Customer Review

1,297 of 1,398 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping but amazingly incomplete, October 27, 2011
This review is from: Steve Jobs (Hardcover)
This is a gripping journey into the life of an amazing individual. Despite its girth of nearly 600 pages, the book zips along at a torrid pace.

The interviews with Jobs are fascinating and revealing. We get a real sense for what it must have been like to be Steve, or to work with him. That earns the book five stars despite its flaws, in that it's definitely a must-read if you have any interest at all in the subject.

But there are places in the book where I have to say, "Huh?"

The book is written essentially as a series of stories about Steve. The book continuously held my interest, but some of the dramas of his life seem muted. For instance, he came close to going bust when both Next and Pixar were flailing. There was only the slightest hint that anything dramatic happened in those years. In one paragraph, Pixar is shown as nearly running him out of money. A few brief paragraphs later, Toy Story gets released and Jobs' finances are saved for good.

We hear a lot about Tony Fadell's role in the development of iPhone. Tony led the iPod group and was clearly a major source for the book. You may know from a recent Businessweek article that Tony was basically driven out of the company shortly after the final introduction of iPhone, due to personality conflicts between him and Scott Forestall, the person now in charge of iOS development. But the book doesn't say a word about it. Tony simply disappears from the rest of the book with no explanation, and Forestall is barely mentioned.

Another strange incident was the Jackling house, the house he spent a large part of his life in. A case could be made that the house is historic simply because Steve spent many of his formative years living in it. Preservationists were battling with him to save the house. Only a couple of months before his death, when he must have known he was not going to actually build a house to replace it, he had the house torn down. I would have loved to learn this story. Why did he buy it? Why did he destroy it through neglect? Why did he acquire such a blind loathing for it that he worked hard to get it torn down?

And why did Jobs keep almost all the Pixar options to himself? He doesn't seem to have needed the money, or even really wanted it that much. He could have cut his friends John Lasseter et al into their own huge fortunes. Lasseter only got about $25 million from Pixar, which seems like a shockingly low amount in view of his contributions. Now, it's not like they will starve or anything, and I think John can buy pretty much anything he wants, but it still seems surprising Jobs is so ungenerous.

There were a lot of things like this, incidents casually tossed away in a brief paragraph that should have merited an entire chapter.

I think this will always be the best account of the emotional aspects of Steve's life, which are fully covered. The chapters about his illness moved me to tears. But as an account of what really happened at Apple and how Steve fixed the company, it's insufficient. I guess that will have to await more distance from the subject.

Of course what's truly remarkable about Jobs is that he lived a life so full of incident that perhaps no biography has the space to cover the broad sweep of his life. He accomplished as much as 10 ordinarily famous men. Maybe the upshot is that you just can't fit a man like this in a book, even if that book's nearly 600 pages.
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Comments

Tracked by 13 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 67 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 28, 2011 11:50:23 AM PDT
Very thought provoking comments. Thank you.

Posted on Oct 30, 2011 9:53:29 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 30, 2011 9:55:02 AM PDT
P. M Palmer says:
I enjoyed reading this book, but it is far from gripping. Heck, I thought it could have been better written, and more complete in details. I also was surprised by how personable and decent a guy Gates can be.

Posted on Oct 30, 2011 1:05:07 PM PDT
Mariel says:
I thought there was a great deal of info about Pixar, Steve's contribution, how Lasseter even 'came to be' so to speak. That you missed those makes me wonder if you perhaps skipped sections of the book?

Posted on Nov 1, 2011 3:03:36 AM PDT
harrysaxon says:
I think you missed some stuff. I thought he covered how dire the financial crisis got adequately. And they covered the Jackling house. He decided when he got married that he wanted to raze the 1925 mansion to the ground and build a much smaller home, with a lot of the property converted to garden and fruit orchard. The conservationists kept him in legal battles for 20 years, so he allowed it to fall into disrepair, making it less valuable as an historic building. Once he finally got permission earlier this year, it was too late to build a new home. The book didn't mention that he razed it anyways, but I'd guess the home was too far gone by that point.

Posted on Nov 1, 2011 8:07:19 AM PDT
You have given a very critical review of this book. Also, you are right, '... you just can't fit a man like this in a book...'. It's true. Thanks for review.

Posted on Nov 2, 2011 6:15:46 AM PDT
Al B says:
Excellent review, one gets a clear view of the book, pluspoints and outpoints.

Posted on Nov 2, 2011 6:04:37 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 8, 2011 2:40:12 PM PST]

Posted on Nov 3, 2011 8:58:32 PM PDT
What a fantastic review! Many thanks for spending the time & energy to assess this book as you've done. A thoroughly professional job!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 8, 2011 8:16:32 AM PST
David Dennis says:
Yes, there was a significant amount of information there but I would have loved to have seen more. My point in the review was not that these subjects were not covered at all, but that much of the coverage felt rushed and incomplete.

You should note that I still gave the book five stars and said that you pretty much have to read it if you are at all interested in Jobs.

The book's main text was over 500 pages long, which probably stretches the amount of time many people are willing to stick with a book. As I said at the end of my review, someone who's accomplished more than what ten more typical famous people have may be impossible to put in a single book.

Thanks for writing :)

David

Posted on Nov 8, 2011 8:21:19 AM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 8, 2011 12:46:53 PM PST]
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