Whether you’re buying for yourself or a friend or family member, there’s no shortage of great books about Apple. But with so many millions of words written about the Cupertino company over the years, which books most deserve your time?
Allow Cult of Mac‘s gift guide to fill you in on the 10 Apple books that deserve space on your shelf.
Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson
If you own just one book about Apple, chances are it’s this one. The gajillion-copy-selling 2011 Steve Jobs biography by former Time editor Walter Isaacson was released within weeks of Jobs’ death. Having spent the second half of his career steadfastly controlling his image, the Apple co-founder gave Isaacson full access to his life — and demanded no editorial control over the results. The book features plenty of quotes from Jobs not available through other sources.
The book is undoubtedly worth reading as a primer on Jobs. The level of access Isaacson enjoyed, not just to Jobs but to those who knew and worked with him, is impressive. With that said, Isaacson is not a tech guy. His understanding of how technology works can be shallow at times. And Apple execs Jony Ive and Tim Cook voiced their displeasure with how the book portrays their friend.
Still, Jobs’ story is so compelling, and this book is such a comprehensive amalgamation of reporting on him, that it’s a very solid read.
Buy from: Amazon — $24.98
Becoming Steve Jobs, by Rick Tetzeli and Brent Schlender
While Isaacson’s Steve Jobs was the official Steve Jobs biography, in the years since it was published, a number of Apple executives slated the project. Becoming Steve Jobs — a book with far fewer stories about yelling at people and throwing tantrums — offers a more Apple-approved take on events.
This book also offers a much deeper understanding of what Apple does, from authors more familiar with the tech world than Isaacson. Unlike other Jobs books, it focuses much more on the latter half of his life than Apple’s early years. I wouldn’t read this over the Isaacson book. However, as a companion piece, it’s definitely a “must have” for your collection. (You can check out my in-depth review here.)
Buy from: Amazon — $8.64
Apple Confidential 2.0, by Owen W. Linzmayer
This book would once have had my highest of recommendations. It’s a history of Apple packed with everything from lists of product code names to behind-the-scenes details about Apple products. It’s less a narrative nonfiction book than it is a kind of magazine-style supplement — albeit one that comes in at 304 pages. I got this book for Christmas about a decade ago and can honestly say it’s one of the most enjoyable Apple reading experiences I’ve had.
So why the slight reservation? Because, as a book published in early 2004, it’s now a decade-and-a-half out of date. That means no details on the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Tim Cook or any one of a number of other crucial pieces of Apple lore. I’d still label this crucial Apple reading. Just make sure you’re happy to only have half the story.
Buy from: Amazon — $37.67
The Apple Revolution, by Luke Dormehl
Disclosure up front: This is my book. Published in 2012, it goes up to the iPhone 4s in chronology. The book examines the extent to which Apple was informed by the Silicon Valley counterculture of the 1960s and ’70s. Trying to view it objectively, I’d say it would make a nice reading companion to a book like Becoming Steve Jobs or Steve Jobs.
I interviewed around 100 former Apple employees for it, many of whom haven’t told their stories elsewhere. If you’re interested in Apple’s roots, I think (or, at least, hope) that you’ll enjoy it. The folks over on Goodreads seem to approve.
Buy from: Amazon — Check on Amazon
Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products, by Leander Kahney
Cult of Mac founder Leander Kahney’s Jony Ive biography tells the story of a key figure in Apple history. Published in 2013, it misses out on the last several years of Ive’s career at Apple. (He announced his resignation in 2019.) But Ive was reportedly halfway out the door for the last few years at Apple, with his final major projects being the Apple Watch and Apple Park.
With no access to the designer, Kahney nonetheless does a great job of shedding new light on Ive’s history and work at Apple. This is a great book to understand not just Jony Ive, but the way Apple approaches industrial design.
Buy from: Amazon — Check on Amazon
The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, by Scott Galloway
The Four is possibly the best tech book I’ve read in the last several years. Written by NYU Stern School of Business marketing professor Scott Galloway, it’s a look at the business strategies of Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon. Like me, you may pick up a book like that with trepidation. All four companies have been endlessly covered in book form, as well as in countless new articles, documentaries, etc. Trying to tell all of their stories in one book could result in little more than rehashed, Wikipedia-style summaries.
In fact, Galloway’s book will make you re-evaluate the companies and their respective achievements. There was something new to be learned on just about every page, as the book looked at each company’s strengths, weaknesses, strategies and unique challenges. Published in 2017, The Four is a couple of years old now. Galloway can be opinionated at times, with preferences for some companies over others. But it’s never dull. You’ll come away feeling like you’ve been at a great lecture.
Buy from: Amazon — $15.43
Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level, by Leander Kahney
Apple CEO Tim Cook is nowhere near as colorful a figure as Steve Jobs. Plenty of people predicted that Apple would flounder when he took over from Jobs, with a non-product guy leading the company once again. Needless to say, that didn’t happen.
If you want a better understanding of why Apple flourished in recent years — and how Cook put his stamp on Apple — this is the book for you. This one is also by Cult of Mac founder Leander Kahney.
Buy from: Amazon — $18.99
Small Fry, by Lisa Brennan-Jobs
Plenty of people who knew Steve Jobs have written books about him. But only one of them was his oldest daughter. Small Fry is the memoir of Lisa Brennan-Jobs, the child whose paternity the Apple co-founder originally denied. She later formed a challenging relationship with her famous dad.
This isn’t the book for those wanting insights into Jobs’ development of the Macintosh, iPhone, iPad or any of the other inventions he oversaw. He doesn’t come across in glowing terms, either. However, this is undoubtedly an artfully written autobiography that paints a picture of Jobs as he hasn’t been seen before. (For a more in-depth review, check out my article here.)
Buy from: Amazon — $12.19
The Second Coming of Steve Jobs, by Alan Deutschman
The Second Coming of Steve Jobs was published in 2000, just a handful of years after its subject returned to Apple after his stint at NeXT. Despite the book’s title, the world had yet to really see the second coming of Jobs. He had launched the iMac G3 and stopped Apple from hemorrhaging cash. But Apple had not yet become the colossus that it did in the decades that followed.
What this book does so well is to provide a fascinating — and gossipy — look at Jobs during the years the world was ready to write him off as a one-hit wonder. A great time capsule of a fascinating period in tech history.
Buy from: Amazon — $13.56
Designed by Apple in California, by Jony Ive
Somewhat unfairly dismissed as a vanity project upon its release, Apple’s 2016 design catalog is a coffee table book with 450 exquisite photos of Apple products. Yes, it’s the book that was printed on special Apple-designed, custom-milled paper — with gilded matte silver edges and exclusive ink. Yes, the book retails for $199 or $299, depending on whether you buy the small or large edition.
But the photography is beautiful, and it’s a great trip down memory lane. In retrospect, this is Jony Ive closing the book on his Apple career. With, appropriately enough, a pricey book.
Buy from: Amazon — Check on Amazon