Posted on May 8th, 2017
This month I kept a tight and unified theme: biographies and autobiographies. I guess the broader theme started with people that inspire me... Tim Ferriss inspires me yet I didn't read one of his books this month. I walked into Book People and didn't move from the section of five shelves of biographies for over three hours... I ended up having over 15 books in my hands about people I wanted to read. To narrow it down from there to a manageable four books this month, I just started reading. I started reading and I paid close attention to what I was engaging with, to what I found exciting, to what I actually wanted to read.
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
I read fifty pages on a stool in the bookstore before it finally hit me smack on the head that this book needed to be with me. I read it and finished it first, and although its done now, I think that this book will always be with me. This book shows you many sides of Jobs that I've never been familiar with. It pulls at you're heart and makes you disdain and resent Steve one minute then laugh and empathize with him the next.
Although my pen was basically glue to every page I was turning, trying to underline everything that inspired me or motivated me or resonated with me, it was this quote that stuck out the most:
Heres to the crazy ones. The misfis. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not found of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genious. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that do.
I'm sure many of you are familiar or have perhaps seen or heard this quote before... https://vimeo.com/30134889. Obviously it's popular for a reason, and I am no exception. I enjoyed learning that this was recorded both in Steve Jobs voice and with a voiceover artist. Jobs and Apple decided to run the ad with the artist's voice when the campaign first came out. It was eventually revealed that the recording with Job's voice was played across the loudspeaker at his funeral. Needless to say this book also moved me to tears on several occasions and especially when talking about his death.
The author, humanizes Jobs and makes him so relatable that I really believe anyone reading this book can find at least one trait or perspective of Jobs that they also see in themselves. Isaacson writes about Jobs and Apple and Pixar and his family, but the book is written in such a way that it focuses on Steve's character and his relationships more than anything else, providing the reader with the ultimate insight. It is very much about his businesses and professional career but it doesn't read like a collection of articles you would find in Bloomberg or The New York Times.
This book officially holds the place as my favorite book I've read this year... so far.
Oh yeah, and I am even more of a dedicated Apple customer now than a month ago.
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceXX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
It's kind of hard to read Steve Jobs and follow that with... well anything, but especially Elon Musk. You can't help but draw comparisons and, it just doesn't fair so well for Musk. I think my biggest critique of this book is the way it's written. It is blatantly obvious that Vance comes from a technical writing and business background which ultimately translates to a less than exciting read.
The book is predictable in it's narrative... talks about Musk's early successes with university and PayPal, his almost failures at both Tesla and SpaceX, then his triumphant return and clearing of his name in the limelight.
It glosses over his childhood in south Africa alluding to a "very difficult upbringing" but produces no specifics and no stories about what made it "so hard". Naturally the reader can guess and infer a thing or two but it's frustrating not having an actual insight or account of a story during that time.
Further Vance gets into specifics about exactly how many millions Elon choose to invest in his own companies and elsewhere. There was a heavy focus on business transactions in this book, also
This book is frustrating because there are still so many questions that haven't been cleared up. Did Musk actually receive a graduating diploma from Stanford? How can he possibly work as many hours as stated and still have his children with him four days a week? What's the real deal with PayPal? He founded Confinity and then merged with PayPal or was bought out by them or? It doesn't help that he pushed out of all of his early business ventures either... lots of things (and behaviors) that made me not like him.
Somehow and someway though, this guy grows on you by the end of the book. Musk truly dreams big and is making every attempt to follow up on those dreams. At the end of the day, that's respectable. Rockets are cool. Mars is cool. Tesla is pretty damn cool too. So, kudos, Musk, learning about you hasn't been a complete and utter let-down.
I am Malala: The Girl who Stood up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb.
Highly recommend this book whenever you're feeling the need for a change in perspective. I learned that Malala had been speaking in Canada with Justin Trudeau earlier this year and seeing her name in the store immediately peaked my interest. Her life story in many ways is largely unrelatable simply because of the extent of her experiences and how unique they are. Wow. Given her age, it reads with a childlike story line, that contrasts with the circumstances she is being forced to overcome.
It's a quick read that leaves you feeling partially shocked, partially motivated and very much inspired. If one person can make this grand of a difference in the world, what else can we do..?
If you're at all interested in reading more about her story, her global awards, or her education fund, read here: https://www.malala.org/malalas-story.
At the end of the Road: Jack Kerouac in Mexico by Jorge Garcia-Robles.
Kerouac quickly became one of my favorite authors after my sister gifted me "On the Road" for Christmas a few years back. Since then I've blown through The Dharma Bums, Big Sur, Desolation Angels and more. Although I was pulled to read another of his novels, I wanted to stay within the boundaries of my theme this month, i.e. biographies. Thus I was lead to Garcia-Robles take on Kerouac's life adventures, namely in Mexico.
Not going to lie, the book broke my heart just a little bit as I gained further insight into Jack's self. There are many instances throughout his novels where women are mistreated, used, and disowned. For whatever reason, those scenes in the novel seem to be so minor that the reader doesn't even think twice about them. However, in this book, you can't look away from what Kerouac actually was. He slept with whores, refused to accept responsibility for his child, abused his friends and was selfish in every meaning of the word. Once he started to see success, he couldn't handle it and essentially drank himself to death.
I almost wish I'd never read it so that I could continue loving him. Now that I'm aware of the facts, I truly feel in a gray area where I love his work and simultaneously disdain him. It's a weird spot to be in.