Written by: Karen Blumenthal
Publication Info: 2012, Feiwel and Friends
One Line: An unauthorized biography of the legendary Apple founder Steve Jobs, who was both volatile and innovative.
Brief Summary: An unauthorized biography written for young adults, Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different takes a look at Jobs’ life from birth until death. Born in 1955 to a young unwed graduate student, Jobs was adopted by parents in California who promised his birth mother that they would send him to college (they themselves had not gone) in order to finalize the adoption. Jobs was a smart but trouble-making kid, often getting bored in class and playing pranks. His dad often worked on cars, and Jobs liked watching him take things apart and put them back together, but preferred to do it himself with electronics. He became friends, in high school, with the brilliant Steve Wozniak, and that would turn out to be an important partnership. Jobs started college, but dropped out after a
Thoughts: While more ambitious readers might tackle Walter Isaacson’s official 650-page Steve Jobs biography, just titled Steve Jobs, Blumenthal’s biography, which extensively uses Isaacson’s as a source, is a nice overview to Jobs’ life. A quick, easy read, complete with pictures of the important times and figures in Jobs’ life, the book presents the inspiring moments as well as the difficult moments, and does not sugarcoat. Blumenthal does well to make Jobs’ life interesting by structuring the book in relatively short chapters, foreshadowing events with sentences such as, “He had made the decision based on economics, not on engineering, and it would turn out to be a significant – and potentially foolish – one” (Blumenthal, 58). This particular sentence referred to Wozniak’s choice of microprocessor, which made the Apple computers different from the other computers being made. She also ends each chapter with a bit of a cliffhanger, urging the reader forward, and uses dramatic language when Jobs faced setbacks in order to excite readers. Perhaps some of the language is too dramatic: “He was thirty years old, a millionaire, and a failure at the company he cofounded,” (Blumenthal, 129) she says to describe how Jobs felt after his ouster – that was not really a total ouster, as he resigned – from Apple. However, if one really examines it, even if one is ousted from a company, the fact that he founded the company and became a millionaire at the age of 30 probably means he was not, in fact, a failure.
Blumenthal does discuss Jobs’ personal life, but doesn’t focus too much on his personal failures: his lack of ability to own up to paternity of his first daughter (born in 1978) for some time, followed by jarring statements (which the author doesn’t even comment on) about how having a child is more wonderful than he could expect – when his son is born, in 1991. Some of Jobs’ failures as a human – his volatile temper, his illegal activity/hacking as a youth, his long-time inability to be there for people he loved – would make interesting discussion points, as would some of the business choices he made that saw stock options being pulled from Pixar employees, for example. Overall, this is a very good overview to Jobs, that will give teens exposure to a man who was non-traditional (though obviously a genius) but still successful, and it provides a good timeline of his life at the end and many resources to continue learning about the man.
Author Information: Information from http://www.karenblumenthal.com/about/about.html: Born in Dallas, Texas, Blumenthal was a long-time reader who was editor of her school yearbook, played cello, and had several part-time jobs at local stores like Kentucky Fried Chicken and a department store. She went to Duke University, where she ended up joining the school newspaper, The Chronicle, and then went on to work for as a reporter for The Dallas Morning News. She later joined Wall Street Journal’s Dallas bureau, where she covered retail, developed an interest in business, and earned a master’s in business administration. She went back to The Dallas Morning News as business editor for two years, then returned to Wall Street Journal as Dallas bureau chief. She officially left at the end of 2006, but continued to write for them, including a regular personal finance column. She was “frustrated” with the quality of nonfiction for young people, so started writing nonfiction books herself. She has written three financial books for adults and five nonfiction books for young people. She resides in Dallas with her husband, and they have two grown daughters.