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Just Another Review: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Published October 24, 2011

Need to know: Released just 19 days after his death, this biography tells the story of Steve Jobs. Jobs asked Isaacson specifically to write his life’s story and conducted over 40 interviews with the author. Isaacson also interviewed over 100 family members, friends, colleagues, friends, and enemies for the book. This is likely the most definitive biography of Steve Jobs that will ever be written.

Read if:

  1. You enjoy well written and well crafted biographies. This is as good as it gets in that respect. Isaacson is a tremendously well-respected biographer and he does the subject justice here.
  2. You enjoy pulling back the curtain to see how things at large corporations such as Apple and Pixar are done, and how some of the world’s great products came into being.
  3. You enjoy eccentric personalities. It would be hard to categorize Steve Jobs as a “normal” person. Few geniuses are “normal” and Jobs is no exception. From his bouts of rage to his strange eating habits, Jobs possessed interesting personality and that personality is at the forefront of Jobs’ story from childhood through his battle with cancer. Some biographies drag simply because the subject, no matter how historically important, just isn’t that interesting of a character. There is no such problem here. This isn’t Life by Keith Richards, but you will be entertained.

Don’t Read If:

  1. You hate biographies out of some strange principle.
  2. You are one of the five people in America (or much of the world for that matter) who does not currently or who has never owned any Apple product. I mean, even my parents have owned an iPod.
  3. You hate Apple products out of some strange principle.
  4. You prefer to imagine Steve Jobs as some form of deity. Steve Jobs was a genius, but that isn’t the same as being a good person. He didn’t make products because he wanted to make the world a better place. He made products out of a desire to make great products and to crush his competition. He would never be nominated for any husband or father lifetime achievement awards. He often treated his employees poorly. There are episodes in the biography that will make anyone who follows common social norms cringe and there are times when you will think “Steve Jobs was actually an asshole.” If you don’t want to ever think of Jobs as an asshole then stay away.

Final recommendation: I would recommend this biography to almost anyone. Some may be cold to the idea of a biography of a corporate CEO, but few CEOs have ever overseen products that reached individuals on such a personal level. If you own an iPod, iPad, or iPhone, then you also likely know how closely linked that device is to your everyday life. The stories of how those products came to be are fascinating in and of themselves. Add to that the portrait of Jobs personality as told through his own eyes and those around him, and I can promise you will come away from this biography entertained. You won’t regret reading.

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