Sunday, November 27, 2011

Steve Jobs; Walter Isaacson


Title: Steve Jobs
Author:  Walter Isaacson
Publication Year: 2011 
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Edition: Kindle
Source: purchase
Date Completed: 11/23/2011 
Rating: 5/5
Recommend: yes

My thoughts - a powerful, yet not entirely flattering biography, of a charismatic, temperamental, narcissistic genius who was driven by perfectionism. (You may wish to skim this review if you plan on reading this book).

Steve Jobs, a man who will not be easily forgotten, passed away on October 5, 2011 at the age of 56.  In 2009, knowing he was dying, he got Walter Isaacson to agree to write a book about his life. Over the course of the next two difficult years of Job's illness, Isaacson conducted over 40 interviews with him, his friends, family and former coworkers.

Jobs grew up in Mountainview, CA, outside of Palo Alto, the adopted son of Paul and Clara Jobs. His biological parents --grad students, a Syrian father and American mother,  he referred to as his "sperm and egg bank". Even when he later found out who his real parents were, he always referred to his adoptive parents as his "real" parents. However, it appears apparent from reading this book, that being abandoned by his biological parents was a real issue for Job's throughout his life, and it affected the way he treated people as an adult.

As a young boy, early on Job's realized he was brighter than his parents. This made him feel more detached. In fact in the 4th grade he tested at a 10th grade level.  Bored with school, he was also somewhat socially awkward and was often bullied at school.  He demanded that he be sent to another school or that he would stop going to school, so his parents moved to a better neighborhood. It was here where Jobs began tinkering with electronics in his garage. This is where is all begin in 1976 for Steve Jobs and Stephen Wozniak. The two were both loners and "music geeks" introduced by a friend. Jobs experimented with pot, hash, and LSD and embraced the hippie lifestyle.  The only college that Jobs had any interest in attending was Reed College in Portland, Oregon. It was at Reed that Jobs became interested in Buddhism, attended a Hare Krishna Temple,and became obsessive about dieting and vegetarianism. He was on a personal unending search for enlightenment, which he never quite seemed to find. Jobs dropped out of Reed College to travel around India on a spiritual journey.

Job's biography covers his 30+ year career which includes not only the start up operation of Apple Computer out his garage, but also his involvement at Atari, Pixar and NeXT. Just four years after Apple's start up, the company went public and was worth 1.79 billion dollars. By the age of 25 Jobs was worth 256 million dollars and made 300 other people millionaires in the process.  In 2011 Apple is a 40 billion dollar Company. Yet despite his wealth Jobs was a minimalist, believing that in home and in business, "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication". 

Job's opinion of himself was that "he was special". He had the uncanny ability to read people and to know exactly what their weak points were.  He used that to his advantage, and created a fear factor in those who worked for him. He was eager to put people down, often in front of others, and wasn't afraid to tell those who worked for him that their ideas were dumb. His prickly behavior caused a high burnout in staff, and because of his high expectations his goal in hiring was to find creative, super-smart people who had a rebellious spirit.

He was a genius in business,  but not so much in his personal life. His biography covers his tumultuous relationship with daughter Lisa who he fathered out of wedlock in 1978, to his marriage in 1991 to Laureen Powell and the birth of his first child that same year, who for the first two weeks of his life was known simply as "baby boy Jobs".  In 1995 and 1998 two more children, daughters were born to Steve and Laureen.  His was described as aloof to his daughters and often "prickly" to his wife, thus by no means an easy man to live with.

His illness,was first diagnosed in October of 2003, with what was believed to be, a curable form of pancreatic cancer. Jobs decided against surgery despite the urging of his doctors and those closest to him. Instead he chose to try some radical diets and fastings in the hope they would cleanse his body of cancer. His was obsessed with body image and did not want to have a surgery he believed might not be entirely necessary. The nine month wait caused his cancer to spread, and his health and quality of life would deteriorate as well, ending with his death on October 5, 2011. 

Steve Jobs is a fascinating read about a complicated and extremely fascinating man. As prickly as this man could be at times, there are a few paragraphs that were able to bring me to tears.  Apparently, according to Jobs, much of your thinking is changed in the face of death, and suddenly you no longer worry about "having something to lose."

A highly recommended read.

27 comments:

  1. I bought this when it came out and I'm anxious to read it. I'm glad to see it's so fascinating.

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  2. I bought this one for my husband and myself when it came out, and I am really eager to read it. I know Jobs was kind of a jerk, to put it mildly, but I am very intrigued by how he got to where he did. I will have to let you know what I think of it when I finally read it.

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  3. I have been curious about this book. I am glad you liked it!

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  4. I read a long, long excerpt in Time Magazine and figured that was enough of him for me! :--)

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  5. That is sad that he refused what could have been a potentially life saving surgery. Sounds interesting.

