New book softens image of Apple's Steve Jobs

Story highlights

  • New book, "Becoming Steve Jobs," offers a gentler vision of the mercurial CEO
  • Apple execs have praised the new book over Walter Isaacson's 2011 bestseller
  • Among new book's tidbits: When Jobs was dying, Tim Cook offered piece of his liver

(CNN)When Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs came out in October 2011 -- less than three weeks after Jobs' death -- it crystallized many popularly held perceptions of the Apple co-founder.

Yes, Jobs was brilliant. And yes, Jobs also could be a bastard. Isaacson's book contained numerous examples of Jobs' cruel behavior, such as verbally abusing employees whose work didn't meet his exacting standards.
Now a new book is presenting a kinder, gentler portrait of the mercurial tech exec. "Becoming Steve Jobs," by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, seeks to humanize Jobs through interviews with those who knew him in the latter, wildly successful phases of his career, when some of his rough edges had softened.
    The book, which went on sale Tuesday, has created a strange irony. Unlike Isaacson's book, it's an unauthorized bio, one that was not given Jobs' blessing before he died.
    "Becoming Steve Jobs," by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, went on sale Tuesday.
    And yet Apple, mindful of Jobs' legacy, has clearly endorsed this new vision of their former CEO over the Isaacson version.
    "I thought the Isaacson book did him a tremendous disservice. It was just a rehash of a bunch of stuff that had already been written, and focused on small parts of his personality," says current Apple CEO Tim Cook in the new book.
    "You get the feeling that (Steve's) a greedy, selfish egomaniac. 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. Life is too short."
    Other Apple execs also have heaped praise on "Becoming Steve Jobs" while criticizing Isaacson's bestseller.
    "Best portrayal is about to be released - Becoming Steve Jobs (book). Well done and first to get it right," tweeted Eddy Cue, Apple's chief of software, last week. And Jony Ive, Apple's head of design, said in a New Yorker profile last month, "My regard (for Isaacson's book) couldn't be any lower."
    Isaacson, for his part, told the New York Times recently that he tried to present a balanced view of Jobs: "My book is very favorable and honest, with no anonymous slings," he said.
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    Although Jobs' life and career have been well chronicled, the new book contains some fresh tidbits:
    -- In 2009, when Jobs was dying of cancer, Cook offered his boss a piece of his liver but Jobs refused, saying, "No, I'll never let you do that."
    -- What was likely the last movie Jobs watched before his death was an odd choice: "Remember the Titans," the sentimental Disney drama about a racially integrated high school football team in 1971. "I was so surprised he wanted to watch that movie," Cook recalled. "I was like, 'Are you sure?' Steve was not interested in sports at all."
    -- And Jobs' famous commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005 almost got derailed before it started. A police officer turned him and his family away from the campus, saying the parking lot was full, and expressed skepticism that the scruffy Jobs, wearing his usual jeans and black T-shirt, was really the event's keynote speaker.
    Raves from Apple aside, early reviews of "Becoming Steve Jobs" have been mixed.
    "'Becoming Steve Jobs' offers a more rounded portrait of the man not only because it doesn't lean as heavily on its interviews or stretch for historical weight like Isaacson's book, but because it brings in Schlender's personal interactions with the Apple co-founder," wrote Mic Wright for The Next Web.
    "But the closeness of Schlender's connection with Jobs is also problematic," added Wright, saying "... there's a sense of seeking to explain away bad behavior."
    "While the book never attempts to portray Jobs as a saint, it provides ample evidence to suggest that the brash, perpetually impatient young millionaire learned how to control his worst tendencies, eventually becoming a loving father and respected mentor," wrote Jeremy Horwitz in 9 to 5 Mac.
    "Like other good books that have been written about Jobs, it doesn't provide the definitive story of his life, but instead adds some new and interesting details that are worth considering alongside what was previously known."