesn't exactly have the happiest of endings). Surprisingly, one of the most poignant and complex relationships portrayed is the one between Jobs and Bill Gates. Often depicted as bitter enemies, I was shocked to discover the mutual admiration, respect and near-friendship these 2 men shared. For me, their final "meeting" was one of the most emotional stories in the book.

Jobs is not painted as a hero by any means, but by the end you are left with very little doubt that he completely revolutionized the world as we know it. Personal computing is just the tip of the iceberg here. From animated movies to music, digital publishing, phones and tablet computing, these industries will forever bear the thumbprint of Jobs and the iconic brand he created.

I highly recommend this book. Not only does it offer a glimpse into the rarely seen "human" side of a man everyone recognizes but few truly know, but it takes the reader on a "Technology Journey", allowing us to witness the birth of some of the amazing products (and a few not-so-amazing ones) that we now often take for granted.

Happy iReading!

J :)

1 comment:

  1. I've been wanting to read this for awhile - gonna add it to my summer reading list!