I don’t think it is going to be very often that I get a chance to review a book as exciting as this one. This book is truly unique in that it offers an exclusive look into Steve Jobs’ life that you will never find elsewhere. Released just days after his passing, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson offers a look into the life of Steve Jobs that no other book will ever be able to replicate.
The book starts off strong describing a young Steve who was deeply entrenched in the counter culture of the 60s and 70s. It describes everything from his use of drugs, to his thoughts on religion. No topic is left untouched. The author writes that Jobs did not want to look at the book before it was published, and you can tell that he didn’t. The book really offers an unfiltered view of Steve’s personality traits, both good and bad. Steve’s thoughts on religion are quoted below;
The juice goes out of Christianity when it becomes too based on faith rather than on living like Jesus or seeing the world as Jesus saw it…I think different religions are different doors to the same house. Sometimes I think the house exists, and sometimes I don’t. It’s the great mystery.
– Steve Jobs
As you can see, Jobs had a strong and often unique opinion on everything and this book does not filter them in anyway.
The book goes on to describe how Apple came into existence, in the garage of Steve’s parents’ house, and how it evolved into the hugely successful company that it is today. Jobs had always been someone who believed that “[his] job is to say when something sucks rather than sugar coat it.” He held to this belief throughout his entire life, which often led to bad outcomes. Many people would eventually lose their jobs because of this personality trait, including Steve himself. While this personality would eventually lead to Jobs losing his job at Apple, it would also play a key role in his rebuilding of Apple into what it is today.
At times, when reading this biography, I felt that there was a little bit too much information about other people. Whenever someone was introduced the author made a point to write a small biography about them as well. This would be fine except that it was often times a little bit too long. After all, this is the biography of Steve Jobs not Steve Jobs and everyone else he ever spoke to. These miniature biographies often times jumped over the line between useful content and filler instead of just walking along it.
Despite this minor grievance, this book was still quite the page turner. This book managed to cover some of the most important times in Steve’s life including his return to Apple and his tragic death. Isaacson was able to bring a depressingly accurate account of the decline of Steve’s health while providing thoughtful quotations from Steve about life and death. The following is one of these quotations that I found incredibly moving and insightful;
Living with a disease like this, and all the pain, constantly reminds you of your own morality, and that can do strange things to your brain if you’re not careful…You don’t make plans more than a year out, and that’s bad. You need to force yourself to plan as if you will live for many years.
– Steve Jobs
Even with all of the sadness, this book managed to end on a happy note. Isaacson ends the novel by looking at Steve’s achievements, and not his death. Steve would not have wanted this book to be mournful, as Steve was not naturally a sad person. I feel that Isaacson is able to provide a good balance between the sadness of Steve’s death and the goodness that Steve left the world with. One of the last things Isaacson says about Steve is the following;
Was he smart? No, not exceptionally. Instead, he was a genius. His imaginative leaps were instinctive, unexpected, and at times magical. He was, indeed, an example of what mathematician Mark Kac called a magician genius, someone whose insights come out of the blue and require intuition more than mere mental processing power. Like a pathfinder, he could absorb information, sniff the winds, and sense what lay ahead.
So as not to leave the reader on a sad note, the book ends with the following anecdote;
I like to think that something survives after you die…It’s strange to think that you accumulate all this experience, and maybe a little wisdom, and it just goes away. So I really want to believe that something survives, that maybe your consciousness endures.
But on the other hand, perhaps it’s like an on-off switch…Click! And you’re gone.
Maybe that’s why I never liked to put on-off switched on Apple devices.
– Steve Jobs
Overall, I would recommend this book. It is a good read, and an excellent unfiltered account of the life of Steve Jobs. If you’re interested in learning more about Steve, his family, his friends or his company Apple than this is a book you will not want to miss. It felt more like a good story than a biography most of the time, and I am glad that I purchased it.
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