Open thread: What did you think of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography?

Many MacDailyNews readers have been emailing us with their reactions and mini-reviews of “Steve Jobs,” Walter Isaacson’s biography of the late Apple co-founder.

The comments we’ve received so far range from “loved every page of it” and “couldn’t put it down” to “impersonal and detached” and “missed the full gist of the man.”

If you’ve read the book, what did you think of it?

Steve Jobs” is available via Apple’s iBookstore for US$14.99 for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch here.


  1. It was pretty interesting, but I had to “auto-magically” fill in quite a bit of info gleaned from other sources when he seemed to go out of his way to write nicely-spun things about those who got in Jobs’ way. Like Microsoft.

  2. Steve Jobs was very interesting, and this book somehow portrays this, but it is just so poorly written you feel like a first grader reading it. It keeps reminding you of what you read a page ago and so it gets very annoying.

  3. I listened to the audiobook from Audible and finished in 4 days. So I guess you could say that I couldn’t put it down. I liked that Steve gave Walter the freedom to write it as he felt fit and didn’t demand to review it and try to censor or “paint a better picture.” Through leaks and other stories throughout the years, I felt like I already knew most of what was contained in the book but it really gave more insight and Steve’s perspective rather than things collected or reported by media – particularly his cancer.

    I really enjoyed the parts about his time while starting Next and his time with Pixar. These were times I didn’t know much about Steve and it gave more insight to his character.

    My absolute favorite was when Bill Gates was shown the iPod before it was released and he said something along the lines of “That’s pretty good.” I imagine he took in as much info as he could, sat on the toilet that night, and the brown Zune was born.

  4. I thought that it struck the right balance and was neither sycophantic or malicious. It was interesting to know what what was going on behind the scenes of all these important products and decisions.

  5. In terms of information about him as a man and his personal life, I felt that the second half seemed to just be reiterating that he was an incredibly charming and talented person who could also be an arsehole. That’s a generalisation, and true or not I felt that it became a bit repetitive after a while.

    The rest was brief history of his companies, and obviously the book was about him and not those companies, but for someone like him the lines blur so much that they almost become the same thing. As such I was a bit disappointed because I would have wanted more detail.

    I enjoyed the book, and there was a lot of interesting material, I think ultimately he was such a fascinating individual that you’re always going to be left wanting more.

  6. I wanted much more insight into Steve’s psychology. It’s a thorough record, yes, of all of the content of his life, but very little insight into what was going on inside. Even everyday stuff would have been interesting to probe – why’d you go for long periods eating only carrots, why were you never much into athletics, what were your favorite movies, why was LSD such an important experience – what did you see, how did it affect you, what was your relationship with your mother like, were you a mediator, why zen, what did you get out of it, what do you love most about your kids – none of that, I mean none of it, got covered. That would have been really interesting. Instead, we got a better history of his business life than any written before, with a few deeper insights into his business relationships than we had before. But the deepest we got into his psyche was that he wondered whether life is just like an on/off switch. Bummer.

    1. The “on/off switch” curiousity about life and death was first mentioned by Steve in an interview that he did with Fortune back in February of 1998, called The Three Faces of Steve (Google it. It’s a great interview). Here’s his quote:

      “I’ll give you a perfect example. On vacation recently I was reading this book by [physicist and Nobel laureate] Richard Feynmann. He had cancer, you know. In this book he was describing one of his last operations before he died. The doctor said to him, “Look, Richard, I’m not sure you’re going to make it.” And Feynmann made the doctor promise that if it became clear he wasn’t going to survive, to take away the anesthetic. Do you know why? Feynmann said, “I want to feel what it’s like to turn off.” That’s a good way to put yourself in the present–to look at what’s affecting you right now and be curious about it even if it’s bad.”

  7. I did write an extensive review on 21tiger (non fiction blog), but I’ll sum it up with this: Asshole. Impresario. Artist.

    We need to accept that for Apple’s products to reach the level of near-perfection in design, elegance, and simplicity, there needed to be a man with a vision, and a man who would say ‘no’ to bad ideas. The fascination with Steve Jobs is that he carried his Father’s love of craft throughout his life, and treated Apple products like the Children he never had. This man was a true artist, and a true SOB to almost everyone he knew, but he got away with it because his goals and intentions were noble. Perhaps thats why we all wept a little when he finally passed on, we’d lost a champion for artistry and purity in design. Thankfully, Jobs prepared Apple for that day: Exit Steve, Enter Jony.


  8. I feel like I know Jobs more than before, so in that sense it succeeded. But it felt rushed. it didn’t really ever slow down and dig deep into any one thing.

    Perhaps that was in an attempt to not give away the keys to the factory, but I would have loved more depth about the idea process between Jobs and others. It felt shallow in this regard.

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