Steve Jobs Biography by Walter Isaacson: personal impressions

I traveled to Germany a few weeks ago and as I usually do before a long flight, I looked for a good book to read on the flight. Being a huge Applefile and Steve Jobs fan, I jumped at the chance to buy the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. This was not the first Isaacson biography I have read, after reading his Albert Einstein biography last year. Here are some of my thoughts on this book:

Don’t walk to buy this book, run to buy it! This is a great book and probably one of the best I have ever read for sheer captivation. Seriously, I could not put this book down. It reads like a thriller novel, the pace is tight and the events unfold fast and furious. What made it even more fascinating for me is that I remembered a lot of the events depicted in the book at the time that they occurred.

Buy it in hard-cover. I’m usually too frugal to buy hard-cover books. This time I did not see a paperback and bought the hard-cover. And it was worth every penny. True it makes lugging it on planes and trains a bit more difficult, but the reading experience is so much better. Paperbacks get dusty, the paper is thin, the ink tends to smudge and the type is small. And you may look like a hippy if you carry it in the back pocket of your blue  jeans. The hard-cover is much nicer read. (Don’t ask me about Kindles or iPads as I don’t own either).

Steve Jobs’ led a tough life. Most people can only dream of being a Billionaire at the age of 25 like Steve. And Steve dated some of the most beautiful women around (including famous women like Joan Baez). He had his own plane and houses all over the world. Yet after reading the book, I don’t think that many people would want to live his life. His childhood was messed up knowing that his real parents dumped him; his adolescence was marred by heavy drug use; he had to work the graveyard shift at Atari after people complained that he smelled (Steve did not believe in taking showers on a regular basis). Soon after he achieved success at Apple, his own board fired him and it took him 11 years to get back. And almost as soon as he did get back the cancer took over and one can say that the last 10 years of his life were ones of constant pain and anguish.

Steve Jobs was an emotionally disturbed person. Once you read the book you’ll know exactly what I mean. But I just want to mention one thing. Steve was said to have weeped on many occasions in business discussions and negotiations. And Steve was quoted as saying in this book that certain product designs made him cry. What kind of person weeps at meetings? Someone very fucked up (sorry to use profanity).

Steve had some soft spots. Most of the descriptions in the book paint an ugly picture of Steve. He was extremely mean to many people. He was inconsiderate to a fault. But on the other hand he was kind and loving to his wife and children; and he was a big believer in education. One of the things that impressed me was his strong desire to live long enough to see his son Reed graduate from high school.

Translation was not mentioned in the book even once. Most of you know that I usually blog about translation-related topics. But the topic did not come up at all in the book.

I also read recently that a movie about Steve is coming out soon starring Ashton Kutcher. I don’t think I’ll waste my time and see it since Hollywood usually tends to distort reality by taking everything over-the-top. Since Isaacson’s  book was sanctioned by Steve Jobs and his wife Laura, my guess is that it is pretty accurate.



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2 thoughts on “Steve Jobs Biography by Walter Isaacson: personal impressions

  1. Dave,

    From what I have heard, Kutcher’s film is an indy production. Ironically, the big budget Hollywood movie that is bound to happen will probably be cased on Isaacson’s book.

  2. Thanks Pawel, even if they do make a movie based on Isaacson’s book, the screenwriters will need to adapt it for the screen. Believe me, it will definitely be shlocky Hollywood glitz.