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Softwar: An Intimate Portrait of Larry Ellison and Oracle

Softwar is a biography of Larry Ellison and his company, Oracle. As such, it's simultaneously a portrait of a clever and driven man, a case study of a successful software development company, and a tableau of the commercial software industry from its beginnings, through the dot-com craze, and into the present era. Matthew Symonds, who began this project while working as the editor of the excellent technology section of the Economist, has done a great job with all three elements of his project, thanks in no small part to the tremendous access he was given and to his close collaboration with Ellison.

Collaboration is very nearly the right word, as Ellison reviewed Symonds' manuscript before publication and, while he did not alter it, he did make a large number of comments, which appear in the book as footnotes. As Symonds is a good journalist who attributes most of his material, Ellison is able to take issue immediately with statements other people make about him and his company. The overall effect is hypertextual, and represents an important new biographical technique that other writers should imitate. Softwar succeeds because Ellison has a fantastically interesting life, tremendous experience, and carefully considered opinions, and because Symonds communicates them with clarity and style. --David Wall

Topics covered: The life, times, acquaintances, tastes, toys, and opinions of Larry Ellison, the database entrepreneur and CEO of Oracle Corporation.