Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Steve Jobs - Walter Isaacson (Audio)

If someone asked me which people have made the biggest impact on my life, the list would be fairly short.  It probably would be for anyone.  So...my parents?  God?  My husband?  Steve Jobs? 

I really never knew too much about the man, except for the iconic "computer built in a garage" story with his buddy Wozniak.  I'd heard he wasn't a very nice person.  But the impact that this man made on MY life and on humanity in general is astounding.  Only in the last year have I actually owned an Apple computer, but I'm not exaggerating when I say that the iPod changed my life.  That and the iPhone.  I know I'm not the only one.

I was so sad when I learned that he had inoperable pancreatic cancer.  You don't want anyone so young to lose their life, but I also (probably a little selfishly) worried about the future of Apple.  The company that, for the last decade, has told me what I needed...what I couldn't live without...before I knew myself.  Steve Jobs was the guy that was going to invent a way for me to push a button and have my house suddenly clean, I just knew it.  If there was ever a guy I wanted to know more about, Jobs was the one.

Synopsis:  After Jobs was diagnosed with cancer and it appeared his life was nearing its end, he invited Walter Isaacson (who had written biographies of Henry Kissinger, Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein) to write his life story.  Isaacson was allowed full access to anyone and everyone in Jobs' circle...no doors were locked, no topic was taboo.  Jobs wanted everything out on the table.  He did not want this project to look like an inside job, or a dog and pony show, to make himself look good post-mortem.  

Isaacson started with Jobs' birth parents and his subsequent adoption by the couple who would raise him.  Jobs was always willful and highly intelligent, and felt that rules never applied to him, even from the youngest age.  He was prone to bizarre food obsessions, gravitated towards the Zen school of thought, and had high regard for simple and intuitive design.  Everyone who worked with him described the elusive Steve Jobs "Reality Distortion Field" that forces the impossible to be true, until...it is.  Which was maddening, but also instilled a universal sense of awe in all those around him.  Ultimately, you either loved him in a twisted sort of way, or hated him.    

We travel from the circuit board assembly line in the garage at his parents' house, to the creation of Apple, to his dismissal from the company, to his involvement in Pixar, to his return to Apple, the reinvention of the brand, the Apple stores, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad.  For Jobs, perfection was the only acceptable answer, from his product to his employees.

We also hear about the dark side.  His estrangement from his illegitimate daughter, how he treated his employees who didn't live up to his standards (which was everyone at some point in time), and his initial reluctance to accept his cancer diagnosis and cooperate with the doctors.

In a clear, logically-constructed format, Isaacson enthralls from the first page to the last.  

My thoughts:  Without a doubt, this book is going to be on my favorites list at the end of 2013.  Talk about starting out the year with a bang!  Biographies are a hit or miss with me, and can tend to be dull in places, but I blew through this puppy, all 25 hours of it, in less than a week.  I couldn't get enough.  You could justify this reaction by the fact that I love Apple products.  But I would guess that most people in this world have been affected by Jobs in one way or another.  (When I go to Poland, every person over there has an iPhone.)  

What a study in human behavior.  Or human psychosis.  Or something.  This was one bizarre guy.  Was he bi-polar?  ADHD?  On the Autistic spectrum?  A spoiled brat?  Jobs surrounded himself with the best employees, yes, but he was the heart and soul of his company.  I continue to worry.  

I worked for a couple of people in my previous life that mirrored many of Jobs' behaviors.  Except they were not as brilliant and far less successful.  I had many unpleasant jolts of dejavu!

I think my favorite stories were the interactions between Jobs and Bill Gates.  What a pair, waffling between toxic derision and mutual respect, bitter enemies and reluctant business partners.  One particular scene came alive for me...the first time Bill Gates saw the iPod, with his mouth hanging open, gobsmacked at the brilliance.  Yes Bill, I understand.

So.  Read it with the highest recommendation from me.

A few words about the audio production:  Our narrator for this audio book was Dylan Baker, who appears to have done it all in the audio world (even though I think I've only heard him on a David Sedaris audio).  He was pleasant to listen to and brought plenty of passion and enthusiasm to the table.

Audio book length:  25 hours and 8 minutes (656 pages)

5 out of 5 stars  

         

16 comments:

Julie P. said...

I just added Kathy's audio book review to my list and now yours! Great review!

Beth F said...

Great review indeed. I got my very first Apple product a few months ago -- the iPhone5. I guess I'm in the minority. I don't like it and wish I had followed my instincts and stuck with Android. July 2014 can't come soon enough (when I can ditch the phone without penalty).

BUT there is no denying that Jobs changed people's lives.

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I'm not even an Apple person and I loved this one. So fascinating.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

So interesting that you loved a long bio so much! I can't imagine staying interested for all those discs, but of course on the other hand he was a pretty interesting guy!

Jackie Bailey said...

He sounds fascinating! I've never been interested in this book before, but I love the way you describe this - especially the bit about human behaviour (any hint of autism and I'm right there!) Thanks for persuading me to give this a try - I'll get it on audio as soon as I've worked my way through that wonderful box you sent me :-)

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

I'm getting this one on audio. My mom has the hardback, and I can't even imagine holding it in my hands long enough to read the whopster. I'm a firm believer that genius comes with its downsides most of the time, and many brilliant people seem to have characteristics that flirt with mental illness. Nobody's life is at it seems to outsiders, is it? Thanks for reminding me about this one...headed to the Audible site now :)

bermudaonion said...

I bought this in print when it first came out because Carl is a Mac Daddy. Carl picked it up immediately and didn't get very far in it - it just didn't grab him - so I haven't picked it up. Maybe I need to see if the library has it on audio.

Kelly TheWellReadRedhead said...

Great review!! This was on my favorites list in 2011. Probably the best biography I have ever read. I was not an Apple convert until I read this book, and then I saw the light.

Zibilee said...

I have the audio, as you saw the other day, and have been waiting and hanging back. Perhaps it is because I feel that Jobs is kind of a mean guy, and I hate meanness in any form, but the fact that he revolutionized technology is not to be ignored. I seem to rely on all my igadgets more than anything else, and it wasn't until my husband, a long time Apple fan came into the picture that I felt like I even needed an iPhone or iPad. So I am going in with suspicion, because really, there is the mean guy thing, but then again he was just so brilliant. I will have to let you know what I think when I am done. Excellent review. I cracked up just a little when you described Gates' reaction to the iPod.

JoAnn said...

Bios can be hit or miss for me, too, and, despite my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook, I never really considered reading or listening to this. BUT getting through all 25 hours in a single week is a pretty strong recommendation!

Melissa said...

Except for Claire's iPad we don't have any Apple products, so while I didn't really avoid this one, I wasn't really drawn to it either. Your review however has changed my mind!

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I love reading your take on this. I am sure it was a fun read because, just look at the character you're dealing with.

Darlene said...

I too am an Apple girl and couldn't live without it. I've been curious about this book but I'm not a huge fan of memoirs. This being one of your favourites makes me rethink that especially for the audio.

Jenners said...

It was a fascinating book, wasn't it? It makes you appreciate just how much the stuff he touched changed our everyday life. I personally think that Apple will lose its touch now that he is gone. (I mean, that whole Maps thing probably would have never happened.) You just gotta hope he left a whole bunch of ideas for them to pull off in his absence.

stacybuckeye said...

My husbby loved this one. He listened to it on the way to and from work everyday and I feel like I know the many with all the stories Jason chose to share! Someday I hope to get to it.

softdrink said...

Yes! On all of it! Well, not the audio, since I read it. But good grief, I spent most of the book with my jaw on the floor, the dude was THAT weird. Genius, but still whacked.