Steve Jobs book – the good, the bad and the genius

Ane Howard · October 24, 2011 · Short URL:

Biography, available in bookstores today, reveals a perfectionist with a fiery temper

The book "Steve Jobs," published by Simon & Schuster, a division of CBS, and written by Walter Isaacson, takes a no-holds-barred look at Jobs’ life and legacy. The book, originally scheduled for release in November, came out today, just a short two weeks following Jobs' death. Jobs would have appreciated the timely release. 

When Walter Isaacson, a former Time Magazine editor, first began working on the book, Steve Jobs’ wife, Laurene Powell, told the biographer, “Be honest with his failings and well as his strengths. There are parts of his life and his personality that are extremely messy. You shouldn’t white wash it. I’d like to see that it’s all told truthfully.”

And he did. 

In the process of writing this biography, Isaacson interviewed more than 100 people close to Jobs. Friend and foes alike, family, co-workers and competitors drawing a compelling portrait of a true genius but also of someone who could be short-tempered and even, at times, mean to others.

Isaacson was interviewed by Steven Kroft from 60 Minutes. The show aired last Sunday, October 23. Below is an excerpt of Isaacson describing to Kroft Jobs’ fiery temperament:

 “Whether it was to a waitress in a restaurant, or to a guy who had stayed up all night coding, he could just really just go at them and say, 'You're doin' this all wrong. It's horrible.' And you'd say, 'Why did you do that? Why weren't you nicer?' And he'd say, 'I really wanna be with people who demand perfection. And this is who I am.'"

Isaacson believes that the demand for perfection came from his early childhood. As a child born out of wedlock and given up for adoption, Jobs was raised by a working-class couple in Mountain View. Paul Jobs, his father, was a mechanic, and he was credited by Jobs for passing on to him the drive to build and design to perfection, and to care for work well done, but also with a sense of entitlement .

Steve Jobs, in the audio taped by Isaacson is heard saying: "I was, I remember right here on the lawn, telling Lisa McMoylar  from across the street that I was adopted. And she said, 'So does that mean your real parents didn't want you?' Ooooh, lightning bolts went off in my head. I remember running into the house, I think I was like crying, asking my parents. And they sat me down and they said, 'No, you don't understand. We specifically picked you out.'"

And from that point on, Jobs felt that not only he was wanted, but that he was "special."

From his childhood up to his very last days working on building the “perfect TV" the book expands and explores all aspects and stages of Jobs’ life.

From his teen and college years as a hippy traveling to India; his poor hygiene while working at Atari; his fateful meeting with Stephen Wozniak, the computer engineer and programmer with who he co-founded Apple Computer; to the early-days of Silicon Valley, where the dream was indeed to start a company in your parent’s garage, and not to work for Hewlett-Packard; his love relationships and unwillingness to meet his biological father; and to his thoughts and feelings about his competitors, it leaves no stones unturned.  

Even his anger.

The book touches on Jobs’ anger over Google’s Android smartphone operating system, which Jobs believed was stolen. He told Isaacson, “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”  At this time, Google has not responded to my request for comments.

On the other hand, he expressed his admiration for Facebook founder, Mark  Zuckerberg for not “selling out and wanting to build a company.”

More interestingly to me, is what his battle with cancer may have left us with.

It has been widely reported that at the time of his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer, Jobs refused  the surgery that could have saved his life, turning instead to herbal remedies, acupuncture and spiritualists.  And that by the time he had the surgery, the tumor had spread  and was of no help.

It is little known though, that following the failure of the surgery that he turned to DNA sequencing. DNA sequencing is a collaborative effort of teams at Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Harvard and the Broad Institute of MIT and Jobs is one of the few in the world to have been fully scanned.

The sequencing, Mr. Isaacson writes, “allowed doctors to tailor drugs and target them to the defective molecular pathways.”

And maybe, in his stubbornness to not follow the path often chosen, Jobs may be again a trailblazer, even after his death.  Leaving us possibly a legacy greater than any of his finely designed devices. 

A doctor told Mr. Jobs that “the pioneering treatments of the kind he was undergoing would soon make most types of cancer a manageable chronic disease.”

Later, Jobs told Isaacson that he was either going to be one of the first “to outrun a cancer like this” or be among the last “to die from it.”  The book is published by Simon & Schuster with a list price of $35.

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Ane Howard

I am a social journalist covering technology innovations and the founder of, an international newswire.

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