Warren Buffett and the Business of Life
by Alice Schroeder
As a reviewer whose focus is writing about business-related books, I would be severely remiss if I did not read the biography of one of the greatest businessmen of our time. Love him or hate him, Warrant Buffett is a titanic figure in business and investing. Growing a $1,000 investment in 1957 nearly 12,000% to roughly $12 million in less than forty years (by 1996) is a feat well worth accolades. Therefore, I felt it imperative to read this 852-page tome, if only because I felt like my own education would be incomplete without it.
The author starts the story in 1869, long before Warren Buffett was born. Alice gives a quick family history of the Buffett family up to Howard Buffett, Warren’s father, whereupon she starts expanding the story. Understanding Howard and Leila Buffett is critical to understanding their son, Warren.
The entire book is a story, as can well be expected for a biography. But it is not simply a story. It is a complex tapestry. The author did her research. She spent thousands of hours with Warren Buffett himself, along with members of his family, many of his friends and partners, and even with his own records. The author’s attention to detail creates a narrative that reads more like a novel and less like a history textbook. If you’ve read many biographies, you might have experience with the latter type. As a result, the book is a pleasure to read and it doesn’t feel like work.
Although reading “The Snowball” doesn’t feel like work, it wouldn’t be true to Warren Buffett’s nature if the reader wasn’t taught anything. Over and over throughout the book, the author stresses the professor side of Warren Buffett’s nature. Having never had the chance to meet Warren Buffett (although I would very much like to), I can’t speak to having personal experience with Professor Buffett. After reading “The Snowball,” however, I do feel like I have sat at the feet of the Oracle of Omaha.
Myself being an investing novice, there is a great deal that I do not know about investing. Prior to reading “The Snowball” I knew even less. Although the book is a biography, a story, the author made sure to give plenty of voice to Professor Buffett. The reader will learn about stocks, bonds, funds, and all manner of other securities. The reader will learn about how the financial markets work, arbitrage, leverage, and the underpinnings of financial meltdowns. The reader will learn about the impact of politics on business, both within and without organizations. The reader learns alongside Warren Buffett as they grow up together. As Warren Buffett gains savvy in business and investing, so too does the reader. Professor Buffett does not leave his readers behind. I will give the caveat here that this book will not tell you which stocks to invest in or even how to pick them. This book is about how Warren Buffett built a business empire, not how Warren Buffett day-traded his way to success.
Overall, I believe this book will be a classic. There is a depth to this book that is hard to match. Not only does the reader learn about how Warren Buffett got to where he is, the reader learns about politics, the market, business, psychology, and much more. After reading “The Snowball,” I feel like I have lived a whole life. At over 850 pages, this is an imposing book. Is it worth the time to read? It most certainly is.
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