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Monday, October 31, 2011

Real Review: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Link:  Steve Jobs

When looking at a biography I have a single yardstick to decide its success: did I get inside the subject's head?

Very simple.

Very hard to do perfectly.

A lot like an Apple product some would say...

Isaacson managed to do this with his "Einstein". You were with him in those pages, you could feel his playfulness, his genius, and his beliefs all in turn, be it in a Unified Theory or in pacifism--only to have those beliefs challenged by quantum and WW2. You felt Einstein, you were beside him, you understood him.

I don't think Isaacson has managed this here.

There are moments of Steve Jobs but for most of it we're left with an enigma. Indeed, for a work that had access to the subject in interview it's rather amazing that the majority of it does not rest with Jobs' view of the world but instead was stories told of others about Jobs. Why is Jobs the way he is? This question is never really answered.

There are bursts of insight and guesses directly from Isaacson about simplicity and abandonment but we never dig deep in these pages.

Besides this huge problem, there were other smaller ones. Along with not focusing on Jobs' point-of-view, the book often strayed to the story of those around him and became sidetracked by the creation of Apple products from the Mac to the iPad. Usually this is a technique to help explain the subject but here it only feels as if Isaacson was trying to fill out pages. He also does this through repetition of stories and facts (and crying and screaming galore), which gets annoying for the reader and makes one wonder if this novel was rushed through the editing phase.

Reading this, I can say I now know Apple, but I can't say I know Steve Jobs. Linked as they are, they aren't one and the same.

Not as dry as "Benjamin Franklin" yet not as impactful as "Einstein", three and a half stars.

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