I've read a lot of books about Apple Computer during my years of covering the company. But while I haven't finished it yet, Andy Hertzfeld's new book, Revolution In the Valley, already stands out.
Hertzfeld, a critical member of the team that created the Mac back in the early 1980s, catches the spirit of that remarkable chapter in tech history as only an insider can. Rather than an encylopedic narrative, it's a series of remembrances that hit the high-points of how the Mac really came to be. Some are technical, and will be lost on the mainstream, non-techie reader. But many of them are just great fun, and capture the sheer exuberance of the effort and the personalities involved. One example: after learning that a PC rival had dissed the soon-to-be-released Mac during a 1981 trade show, the author and other team members sat in amazed amusement as Steve Jobs picked up the phone and left the following message with the rival's secretary: "Tell him the Mac is so good that he's probably going to buy a few for his children even though it put his company out of business."
There are plenty of such gems for those that want an up-close-and-personal view of Jobs at the time. But don't expect a "great man in history" view of the events that shaped the Mac. Jobs plays a major role, but is by no means the focus of the book. Indeed, Hertzfeld's book is a refreshing change of pace from most Apple literature. Rather than a gravitas-filled search for larger-than-life heros and villains to explain Apple's turbulent past, this one focuses mostly on the former.
Still, the books does give the reader a nuanced sense of Apple's DNA, and helps explain why Apple to this day stands out among its peer for its easy-to-use, aesthetically-pleasing products. In fact, the book itself fits that bill. With its great photos and high production values, it's like a mini-coffee table book--a great gift for the Mac lover in your life.