Kathy Wicks: Two biographies worth reading

Kathy Wicks: Two biographies worth reading

What three people, living or dead, would you invite to dinner? It's a popular question, sometimes used in job interviews and conference icebreakers. I've never been asked the question, but two of my three dinner guests would be Walt Disney and Steve Jobs.

Although Disney and Jobs are from different generations, they both left a lasting and profound imprint on popular culture and the entertainment industry.

Mention the name Disney, and you automatically think of theme parks, Mickey Mouse and animation. Jobs is synonymous with Apple, the iPod and for us vintage types, the Macintosh personal computer.

Both were passionate and intensely driven innovators. But if one looks past the similarities between Disney and Jobs, they will find two accomplished men with unique characteristics that shaped the heart and soul of their business enterprises.

In "Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination," Neal Gabler paints a picture of one of the 20th century's most significant, creative visionaries. Raised in a childhood of intense financial and emotional repression, Disney's drive and imagination helped him escape his lot to create a perfect world of his own design.

Surprisingly, he was not a savvy businessman. In fact, he was terrible with money and was not a delegator. Gabler's biography presents the life of a man entrenched in myth, a lonely and wounded visionary who became an entertainment icon and spokesman for the power of wish fulfillment.

Gabler is an American journalist, historian and film critic. He was the first writer to secure complete access to the impenetrable Disney archives to research and write his in-depth biography about Disney. His most recently biographical essay, published in 2016, is "Barbra Streisand: Redefining Beauty, Femininity, and Power."

"Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography" by Walter Isaacson was written through personal interviews with Jobs, who was mortally ill at the time, as well as friends, family, adversaries, competitors and colleagues. As we now all know through the film, Jobs was not known for his kindness. But Isaacson contends that it was the intense, explosive personality (the word "obnoxious" is used frequently throughout the book) displayed by Jobs that drove his perfectionism and Apple to worldwide success.

Isaacson, who is the CEO and president of the Aspen Institute, is an American writer and journalist. In 2014, he published the New York Times bestseller "The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution."

Published in 2006 and 2011, respectively, "Walt Disney" and "Steve Jobs" are not recent biographies, but they are timeless reads about two men whose names will resonate in our daily lives, both personally and professionally, now and in the future. Both biographies are excellent audiobooks for long drives — very long drives.

And who is the third person, living or dead I would invite to dinner? George Lucas. But that's a book review for another day.

Kathy Wicks is the associate director at the Urbana Free Library. She received her master's of library and information science from the University of Illinois and her master's of science in education from Texas A&M University. She is celebrating 37 years working in libraries — both academic and public. She enjoys reading, writing and photography and is a regular participant in marathons and half marathons.

Sections (1):Living
Topics (1):Books


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