Ever since Steve Jobs passed away and Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs was published — and then turned into a mediocre film — there’s been a constant onslaught of new books about Apple, its founders, its strategy, and more. There’s some great stuff that’s been published, but for Apple fans who’ve soaked up every bit of Apple trivia and folklore they can get over the years, most books end up just being repetitive.
There’s two authoritative books anyone who wants to learn more about Apple and its founders should read: Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, and Steve Woz’ iWoz. The former is obviously the most detailed book on Apple’s most famous cofounder, while the latter is a surprisingly interesting look at the life of Apple’s more recluse other Steve. And then, for more company lore, you can’t beat the incredible Folklore.org website that tells the stories of the development of the original Macintosh.
That’s obviously far from the only books on Apple out there, but they’re the most authoritative with first-hand accounts you’ll see elsewhere — and none of the hindsight analysis that fills so many other books on Apple and makes them seem more like university business course material. But that’s far from the only great material on Apple. In fact, there’s two new books about Apple that have surprised me with their access, in-depth coverage, and lack of preachy business analysis. They’re just stories about the people behind the Apple products we love.
Here they are, and here’s why you should add them to your collection:
by Leander Kahney
Apple’s known for complete secrecy until it’s ready to let something out — and then, it’s time to parade all of the executive team on stage to let the world know how insanely great the new products are. All, that is, except Jony. The famously reclusive designer who’s singlehandedly influenced the post-’98 Apple more than anyone other than perhaps Steve Jobs, Jony Ive has never liked the limelight. He’ll appear in a FaceTime call or a premade video during an Apple keynote presentation, but seldom walks on stage to gush over the ways Apple has crafted its aluminum and glass gadgets.
That secrecy made me seriously doubt any book that claimed to be about Jony Ive. We only know scarce bits of info about Ive — how could any other Apple outsider know that much more. Every other book that mentions Ive and his work ends up retelling the things we’ve already heard. But not this time.
Kahney’s book on Ive digs far deeper into his live, work, passions, and values than I ever would have imagined. The author first met Ive while reporting for Wired.com at the Macworld Expo of ’03, and their meeting turned into a friendship that spilled over in the most authoritative tale on Apple’s design knight to date. It draws heavily from interviews with his colleagues, instructors, and early employers, as well as public bits of info you may have already heard from Ive himself, and turns it into a detailed history of Ive’s life.
It’s not Ive’s equivalent of Steve Jobs’ biography, but it’s easily the closest we have today. You’ll likely find it dry at times, but there’s enough new info on Ive and Apple’s design work that it’s a fascinating read for any Apple fan.
Length: 321 pages
by Max Chafkin
Design Crazy dumbfounded me. At just $1.99 and released as a Byliner Original — an imprint best known for modern long-form journalism pieces and short fiction — by Fast Company, I assumed it’d be yet another business-focused book that tries to distill Apple’s success into an MBA-ready formula.
I was wrong. Dead wrong.
Design Crazy is an — to borrow an Apple phrase — insanely great new style of book about Apple that’s 90% just quotes from people who worked at or with Apple through the years from 1980 to the present, tied together by brief commentary by the author about what was happening in Apple at the time. It sounds crazy, and is a tad tough to read at first. Once you get into it, though, it actually flows, and you feel like you’re sitting around a table with the best and brightest that have walked through the doors at One Infinite Loop, just talking about Apple.
It’s a magical little book that’s packed with quotable quotes and real insight into what made Apple and Jobs tick — and those same people’s hopes and fears for Apple’s future. You’ll hear them worry about Apple’s recent struggles in the software front, then close the book hearing them excited about Apple’s new Mac Pro which shows the same innovation is still alive and well at mothership.
Length: 91 pages
There’s More, of Course
That’s obviously not the only books on Apple that you can pick up today, but these 4 books — the two detailed here along with Jobs and Woz’ books — are the ones, in my opinion, give the best view into what makes Apple tick and what got it to where it is today. I’m so often disappointed with supposedly new books about Apple that lend little to know truly new info about the company and the people that work there, I was genuinely surprised by both Jony Ive and Design Crazy. And I happen to think you’ll enjoy them as well.
But perhaps I’ve missed a gem — or overlooked genius in other Apple books I’ve read. If you’ve got a favorite book on Apple that you think should be considered an official must read, then be sure to share it in the comments below!