Reviews for Steve Jobs : A Biography


Booklist Reviews 2011 November #2
*Starred Review* Now we all know how the story ends. But that only adds a certain frisson to this biography of the man who was determined to "make a dent in reality." Shaping reality was what Jobs was about, not only in his extraordinary vision of how personal computers could remake the world but also in his personal life, where early forays into Eastern mysticism led to belief in what Star Trek called a "reality distortion field"--Jobs believed reality was malleable and made others believe it, too. The book is filled with examples of projects that seemed impossible to complete but were completed and goals that appeared unachievable but were achieved--all because Jobs insisted it could be done. Yet Jobs was no saint. Isaacson (along with many of Jobs' friends) posits that being given up for adoption gave him a brittle, callous edge, which likely led him to abandon a daughter he had out of wedlock. Juxatposed against Jobs' story are contrasting profiles of Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, the actual engineer, who would benignly have given away the specs for designing personal computers (he did give low-level associates some of his Apple shares before it it went public), and Bill Gates, at different times Jobs' partner and rival. Isaacson, who has previously written about long-gone geniuses Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein, benefits this time from contact with his subject. Jobs gave the author 40 interviews for this book and asked his family and associates to cooperate. The result is a wonderfully robust biography that not only tracks Jobs' life but also serves as a history of digital technology. What makes the book come alive, though, is Isaacson's ability to shape the story as a kind of archetypal fantasy: the flawed hero, the noble quest, the holy grail, the death of the king. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

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BookPage Reviews 2013 September
New paperback releases for reading groups

A CONTROVERSIAL GENIUS
You don’t have to be tech savvy to enjoy Steve Jobs, the fascinating biography by Walter Isaacson that is out in paperback this month, two years after the release of the best-selling hardcover. Jobs, who grew up in California, got his start at Atari in the early 1970s and co-founded Apple in 1976. He spent nine years there, resigned, and then helped transform Pixar into a maker of blockbusters before returning to Apple in 1997. Isaacson’s account of Jobs’ remarkable rise is colorful, lively and thorough. He covers all the hot topics—Jobs’ contentious relationship with Bill Gates, his difficult personality, his many achievements with Apple (iTunes, iPad, iPhone, the list goes on). Jobs, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2011, selected Isaacson as his biographer and sat down for more than 40 interviews with the author. Jobs reportedly held nothing back in his talks with Isaacson and urged other interviewees to do the same. The resulting biography provides an in-depth look at a true visionary.

PLAY IT TO THE BEAT
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon returns with Telegraph Avenue, a funny, compassionate novel about race, friendship and family. Archy Stallings, a black bassist from Oakland, co-owns a used record store called Brokeland with his white buddy, Nat Jaffe. Old friends and music c[Tue Jul 22 20:01:00 2014] enhancedContent.pl: Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\enhancedContent.pl line 249. onnoisseurs, they run the shop in the face of rapidly changing times. Their spouses, Gwen and Aviva, also work together—as midwives. The lives of the foursome take an unexpected turn when wealthy former football star Gibson Goode announces his plans to build a mall near Brokeland, which could mean the end of the shop. To make matters worse, Gwen and Aviva become enmeshed in a controversy that threatens their practice—and their relationship. The unexpected arrival of Archy’s illegitimate son, Titus, ensures that things will never be the same around Brokeland. Telegraph Avenue is classic Chabon—probing, humorous, packed with pop culture references and deeply authentic.

TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
Zadie Smith’s intriguing fourth novel, NW, follows a quartet of friends in their 30s who grew up in a housing project in northwest London. Leah has a status-quo life that includes a hairdresser husband and a position at a nonprofit. Her best friend, Keisha, who’s Jamaican, is a highly successful corporate lawyer. Despite a rich husband, two kids and a gorgeous house, she feels a sense of emptiness that ultimately proves destructive. Former drug addict Felix comes from a broken home but has hopes for the future thanks to a new relationship. And then there’s Nathan. When they were young, both Leah and Keisha fancied him, but Nathan is now involved in drugs and other questionable doings. Over the course of a weekend, the stories of the four friends converge, and the result is unforgettable. Moving from one character to the next, and adjusting prose styles accordingly, Smith shapes the separate stories and perspectives of the foursome into a fascinating whole. In this complex tale of restless, searching 30-somethings, she brings modern London to life in her own inimitable way.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

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Choice Reviews 2012 April
Isaacson (CEO, Aspen Institute; Einstein, CH, Sep'07, 45-0247; Benjamin Franklin, CH, Jan'04, 41-2999) provides an exhaustive examination of Steve Jobs as individual, innovator, and entrepreneur. Recurring themes are Jobs's belief, in contrast to those of Bill Gates and other peers, that a closed software and hardware infrastructure were the key to quality and success; Jobs's embodiment of Robert Friedland's "reality distortion field"--believing that he could force or, in some cases, avoid reality (e.g., his nine-month delay to accept the need to remove a cancerous tumor); and Jobs's overarching principle that his companies and products stay at the forefront of the intersection between the liberal arts and technology. He strongly felt that without exception, Apple, NeXT, and Pixar embraced this philosophy more than any competitor. Isaacson examines Jobs's successes from the development of the Apple I with engineer Steve Wozniak to essentially rescuing the failing digital-age music industry with iTunes. He also addresses Jobs's miscalculations, such as the inability of NeXT hardware to make a splash in the academic market, or his initial reluctance to allow third-party applications on Apple devices. This fascinating tour de force on the world of Steve Jobs would be an excellent addition to computer science and business collections. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty; Two-year Technical Program Students; Professionals/Practitioners. K. D. Winward Central College Copyright 2012 American Library Association.

