Review of the Steve Jobs biography
December 29, 2011 2 Comments
That’s all I could imagine Steve Jobs saying if he had read the biography he commissioned Walter Isaacson to write. Since I’m not Steve Jobs, I’d say it was an amazing read, though it could’ve benefited from a bit more editing.
While growing up I remember using Apple products in school, from the Apple II in Grade one, to the Macintosh throughout the rest of elementary school, and once again when I went to college. What I wasn’t really familiar with was the man behind those machines. Sure, I’d helped poke fun of Steve Jobs and Apple, and when I turned 180 degrees on that, I watched every product unveiling from the iPhone onward, but I never looked into the type of man he was, so this biography was quite the read.
Steve Jobs paints a picture of a man who is a quagmire. He was a narcissistic perfectionist who could bend people to his will and still garner deep respect and admiration. He was extremely emotional, often crying in public when happy or hurt, but callous when criticizing others for their work. There are countless stories of Jobs verbally abusing employees when they couldn’t come up with a design that he envisioned. He would catch them in his “reality distortion field” and get them to complete projects in unthinkable ways.
To further add to the quagmire that is Jobs, his personal life is equally odd. He speaks extensively about his personal life, with stories of him experimenting with LSD, strange dieting, traveling to India for months to seek enlightenment, and not stepping up to the plate to father his first child Lisa, among other things. We see a man who is a product of his generation, a bit of a hippie searching for inner peace, but also someone so cold as to not recognize his own daughter as his. The closest we get to an explanation of the reasoning behind why Jobs was the way he was, is through Isaacson’s interviews with others saying that he was trying to cope with abandonment issues at birth. It’s strange because Jobs was raised by loving parents who did nothing but make efforts to see him succeed. For all I know he did, but I’d like to have seen Isaacson press Jobs more about his feelings toward his birth parents.
For someone who is lauded as one of the great technology minds, Jobs was never really an expert at anything. He had this innate sense of how things should be, and worked off the genius of people like Steve Wozniak, designers at Xerox and Apple designer Jony Ive (and many others) to make the great products that Apple is so known for today. Each one of those that worked with him says that yes they did the work, but that wouldn’t have been possible without Jobs pushing them to do the unimaginable.
Throughout the book I couldn’t help but think that I was happy Jobs was never interested in running for public office. Imagine him as President of the United States? I’m pretty sure he’d rival, if not be worse than some other notorious world leaders of the past. Luckily he was focused on changing the world through computers, not politics.
As I mentioned at the top, the book could have been given an extra round of editing. There is a lot of repetition, especially in the latter half that became distracting at times. If it wasn’t for that, I would have given it a perfect score, but instead I give Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson a 4.5/5.