“He did not follow the rules.
He was a stubborn perfectionist.
He dropped out of college and took a calligraphy class.
He started Apple in his parents’ garage and it became the most valuable company in the world.”
These were the lines on the back cover of a book on Steve Jobs that my editorial mentor gave to me. But unlike many books on Steve Jobs, this one was a little different. Umm… actually this one was very different (appropriate, isn’t it, for the founder of the company that claims to Think Different).
Steve Jobs, I think, was the first person who became a celebrity in the tech world. There were remarkable people in the industry before him, but I think he was the first one to become a star in the world of tech. Hence, there were many books which were written on him. Choosing among them can be confusing. When asked which book is the best to read on Jobs, some might say it is “Steve Jobs” (the official biography) written by Walter Isaacson or some might say “Becoming Steve Jobs” by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli is the best one out of the lot. They are both very good books, no doubt, but I think they are also extremely text heavy and somehow can be a little dense for relative beginners in the world of tech (I know. I am one).
But despair not, I think there is one book on Steve Jobs which is perfect for everyone to read. Even kids. And I think this one is my favorite out of the whole lot of Jobs literature. This is a book by Jessie Hartland titled “Steve Jobs: Insanely Great.” Hartland, who is an author and illustrator has also got her illustrations published in The New York Times and has written many notable children’s books in the past. She got into the limelight in 2012 after she wrote another graphic novel called “Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child.”
What is so different about her book on Jobs which separates it from the rest, some of which is extremely famous, is the fact that while there have been many textual “regular” books written on Jobs, Hartland has chosen the road less traveled and created a graphic biography. Also, unlike the widely popular ones like the Steve Jobs written by Walter Isaacson which has compiled Jobs’ story in 657 pages and Becoming Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli which tries to do the same in over 400 pages, this Hartland’s graphic biography is a quick read and sums up his life in just 225 pages.
The book is divided into thirteen chapters that cover Jobs’ story since he was a kid. Each chapter puts light on different phases of his life. The series of black and white, pencil-drawn comics with handwritten text is a brief yet interesting take on his life. The book in very simple, child-like and elegant sketches has managed to bring out the genius and the eccentric sides of Jobs. Yes, it is brief and not as detailed as many other books, but the fact that it is actually a one sitting read and not a “heavy” read, makes it my personal favorite. Steve Jobs has been streamlined to appear as a block-like person, which comes as a breath of fresh air – yes, it is not as “accurate” as some classic illustrators would like it, but hey, you KNOW it is Steve Jobs and that is what really matters. Although brief, the book thoroughly follows Jobs from his birth to death. The author has penned down (literally) the budding interests of Jobs in technology, the people who have influenced him, his achievements, some of his failures, his family and his illness.
I really loved the details Hartland has provided – there are often arrows in her images pointing to important elements – and how she has labeled certain elements in the book, which gives it a very warm and interactive feel. And no, she not whitewashed Jobs – his problem areas are covered too (there are plates with the “programmers are bozos” and “designers are bozos”). This is not a fanboy tribute, but reasonably objective.
“Insanely Great” might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I really think this is the one place from where people should actually start if they ever want to know the man who was Jobs. It might not be as detailed as the other ones available, I still think this comic, sketchy, handwritten book can give you a glimpse into Jobs life.
The man himself was so focused on making technology user-friendly that we think he would have adored and appreciated Hartland’s efforts, which definitely make this the most user-friendly book on Jobs out of the lot.
Want to read just one book on Steve Jobs? Or give a copy to someone who knows nothing about tech and wonders what the fuss about him is about as the world celebrates his 62nd birthday? Make it this one.