How does one review a book–the biography Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson–when the book itself is more or less a review of Steve Jobs’ life?

Anybody who reads seems to be reading, or have read, Steve Jobs. Consequently there have already been numerous quotes, reviews, and discussions both about the book, and about Steve Jobs in general. It’s difficult not to tread too much on what’s already been said, and impart a unique position, but alas, it’s worth a shot.

Steve Jobs is a marvelously engrossing book, about one of the world’s greatest technology visionaries. It details nearly his entire life, including where he came from–both his genetic parents, and his adopted parents. From the very beginning, it’s clear that Jobs must have been insufferable to live with growing up, and even more insufferable as an adult.

What makes Steve Jobs so intriguing are all the behind-the-scenes moments that intersperse the book. Even to those who are familiar with Steve Jobs’ life and career, there was a lot of new information presented in this book–both good and bad. In the end, it’s clear that though Steve Jobs built a remarkable company, he did so by being shrewd, manipulative, uncompromising, and most of all: unapologetic. His vision of the way people should use technology was unwavering, much to the chagrin of many in the media, and the outside world itself.

It’s clear in this book that Steve Jobs was a very difficult person to work for and with, live with, or even to be around in any way. He could be extraordinarily demeaning to people at one moment, and treat them as if they were the greatest person alive the next.

What makes this biography so interesting is the way Isaacson details both the good and bad sides of Steve Jobs. He criticizes Jobs’ faults, and praises his strengths–sometimes simultaneously. But it’s clear that this biography was designed to portray Steve Jobs, and not some mythical figure who could do no wrong. For those who weren’t aware of the way Jobs handled his day-to-day duties, and the way he interacted with those around him, the book may come as a shocking blow; Steve Jobs was not a great guy. Instead, he focused his efforts and his energy on making great products that he believed in.

At times surprisingly callous, and at other times genuinely amiable, Steve Jobs was a man who–perhaps by luck–changed the world. He made no apology for being the way he was; that was simply Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs is a fascinating read, and–though lengthy–is a page-turner. Though completed before Steve Jobs’ death on October 5th, 2011, it’s clear that the author knew it was likely to be published after Jobs succumbed to his cancer. In many ways, it’s a fitting epigraph to a life that was filled with contentious and arduous bouts with corporate executives, celebrities, and even his closest friends and family. Most of the book is spent describing how Jobs became to be the man he was, and also about his ideas and opinions that led to revolutions in so many different industries. It’s clear that without Steve Jobs, the world would likely be a very different place.

At the same time, it’s also clear that Steve Jobs really was the main force driving Apple’s innovation. Though Apple has been built to inherit Jobs’ design aesthetics, and culture, one has to wonder how long his influence will continue beyond his death. Is there anyone who will take up the mantle of perfection that Jobs insisted upon? Time will tell, of course.

Steve Jobs is also a wonderful book in that it isn’t overtly technical in nature. Someone who’s not necessarily into the tech scene, or computers can still pick up and read the book without difficulty. Though there are certainly sections that will enthuse tech people, it doesn’t get too complicated for the average reader. It really is a wonderfully intriguing, and well-written biography.

– Reviewed by Bradley K. Brown