The 630-page Steve Jobs biography in 3,000 words

November 7, 2011: 7:02 AM ET

In the current New Yorker, Malcom Gladwell boils it down to this: Jobs was a "tweaker"

Samuel Compton's spinning mule. Source: Wiki commons

I'm only 46% of the way through Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs, according to the Kindle app on my iPad, but I've read enough to recognize that Malcom Gladwell has captured the essence of the book -- and the man -- in his 3,000-word review in the current New Yorker.

Gladwell's thesis is that Jobs, at heart, was an information-age version of those 18th and early 19th century engineers who put Britain in the forefront of the industrial revolution by creating and perfecting the automatic mule for spinning cotton. Such men, according to a recent article by economists Ralf Meisenzahl and Joel Mokyr, provided the "micro inventions necessary to make macro inventions highly productive and remunerative."

It's a strong thesis -- one that Isaacson doesn't offer his readers -- but what bring it to life in Gladwell's piece are the intimate and revealing details that he lifts from Isaacson's painstaking reporting.

I believe that anybody who is curious about the man who built Apple (AAPL) ought to read Isaacson's book. But if you want a quick hit to the get the flavor of Steve Jobs in all his terrifying complexity, Gladwell's review is the best entry point I've seen to date.

You can read it here.

Join the Conversation
About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

Email | @philiped | RSS
Current Issue
  • Give the gift of Fortune
  • Get the Fortune app
  • Subscribe
Powered by WordPress.com VIP.