Steve Jobs

Walter Isaacson, Author
Walter Isaacson. Simon & Schuster, $35 (656p) ISBN 978-1-4516-4853-9
Reviewed on: 12/19/2011
Release date: 10/01/2011
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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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