Book Review: Steve Jobs

As a rule, I do not review non-medical books on this blog, unless it forms part of a Top Ten Tuesday. However, since my recent discovery of the myriad of book blogs, Goodreads and the ability to read while maintaining my schedule has led to me rather bravely attempting a bookish challenge, I have decided to blog about those books.

For the Biography category I read Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.

Steve Jobs: Businessman. Craftsman. Engineer. Entrepreneur. Innovator.

The creator of Apple needs no introduction. In my opinion, when it comes to Apple, the world is divided into three camps:

  1. Those who love Apple
  2. Those who hate it because they can’t afford it
  3. Those who hate it out of principle

[And a fourth camp, which until recently I did not believe exists: those who had never heard of it.]

Anyways, I have never idolised Jobs. I won an iPod in 2007, and loved it (but didn’t need one until I got it). I got an iPad2 last year, which is awesome. But it’s a product. And let me start by saying that this biography did not change that view.

I like biographies. I was iffy on this one, because I had hardly ever heard of Jobs (yeah, I live in Africa) and because it seems weird to publish a biography so short after his death.

But because this challenge is about broadening horizons (and I believe irrevocably in broadening horizons) I put it on my list.

It took me over a month to finish. I have never taken that long to finish a book. To be frank, I did not at all enjoy Isaacson’s writing style. I have never before read his work, so I don’t know if this is his normal narrative, but it did not appeal to me. Perhaps that makes me a poor reader: perhaps a biography is meant to be cold, objective, purely the facts. But in my experience this biography was about Apple, and not about Steve Jobs.

Which brings me to the more unfair reason behind my dislike: the subject matter. Until the last hundred pages or so, little remarkable is shown about Jobs. He started a company. Awesome. He gave Windows a good run for their money. Superb. He had interesting views on life. Oh, and he was adopted.

My intention is not to be cynical. Perhaps I struggled to enjoy this book because I am neither tech-savvy nor business-savvy.

But here is what I did like: I learned why Apple was named Apple. I learned where the “i” in iMac, iPad, iPod comes from. I learned why he always wore those black mock-turtlenecks. I learned why, in a team, it is sometimes more important to be a manager than a visionary. Jobs’ metamorphosis from a really irresponsible boss to a good(ish) leader taught me quite a bit about running a venture of whatever kind. I learned quite a bit about innovation.

I found this book: Okay. If I could go back in time, I would again decide to read it. But I will not re-read it, and I will not consider it a favourite. And by the way, if you decide to read it, hang in there. It will grow on you slowly.

“The people who invented the twenty-first century were pot-smoking, sandal-wearing hippies from the West Coast like Steve, because they saw differently.”

“The mark of an innovative company is not only that it comes up with new ideas first, but also that it knows how to leap frog when it finds itself behind.”


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