If there is one non-fiction book to read this year, choose Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Released shortly after Jobs's death last year, many people put the book on their "I would like to" list. It's worth moving it to your "to do list" and taking the time to read it. It's even better to digest over flights and vacation days.
Easy to Read
Many readers are intimidated by voluminous biographies. They look like and feel like a lot of work. Isaacson's writing talents make it easy to read.
Just a Jobs transformed the way we relate to and use technology, Isaacson's writing transcends the typical biography. The chapters are well constructed to allow the reader to progress through Jobs's life one part at a time, making it easy to stop and start as needed.
In addition, Isaacson has the ability to describe the mundane, such as a business meeting, and bring it to life so that the reader feels as if he or she is actually in the room as events unfold. He also placed numerous memorable quotes, stories and humor that add breeziness to a big read.
Not Your Typical Biography
Isaacson provides a picture of the whole person and story including the good, the bad and the ugly. Steve Jobs encompasses his business, personal and family life. It also examines Jobs's early successes, mid-point failures and later brilliant innovations. Throughout the book Jobs's equal ability to inspire and motivate is contrasted with his ability to anger and burn out people.
Even though Isaacson took on the book at Jobs's request and interviewed him several times over the last two years of his life, at no point did Isaacson pander to either Jobs himself or in the writing of the biography. It is a fair and balanced view. Jobs himself guessed there were parts of the book that he wouldn't like and Isaacson confirmed as much.
Most biographies of notable people are written years or decades after the person's death, for example, Isaacson's previous biographies included Einstein and Benjamin Franklin. The personal interviews and timeliness add a richness that many biographies do not and cannot have. Biographies can gain insight into what someone was like in "real life" based on personal papers or interviews with people who knew them, however, they rarely accurately know through personal interaction. To Isaacson's credit, he resisted inserting himself into the story except where appropriate.
The Most Relevant Biography for Our Times
Steve Jobs is timely and relevant. We've been working our way through the most challenging economic times since the Depression. Jobs's biography is a stirring reminder of how to overcome failures and get back to winning. Innovation, leadership and outstanding success are all recurring themes throughout the book. More importantly, there are plenty of practical "how to ideas" in the chapters. For those reasons alone, Steve Jobs is the one book to read this year.