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Kirkus Reviews 2011 November #2
An unforgettable tale of a one-of-a-kind visionary. With a unique ability to meld arts and technology and an uncanny understanding of consumers' desires, Apple founder Steve Jobs (1955–2011) played a major role in transforming not just computer technology, but a variety of industries. When Jobs died earlier this month, the outpouring of emotion from the general public was surprisingly intense. His creations, which he knew we wanted before we did, were more than mere tools; everything from the iPod to the MacBook Pro touched us on a gut level and became an integral part of our lives. This was why those of us who were hip to Steve Jobs the Inventor were so moved when he passed. However, those who had an in-depth knowledge of Steve Jobs the Businessman might not have taken such a nostalgic view of his life. According to acclaimed biographer and Aspen Institute CEO Isaacson (American Sketches: Great Leaders, Creative Thinkers, and a Heroes of a Hurricane, 2009, etc.) in this consistently engaging, warts-and-all biography, Jobs was not necessarily the most pleasant boss. We learn about Jobs' predilection for humiliating his co-workers into their best performances; his habit of profanely dismissing an underling's idea, only to claim it as his own later; and his ability to manipulate a situation with an evangelical, fact-mangling technique that friends and foes alike referred to as his "reality distortion field." But we also learn how--through his alternative education, his pilgrimage to India, a heap of acid trips and a fateful meeting with engineering genius Steve Wozniak--Jobs became Jobs and Apple became Apple. Though the narrative could have used a tighter edit in a few places, Isaacson's portrait of this complex, often unlikable genius is, to quote Jobs, insanely great. Jobs was an American original, and Isaacson's impeccably researched, vibrant biography--fully endorsed by his subject--does his legacy proud. Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Express Reviews
Isaacson's (Einstein: His Life and Universe) new biography of Steve Jobs (1955-2011) will satisfy the curiosity of all those looking to delve into the nitty-gritty details of the tech titan's life. Though it begins with a traditional sketch of his parents (both biological and adopted) and birth, the book quickly gets down to business: readers see the creation of the Apple I within the first 60 pages. Isaacson's primary focus is on Jobs's professional life, and chapters are often organized around a single product, e.g., the Mac or the iPod. Jobs emerges a man who cares deeply about the wares he sells and the companies he builds, but one who (famously) is all but unbearable for it. Starting his career smelly and shoeless, the eccentric Jobs even at the end of his life eschewed cancer treatment for nine crucial months on behalf of a strict, carrot-juice-heavy diet. Verdict Isaacson has produced a full, detailed account of an influential man's life, but the style never rises above that of a well-graded research paper. As for Jobs, readers will newly admire their iPhones but not the near-sadistic management style that produced them. [See Prepub Alert, 8/26/11.]-Molly McArdle, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 December #3

If not the greatest of computer moguls, the late Apple Computer co-founder was certainly the most colorful and charismatic to judge by this compelling biography. Journalist Isaacson (Albert Einstein) had his subject's intimate cooperation but doesn't shy away from Jobs's off-putting traits: the egomania; the shameless theft of ideas; the "reality distortion field" of lies and delusions; the veering between manipulative charm and cold betrayal; the bullying rages, profanity and weeping; the bizarre vegetarian diets that he believed would ward off body odor and cancer (he was tragically wrong on both counts). Isaacson also sees the constructive flip-side of Jobs's flaws, arguing that his crazed perfectionism and sublime sense of design--he wanted even his computers' circuit boards to be visually elegant--begat brilliant innovations, from the Mac to the iPad, that blended "poetry and processors." The author oversells Jobs as the digital artiste pitting well-crafted, vertically integrated personal computing experiences against the promiscuously licensed, bulk-commodity software profferred by his Microsoft rival Bill Gates. (Gates's acerbic commentary on Jobs's romanticism often steals the page.) Still, Isaacson's exhaustively researched but well-paced, candid and gripping narrative gives us a great warts-and-all portrait of an entrepreneurial spirit--and one of the best accounts yet of the human side of the computer biz. Photos. (Oct. 24)

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

If not the greatest of computer moguls, the late Apple Computer co-founder was certainly the most colorful and charismatic to judge by this compelling biography. Journalist Isaacson (Albert Einstein) had his subject's intimate cooperation but doesn't shy away from Jobs's off-putting traits: the egomania; the shameless theft of ideas; the "reality distortion field" of lies and delusions; the veering between manipulative charm and cold betrayal; the bullying rages, profanity and weeping; the bizarre vegetarian diets that he believed would ward off body odor and cancer (he was tragically wrong on both counts). Isaacson also sees the constructive flip-side of Jobs's flaws, arguing that his crazed perfectionism and sublime sense of design--he wanted even his computers' circuit boards to be visually elegant--begat brilliant innovations, from the Mac to the iPad, that blended "poetry and processors." The author oversells Jobs as the digital artiste pitting well-crafted, vertically integrated personal computing experiences against the promiscuously licensed, bulk-commodity software profferred by his Microsoft rival Bill Gates. (Gates's acerbic commentary on Jobs's romanticism often steals the page.) Still, Isaacson's exhaustively researched but well-paced, candid and gripping narrative gives us a great warts-and-all portrait of an entrepreneurial spirit--and one of the best accounts yet of the human side of the computer biz. Photos. (Oct. 24)

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