four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
56-Jan-Feb-2012
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0

A-Steve JobsWalter Isaacson, formerly the chairman and CEO of CNN and managing editor of Time, is also a noted writer and biographer of Albert Einstein (Einstein, 4 of 5 Stars Selection July/Aug 2007), Benjamin Franklin, and Henry Kissinger. In Steve Jobs, he tackles the legendary genius and creative entrepreneur, who passed away on October 5, 2011.

The Topic: Steve Jobs can be ready in multiple ways: as a history of the personal computer; as an account of the turbulent history of Apple and its cutting-edge gadgets; and, perhaps most compellingly, as a look at the brilliant, contradictory man--he could be idiosyncratic, excessive, and cruel--who revolutionized personal computing, music, digital animation, phones, and more. Steve Jobs, writes Isaacson, "craved perfection, and he was not always good at figuring out how to settle for something less." This observation was true in Jobs's products, designs, and personal relationships--from his involvement in and then absolute control of Apple to the cancer treatment he put off in favor of faddish diets. But despite his faults, Isaacson concludes, Jobs--by connecting science, technology, and engineering to the arts--was "the greatest executive of our era, the one most certain to be remembered a century from now."
Simon & Schuster. 656 pages. $35. ISBN: 9781451648539

Christian Science Monitor 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Jobs can be summed up in his own advertising slogan: Think different. He did, and Isaacson is to be commended for explaining the genius of Jobs in fascinating fashion, launching a discussion that could reach infinity and beyond." Erik Spanberg

Spectator (UK) 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Faced with portraying an almost uniquely successful monster, Isaacson has done an outstanding job. He keeps a sturdily detached perspective about Jobs' many eccentricities--an aversion to bathing, weird diets--and about a personality that combined lack of empathy with a penchant for bullying abuse." Andrew Rosenheim

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Isaacson gives the Steve Jobs fairy tale a swift, full, and less than utterly flattering airing in a book that Jobs authorized himself and from whose stark white and black Apple-like cover he stares like a Zen digital master. ... It's great stuff, and the communicated thrill of work and invention brings Steve Jobs to life." Richard Rayner

Time 4 of 5 Stars
"There's been a lot of hagiographical stuff about Jobs since his death, and I'm not saying that's uncalled for, but this is different. It's a very balanced portrait, especially for an authorized biography: Jobs's genius could be very hard on the people around him, and Isaacson is not afraid to say so." Lev Grossman

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"[I]t is a gadget lover's dream, with fabulous, inside accounts of how the Macintosh, iPod, iPhone and iPad came into being. But more than anything, Isaacson has crafted a biography of a complicated, peculiar personality--Jobs was charming, loathsome, lovable, obsessive, maddening--and the author shows how Jobs's character was instrumental in shaping some of the greatest technological innovations of our time." Michael S. Rosenwald

Cleveland Plain Dealer HHJ
"The reader is left hungry for interpretation. ... Jobs' reality distortion field has the last word here. That is until someone with a colder, more Jobsian, eye steps up." Craig Morgan Teicher

Critical Summary

Jobs chose Isaacson as his biographer knowing that Isaacson (who retained complete editorial control) would depict him warts and all. "I know there will be a lot in your book I won't like," he told Isaacson, and that there is. Isaacson conducted more than 40 interviews with Jobs as well as hundreds of interviews with friends, family, colleagues, and competitors (including a particularly juicy session with Bill Gates) to provide an honest depiction of Jobs's career and personal life. It is also sometimes unflattering, particularly in Jobs's cruel treatment of colleagues and the early denial of a daughter he had in his 20s. Although Jobs emerges as brilliant--his thrill for invention makes for compelling reading--Isaacson doesn't ignore the alienating behavior that often defied all connection to reality. Only the Cleveland Plain Dealer felt that Isaacson "tips into stenography, and cheerleading"; all other critics felt that Isaacson does a remarkable job of putting Jobs in league with Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.