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Book review: Steve Jobs

Walter Isaacson spends nearly 600 pages on the life of Steve Jobs, and yet questions remain about the late Apple co-founder.

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Photo: Anna Lisa Sang

STEVE JOBS
(Simon & Schuster)
Walter Isaacson

Thick as a tombstone and serving the same essential purpose, it’s already the book of the year, excerpted and reported on and tweeted about ad nauseam. Anyone who cares to has surely already seen the headlines, and absorbed the bullet points about the prickliest and most peculiar expressions of Jobs’s character revealed herein. So why read the actual book?

Good question, and one not easily answered. Isaacson, a former head of CNN and managing editor of Time, has reported the heck out of his subject, and Steve Jobs is enormously valuable as a record of the man’s life and interactions. Isaacson does admirable work bringing Jobs’s story to life, particularly those passages that take place outside Apple’s walls—at Pixar, where Jobs failed to recognize the company’s enormous potential as a filmmaking studio rather than a shell containing potentially valuable technologies, or at NeXT, foundering until Apple swooped in and bought it up. But the man at the book’s centre remains frustratingly elusive through it all, despite Isaacson’s extraordinary efforts. Egomaniacal, sure; driven, naturally; preternaturally gifted, evidently. But where did it all come from? If Jobs himself knew, he wasn’t telling his biographer. And though he spends 600 pages in our company, he’s not telling us, either.