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Steve Jobs Hardcover – October 24, 2011
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2011: It is difficult to read the opening pages of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs without feeling melancholic. Jobs retired at the end of August and died about six weeks later. Now, just weeks after his death, you can open the book that bears his name and read about his youth, his promise, and his relentless press to succeed. But the initial sadness in starting the book is soon replaced by something else, which is the intensity of the read--mirroring the intensity of Jobs’s focus and vision for his products. Few in history have transformed their time like Steve Jobs, and one could argue that he stands with the Fords, Edisons, and Gutenbergs of the world. This is a timely and complete portrait that pulls no punches and gives insight into a man whose contradictions were in many ways his greatest strength. --Chris Schluep
Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Walter Isaacson
Q: It's becoming well known that Jobs was able to create his Reality Distortion Field when it served him. Was it difficult for you to cut through the RDF and get beneath the narrative that he created? How did you do it?
Isaacson: Andy Hertzfeld, who worked with Steve on the original Macintosh team, said that even if you were aware of his Reality Distortion Field, you still got caught up in it. But that is why Steve was so successful: He willfully bent reality so that you became convinced you could do the impossible, so you did. I never felt he was intentionally misleading me, but I did try to check every story. I did more than a hundred interviews. And he urged me not just to hear his version, but to interview as many people as possible. It was one of his many odd contradictions: He could distort reality, yet he was also brutally honest most of the time. He impressed upon me the value of honesty, rather than trying to whitewash things.
Q: How were the interviews with Jobs conducted? Did you ask lots of questions, or did he just talk?
Isaacson: I asked very few questions. We would take long walks or drives, or sit in his garden, and I would raise a topic and let him expound on it. Even during the more formal sessions in his living room, I would just sit quietly and listen. He loved to tell stories, and he would get very emotional, especially when talking about people in his life whom he admired or disdained.
Q: He was a powerful man who could hold a grudge. Was it easy to get others to talk about Jobs willingly? Were they afraid to talk?
Isaacson: Everyone was eager to talk about Steve. They all had stories to tell, and they loved to tell them. Even those who told me about his rough manner put it in the context of how inspiring he could be.
Q: Jobs embraced the counterculture and Buddhism. Yet he was a billionaire businessman with his own jet. In what way did Jobs' contradictions contribute to his success?
Isaacson: Steve was filled with contradictions. He was a counterculture rebel who became a billionaire. He eschewed material objects yet made objects of desire. He talked, at times, about how he wrestled with these contradictions. His counterculture background combined with his love of electronics and business was key to the products he created. They combined artistry and technology.
Q: Jobs could be notoriously difficult. Did you wind up liking him in the end?
Isaacson: Yes, I liked him and was inspired by him. But I knew he could be unkind and rough. These things can go together. When my book first came out, some people skimmed it quickly and cherry-picked the examples of his being rude to people. But that was only half the story. Fortunately, as people read the whole book, they saw the theme of the narrative: He could be petulant and rough, but this was driven by his passion and pursuit of perfection. He liked people to stand up to him, and he said that brutal honesty was required to be part of his team. And the teams he built became extremely loyal and inspired.
Q: Do you believe he was a genius?
Isaacson: He was a genius at connecting art to technology, of making leaps based on intuition and imagination. He knew how to make emotional connections with those around him and with his customers.
Q: Did he have regrets?
Isaacson: He had some regrets, which he expressed in his interviews. For example, he said that he did not handle well the pregnancy of his first girlfriend. But he was deeply satisfied by the creativity he ingrained at Apple and the loyalty of both his close colleagues and his family.
Q: What do you think is his legacy?
Isaacson: His legacy is transforming seven industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, digital publishing, and retail stores. His legacy is creating what became the most valuable company on earth, one that stood at the intersection of the humanities and technology, and is the company most likely still to be doing that a generation from now. His legacy, as he said in his "Think Different" ad, was reminding us that the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.
Photo credit: Patrice Gilbert Photography
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Top Customer Reviews
I rate Steve Jobs up there with the greatest creative geniuses of Western Civilization, alongside Bach, Da Vinci and Galileo. So often great geniuses are not exactly the most personable, and this is certainly the case with Jobs. From abandoning his pregnant girlfriend and child, to bathing infrequently and being a complete jackass to his employees, this book does not attempt to sugarcoat anything. But as Apple matures, so does Jobs: he reconciles with his daughter, cleans up his act and becomes a somewhat more tolerable person, but not entirely. And through all of this he builds the first personal computer alongside the greatly underrated and unsung hero, Steve Wozniak. Their early relationship is especially fun to read about.
If you are from the Bay Area like me, you will be amazed at what major innovations were going on in your own backyard, so to speak. I guess it's silly for me to be proud that this all went down so locally, but I kind of am, so there.
It's a very long book but covers EVERYTHING. Amazing details regarding how Jobs wanted everything packaged and designed (he really nitpicked), choosing Italian marble for the Apple Store floors, negotiating with record companies to make iTunes a possibility, and on and on...
If you are an entrepreneur, read this book. If you are a techie, read this book. If you are a geek, read this book. But most importantly, if you benefit from Apple products, READ this book. And keep some tissues handy. Despite his many flaws you will shed some tears for Jobs at the end.
Steve, wherever you are, thank you for EVERYTHING (typed on my MacBook Air while listening to Apple Music on my iPad). (less)
A theme throughout the book is how hard Steve is on his employees. The book constantly looks at this business practice as beneficial, while only slightly acknowledging his scarily abusive management techniques. It was this that ultimately led to Apple letting him go, yet the book touches on it as a mistake by the company, and highlights Jobs’ return.
If one reads through the lines in this book, you see that he is a scarily manipulative man. From when his dad finds his marijuana and he refuses to stop, to when he won’t acknowledge his first born child, he does not sound like a pleasant person. I am not saying that this book isn’t factual. It absolutely has all of the facts that it should. However it sugarcoats the entire life of Jobs and puts it on a pedestal. I think it does more to inspire people to do whatever it takes, good or bad, to become successful than it does tell the story of his life.