Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Archive for December, 2013

Steve Jobs

Posted by nliakos on December 27, 2013

by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster 2011)

I am not a “Mac person,” although my very first computer was a Mac Plus, and I do have an iPod Nano. I’ve always chosen cheaper over better, as I have long presumed Apple products to be; most people say they are, anyway. Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography of Steve Jobs, written during the last two years of Jobs’ life, examines how Jobs created Apple and its iconic products: the Macintosh, iPod, iPhone, and iPad, all of which were revolutionary in their own way. Isaacson looks unblinkingly at Jobs’ infamous personality, his design genius, his ability to bridge the gap between technology and the humanities, his passion for a totally integrated product, his rejection of open, shared systems, and his uncanny ability to figure out what people wanted before they knew they wanted it. It helped me to understand the Apple appeal and also explained why, when my daughter’s iPod Shuffle battery died, I couldn’t just go to the store and buy another battery to replace it, which annoyed me mightily at the time (we ended up purchasing a new device for almost the same price as sending the Shuffle to the factory for a new battery): Jobs refused to allow anyone inside the devices Apple produced in case they were able to copy, clone, or tinker with them. He even went so far as to design a new screwdriver so that unauthorized people would not be able to open up his products! It seems a little absurd, but according to Isaacson, that is how far his passion for the products went.

It was very interesting, but could have done with a bit less detail and repetition (571 pages is really long!). I guess it will be the definitive, authorized (but apparently unread by the subject) biography of Steve Jobs, because it’s really thorough!

 

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The Charming Quirks of Others

Posted by nliakos on December 17, 2013

by Alexander McCall Smith (Recorded Books 2010; read by Davina Porter)

You may remember that I bypassed this seventh novel in the Isabel Dalhousie series to read The Forgotten Affairs of Youth and The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds. I never did find it on the shelf in my library, but a friend lent me the audiobook, and I finished it on the bus yesterday.  A pleasant read. Davina Porter is easy to listen to.

Isabel is asked to look into three applicants for the headmastership of a private boys’ school; she and Jamie decide to get married; she suspects Jamie of cheating on her and discovers how quickly love can turn to hatred, but of course all is well in the end. Throughout it all, Isabel muses about various moral questions from small to large.

I noticed how similar McCall Smith’s two lady protagonists are in their love of their country and city–Isabel of Scotland and Edinburgh, and Mma Ramotswe of Botswana and her village.

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

From Every End of This Earth: 13 Families and the New Lives They Made in America

Posted by nliakos on December 8, 2013

by Steven V. Roberts (Harper Perennial 2009)

This is my sort of book. It’s about immigrants (I have been teaching English as a Foreign/Second Language for 40 years, so I’ve met a lot of immigrants. I even married one!) and how they make this country great, despite the difficulties they face (in their own countries and then again here). I like the way Roberts focuses on the entire family, not just one person. He met some of the families through one of their children who took his class on feature writing at George Washington University, while others “found him” one way or another. He separates the book into sections on survivors, entrepreneurs, business owners, professionals, and women. Each section features three families. It’s an inspiring read and makes me so impatient with those people who, in every generation and despite having come from immigrant stock themselves, want to slam the doors shut in the face of the latest wave of people “longing to breathe free.”

The day I finished it, this article by immigrant chef and entrepreneur Jose Andres appeared in The Washington Post like an epilogue to Roberts’ book.

Posted in Non-fiction, Recommended for ESL or EFL Learners | Leave a Comment »