Apple co-founder and legendary tech giant Steve Jobs led an intriguing life. Jobs might have passed away, but his words and deeds live on. Lots of people are fascinated by one of the great personalities of the 20th century, and if you want to know more about him, the right books can provide deep insight.
We have selected the best books written about Steve Jobs and Apple. The following seven tomes provide all the information on Jobs you’ll need to know, and a lot more besides.
Author: Walter Isaacson
Jobs hand-picked Walter Isaacson to write the only authorized biography about himself. Isaacson tells perhaps the best story encompassing his life and his many contradictions. The interviews with Jobs were done close to his death, so his perspective while recalling events is, in a way, the final version.
Isaacson also interviewed several people connected with Jobs, and is unafraid to paint his many failings. In fact, at times, the book comes across as a hit piece. Indeed, Apple’s famed designer Jonny Ive said his opinion of the book “could not be any lower”. And yet, there are enough people who have read the book and come away thinking Jobs was a great man. It’s no wonder that this made it to our list of the best non-fiction books for geeks.
Whether or not you read anything else on this list, make sure you read this book. And preferably before Aaron Sorkin turns it into a movie.
Why It’s Important: It’s the biography. This is the one that Jobs authorized, and gave several exclusive interviews to, and yet it paints a balanced picture.
Authors: Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli
Isaacson’s biography was panned by Apple insiders and Jobs loyalists, who claimed it was far too negative and didn’t paint a fair picture of the man they all knew. Most of those people love this book by Schlender and Tetzeli. In this book, Apple CEO Tim Cook says of Isaacson’s biography, “It didn’t capture the person. The person I read about there is somebody I would never have wanted to work with over all this time.” However, Becoming Steve Jobs does seem to suffer Apple’s famed reality distortion field: the notion among its fans that Apple, and particularly Jobs, can do no wrong.
Jobs’s failings are restricted to a single chapter, mostly covering his first stint at Apple. Andy Hertzfeld, a member of the original Macintosh team, says Jobs would not have liked it because it paints his early Apple career as a failure. Most of the book covers the period of his life when he left Apple for the first time and got involved in NeXT computers and Pixar. As most people know, he then made his triumphant return to build Apple into the behemoth it is today.
Why It’s Important: Apart from the Apple years, it takes a very detailed look at Jobs’ life outside outside of the company, in the period of the rise and fall and rise of Apple. In many ways, it illustrates why Jobs created such a deep impact wherever he worked. Business-minded readers especially will enjoy this one.
Author: Andy Hertzfeld
Who better to talk about the early years of Apple computers than a member of the original Macintosh team? Andy Hertzfeld worked at Apple from 1979 to 1984 as “Software Wizard,” and was in direct contact with Jobs throughout that time. Those early years at Apple were a manic time, and Hertzfeld is able to bring an insider’s account of it.
The book is a collection of stories from Hertzfeld as well as others who worked in the company at that time. What comes across most is the excitement and the energy of the people who worked at Apple then; people who really believed they were changing the world. While Jobs isn’t mentioned all the time, his shadow looms large over several conversations and small incidents, illustrating how his vision was being translated into reality.
Why It’s Important: It’s rare to find insiders willing to talk about what goes into making a company, let alone for a book to be accepted by almost all insiders as being accurate. Hertzfeld gets it right on both counts.
Author: Alan Deutschman
Considering this book came out when Apple was just getting ready to launch the iPod, it’s unclear how it holds up today in the post-Apple Watch era. However, from a purely historical perspective, it is a thorough account of Jobs’s re-entry into Apple, including his phases at NeXT computers and Pixar. At the time of writing the author obviously didn’t have any idea that Apple would become the biggest tech company in the world, but this book offers perhaps the best look at how Jobs thought about his work.
In particular, the book focuses heavily on his Pixar phase, and how he set up a company whose values will spell success. The entire episode of controversies and negotiations over A Bug’s Life provide incredible insight into how much pride and ego played a part in decisions for Jobs, and how he was able to transform those seemingly negative traits into positive, encouraging forces for the people who worked with and for him.
Why It’s Important: Not many people know that Jobs started Pixar, and those who do are still unaware of how much he actively contributed to it. While John Lasseter was the creative head, this book illustrates how Jobs’ understanding of the intersection of creativity and technology was crucial in turning Pixar into a success.
Author: George Beahm
Good leaders also tend to be good communicators. In the world of business, Steve Jobs was perhaps the best person at delivering speeches, unveiling products, or giving interviews. His words carried weight, and he knew how to use them. This book is a collection of his best quotes, taken from across 30 years spent in the public eye.
Apple fans will love this book for how inspiring Jobs comes across. Apple haters will love this for how see-through some of his arguments were. Apple watchers will love this just to glean his thoughts on a variety of subjects, including death, technology, our future, and more. Whether you agreed with him or not, when this man spoke, you wanted to listen.
Why It’s Important: It would take a long time for you to sift through the reams upon reams of interviews and speeches Jobs gave over the years. But you still want to hear things straight from the horse’s mouth. In just 160 pages, Beahm is able to give you the cream of the crop.
Author: Steve Wozniak
This book lets you hear all about Steve from the other Steve. Jobs wasn’t the technical brains behind Apple Computers, that credit goes to Steve Wozniak. Wozniak’s autobiography covers everything from his early white-hat hacking days, to leaving Apple and doing other things. But Jobs is the elephant in the room at all times, even though he doesn’t enter until about two-thirds of the way into the book.
Wozniak was Apple’s co-founder. He is largely regarded as one of the nicest people you will ever meet in the tech industry. And the book tells the story of Jobs through his lenses: his friend, his co-worker, his confidante, his boss, his betrayer. Even apart from that, Wozniak’s book is a pretty good read about how an engineer needs someone like Jobs to achieve greatness, and vice versa.
Why It’s Important: Wozniak was perhaps the person closest to Jobs in their formative years at Apple, and this book presents a refreshing perspective on Jobs.
Author: Dan Lyons
Have you heard of Dan Lyons? Lyons is an influential tech personality, who is perhaps best known as the man behind Fake Steve Jobs, a popular parody blog about Jobs. Lyons attempted a satire of what Steve Jobs would be like if he didn’t have to be the politically correct, well-mannered head of the world’s largest tech corporation with the need to answer to a board of directors.
Look, this book isn’t going to give you a glimpse into the actual Steve Jobs. But Lyons has a good grasp on the inner workings of Apple, along with a fluid writing style that makes his humor seem natural and easy at all times. You’ll find yourself laughing out loud at several points.
Why It’s Important: It’s not important. It’s fun. And that’s important in itself.
Tell Us Your Favorite Steve Jobs Story
Not all insights come from a book, and not all great stories are written in novels. So, we want you to tell us the best Steve Jobs story you have ever heard.
My favorite is the one about the guy whose car broke down outside the Jobs house, but can you do better? If so, let us know in the comments below.
Let’s take some time to reminisce about Steve Jobs!