“I suspect that Steve Jobs would not be thrilled with Becoming Steve Jobs, a new business biography by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli,” Andy Hertzfeld writes for Medium. “While it’s a worthwhile book filled with previously unheard stories and insightful industry analysis, Steve would have disliked it because of the persistent negative spin it applies to the first half of his career. That’s why it’s puzzling to see Apple throw their considerable weight behind it.”
“Becoming Steve Jobs distinguishes itself by emphasizing a narrative of growth and change, depicting ‘the evolution of a reckless upstart into a visionary leader.’ Unfortunately, the authors attempt to bolster their case by exaggerating flaws and missteps in the first half of Steve’s career while diminishing them after his return to Apple in 1997,” Hertzfeld writes. “I was surprised and chagrined by the negative tone pervading the description of Steve’s first tenure at Apple. The authors hardly interviewed any Apple employees from the early days, so there’s no new reporting here to justify their negativity; they seem to be trashing Steve’s early career simply to accentuate the contrast with his later one.”
“At this point I should confess my bias, because I was an early Apple employee who had the privilege of working closely with Steve Jobs on the original Macintosh (and also wrote a book about the experience, Revolution in the Valley, available for free here), so perhaps I’m unduly sensitive. I adore the early Apple Computer that Brent and Rick belittle, so I’m writing this piece to defend it,” Hertzfeld writes. “Even so, Becoming Steve Jobs is worth reading, because it’s packed with interesting stories that haven’t been told before, including Brent’s personal encounters with Steve and his family and thoughtful observations from crucial collaborators like Jony Ive, John Lasseter, Regis McKenna, Eddie Cue and others; John Lasseter’s story of his final visit with Steve almost made me cry. ”
Much more in the full article here.
MacDailyNews Take: First of all, nobody, not even Andy Hertzfeld, can proclaim with 100% certainty what Steve Jobs would or would not like, do, or say. It was impossible to do even when he was still alive. It’s a doubly impossible feat now. Of course, anyone can suspect how Steve might feel.
We suspect Jobs would appreciate any book that makes you want to continue reading it vs. one that feels like a textbook and requires a major force of will to complete. No book, TV show, movie, TV newscast, newspaper, or radio broadcast is 100% accurate. Effective, compelling writing requires a theme. Schlender and Tetzeli most certainly did what Hertzfeld says: They emphasized the negative in Steve’s early life and accentuated the positive in Steve’s later life in order to provide a compelling story.
Nobody wants to read a dry police report of a man’s life. That’s not how good books work.
Hertzfeld is a computer scientist. He wants to read a perfectly-accurate computer program that reproduces his experiences exactly. He is criticizing an excellent book for being an excellent book.
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