Was Walter Isaacson the Right Person to Write Steve Job’s Biography?

Steve Jobs BiographySteve Jobs, by Walter Issaacson is supposed to be the definitive book on the life and work of Steve Jobs, Apple’s legendary founder and genius extraordinaire. Isaacson –also author of biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein– practically lived with his subject and was granted unprecedented access to Jobs, a man famous for his privacy and secrecy.

So it is with high hopes that I started reading the book (which I bought on the Kindle as soon as it was released). Unfortunately, I came out of it with a bag of mixed emotions.

The bottom line is this: If you’re a normal person (i.e. not an Apple geek) who has a general interest in Apple products and a healthy curiosity about its founder, this book will press all your buttons. You will be served a delicious feast of trivia, insights, story telling, business, technology and psychological intrigue that spanned the life of a truly singular man.

You’ll also find the book useful. You get some good business tips (“Pretend to be completely in control and people will assume that you are”) , inspirational quotes (“The goal was never to beat the competition, or to make a lot of money. It was to do the greatest thing possible, or even a little greater.”) , and inside-the-boardroom tips (“People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint”).

But if, like me, you’re already a long-time Apple enthusiast who already read a book or two on Steve Jobs and wanted more details about Apple, you’ll be left with a gnawing sense of discontent.

John Syracusa, one of Apple’s most authoritative observers, was celebrated in the Mac Geek community for his skewering of Walter Isaacson’s book: Isaacson was given a once in a lifetime opportunity and he blew it. Jobs picked the wrong guy, Syracusa railed.

John Gruber, another famous apple watcher expanded on Syracusa’s point and had this to say:

Jobs understood technology but was not an engineer. He had profoundly exquisite taste but was not a designer. What it was that Jobs actually did is much of the mystery of his life and his work, and Isaacson, frustratingly, had seemingly little interest in that, or any recognition that there even was any sort of mystery as to just what Jobs’s gifts really were.

It was nice to learn the ways in which Steve Jobs was a a jerk, but the world is full of jerks and there’s only one Steve Jobs. What was it that made Steve Jobs accomplish what he did was unfortunately not clear from Isaacson’s book.The only remaining hope is that one day Isaacson will release the transcripts and tapes of the interviews with Steve, and maybe then someone with a deeper understanding of Apple will write Steve Job’s real authoritative Bio.

Finally, do I recommend that you read this book? Of course. If you have any interest whatsoever in Apple, you’d be crazy if you don’t. But will you fall in love with it? I’m not too sure..

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About Mustapha Hamoui

I'm a Lebanese designer, businessman, geek, and blogger at beirutspring.com ..

5 comments

  1. I gotta say, your review was surprising yet sounded thorough.. .

    So I don’t get it.. I’m not an iGeek, but I am a geek all the same… I wouldn’t enjoy it?!?

  2. I will stick to my last two sentences, but to put it differently: This is a very important book to read. At times it can be very useful, entertaining and funny. But it could have been much much better.

  3. Pingback: Beirut Spring: My Review of Steve Jobs’ Biography

  4. Pingback: My review of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography | wordzwizard

  5. Pingback: Paper Books Belong to the Past « The Cube

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