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  6. This is on my "to be read" list but I have such a stack that it's been put off until Christmas vacation. If I can add a little insight...I was born and raised in Cupertino, CA, the "better neighborhood" the Jobs family moved into and the home of Apple. Steve was always loyal to his hometown and did so much for our community.

    My mother went to work for Apple in it's early days and worked there until she retired at 70. Her office was down the hall from Steve's and while, yes, he was all those things described, he also never expected more from his employees than he gave himself. If they were there until 2 a.m. getting ready for a product release, so was Steve. The employees weren't called employees they were called "the team." He was never Mr. Jobs - he was Steve. So, while they were a little nervous around him and sometimes a bit afraid, they all respected him - unless he fired them. Some were bitter because he was blunt. (My mom worked in HR) So, here in Cupertino, we knew who and what Steve was but we mourn the loss of a much beloved and favorite son. I would like to know what he saw when he died. His last words were..."Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow." His sister said he was looking beyond everyone in the room.

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  7. I'm interested in reading this, and understand that it's a well-researched and well-written biography about a man who was, as you say, "prickly."

    I don't think I'm going to feel any affection for Steve Jobs when I read the book, but I am fascinated by what made him tick (and what people put up with from him)

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  8. I am intrigued by this book since Apple is such big business and Jobs is synonymous with the name. Great review!

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  9. This sounds like a fascinating biography. Even if I never read this book, your review was very informative-I learned quite a bit from it!

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  10. Everyone who has read this book says exactly what you did, loved it and Jobs doesn't always look good.

    Glad you liked this one!

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  11. Your review was absolutely amazing. I feel like I've got a really good feel for this person. I would have to say that there would be no way that I could work for someone like that. It almost seems as if he took his anger about being adopted and such out on other people. Too bad that he was vain to the point that he might have lived had he underwent the surgery.

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  12. Yes, we must read that one, we use all his best stuff too!

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  13. wow...that is fascinating info Robin. He must have seen something beautiful, we can only hope. The book eluded to the fact he was good to his hometown and community.

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  14. I just can't get over how "special" he really thought he was. I'm not normally one for biographies, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this one!

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  15. My husband read this one too and I'm just trying to figure out when I'll have time to read it since it's so big.

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  16. I have just started this bio (and hence haven't read very far into it yet), still I was impressed that Jobs gave Isaacson free reign in writing it. It sounds like he was a very complex man, but I guess most geniuses are.

    Great review Diane!

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  17. My husband bought this book (Steve Jobs is one of his heroes) and I'm patiently waiting for him to finish it. I'm looking forward to reading it myself now that I've read your review. Part of me feels so thankful for him for the excellent products he helped to create and put into the marketplace but it does seem like he needed to work on his personal relationships. However, it does sound like there are explanations for why he was the way he was.

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  18. I didn't know he was such an a$$ to work for. For some reason, I always thought was easy going but brilliant. I bought this book for The Boy for Christmas. He said he wanted it but I'm sure I'll read it after him.

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  19. I spoke to soon when I commented on your other post right now. Sounds like my initial thoughts and your final review are in sync!

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  20. This is a great review, Diane. My husband got the book for his b-day and I hope to read it when he's finished - I'm afraid it may take quite some time though!

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  21. I'm glad to hear this one is good. I'm really interested to read it, but I wasn't sure if it was worth it.

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  22. My husband is almost finished with this book. He says the same (about Jobs' being a bit of a jerk), but if it brought you to tears on a few occasions, I may have to give it a read. Probably on audio - on my iPod or Nano, of course ;)

    My husband actually met Jobs years ago at a CES (Consumer Electronics Show) years ago. Said he was a nice guy. Of course, he didn't have to work for him. ;)

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  23. his goal in hiring was to find creative, super-smart people who had a rebellious spirit.
    Yeah, and I bet they rebelled against him, sooner rather than later!

    Interesting review - I 'll get round to reading this book, eventually. I like Issacson's bios.

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  24. Just finished reading Jill's review which totally intrigued me. My hubby is a fan of his business side so I'm interested to see how he feels after reading this one.

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  25. This book is being featured this week on a great radio show for bibliophiles called The Book Report with Elaine Charles. You can find out more at www.bookreportradio.com

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  26. I just listened to Elaine Charles review. I think she really had a fabulous discussion about it so if anyone is interested here is a link to her archived show on it
    http://bookreportradio.com/media/The%20BookReport%20Show%2058%2059-43.mp3

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  27. I just listened to Elaine Charles review. I think she really had a fabulous discussion about it so if anyone is interested here is a link to her archived show on it
    http://bookreportradio.com/media/The%20BookReport%20Show%2058%2059-43.mp3

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