Book review: The Steve Jobs biography

The Steve Jobs story is one of high highs and low lows, one that fortunately ended at the right end of the scale.

Steve Jobs
By Walter Isaacson (Little, Brown, 2011) $59.99

The Steve Jobs story is one of high highs and low lows, one which fortunately ended at the right end of the scale.

Being ousted from the company he founded only to return and save it from self-destruction is a compelling narrative, one Isaacson masterfully weaves into a well-paced chronicle.

While Isaacson makes no mention of the Foxconn factory suicides, he doesn’t gloss over Jobs’ business failures – the Lisa, NeXT, Antennagate. And Jobs’ volatile, even ruthless side comes under the spotlight throughout the 42 chapters.

Based on more than 40 exclusive interviews with Jobs himself and anecdotes from another 100-plus sources, it’s a candid portrait of a flawed and mercurial genius, with his search for spirituality, health struggles, dabbling in drugs and wacky diets. "He would be making weird pronouncements like, 'I'm a fruitarian and will only eat leaves picked by virgins in the moonlight'.”

That uncompromising quest for perfection at all costs, of course, was key to Apple’s success. Jobs’ strong design aesthetic extended to his own home, plane, and boat, yet he lacked social graces and polarised others. But as many attest, he had an uncanny bent for swaying others to his will and imbuing them with his infectious convictions – what they dubbed his “reality distortion field”. And even critics agree Jobs was great at what he did – championing the intersection of creativity and technology.

The greatest business story of our time? Perhaps. Time will tell.

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