The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

Posted by jack_miller | Published a year ago

With 1029 ratings

By: Alice Schroeder, Kirsten Potter, et al.

Purchased At: $24.00

Here is THE book recounting the life and times of one of the most respected men in the world, Warren Buffett. The legendary Omaha investor has never written a memoir, but now he has allowed one writer, Alice Schroeder, unprecedented access to explore directly with him and with those closest to him his work, opinions, struggles, triumphs, follies, and wisdom. The result is the personally revealing and complete biography of the man known everywhere as “The Oracle of Omaha.”

Although the media track him constantly, Buffett himself has never told his full life story. His reality is private, especially by celebrity standards. Indeed, while the homespun persona that the public sees is true as far as it goes, it goes only so far. Warren Buffett is an array of paradoxes. He set out to prove that nice guys can finish first. Over the years he treated his investors as partners, acted as their steward, and championed honesty as an investor, CEO, board member, essayist, and speaker. At the same time he became the world’s richest man, all from the modest Omaha headquarters of his company Berkshire Hathaway. None of this fits the term “simple.”

When Alice Schroeder met Warren Buffett she was an insurance industry analyst and a gifted writer known for her keen perception and business acumen. Her writings on finance impressed him, and as she came to know him she realized that while much had been written on the subject of his investing style, no one had moved beyond that to explore his larger philosophy, which is bound up in a complex personality and the details of his life. Out of this came his decision to cooperate with her on the book about himself that he would never write.

Never before has Buffett spent countless hours responding to a writer’s questions, talking, giving complete access to his wife, children, friends, and business associates—opening his files, recalling his childhood. It was an act of courage, as The Snowball makes immensely clear. Being human, his own life, like most lives, has been a mix of strengths and frailties. Yet notable though his wealth may be, Buffett’s legacy will not be his ranking on the scorecard of wealth; it will be his principles and ideas that have enriched people’s lives. This book tells you why Warren Buffett is the most fascinating American success story of our time.
A minute ago, I just got off the phone with Amazon customer support and came across some startling information. AMAZON does not know whether or their Kindle books are the FULL text (similar to unabridged) or Shortened (abridged) text. There is no where in the description that informs you of this. I only found out due to already already the Hardcover copy and the Audible Book version. I was listening to the Audible Book as I was reading along in my Kindle and noticed that a lot of text was missing from the Kindle. I thought maybe I purchased the "shortened version" of the book but was stunned when I double checked the description and didn't find any mention of it being "shortened". I was further stunned after speaking with Amazon and being told that "YES", it indeed was an error and that there is no way way to really determined whether you are purchasing the full text version on Kindle.

As an avid reader, this is very upsetting. I like to read the full body of work; especially when it's a biography or memoir. However, the fix is simple for Amazon, just give the title of the book the proper label so that we can be informed regarding our purchase decisions. I was fully refunded as well. But now I'm a bit cautious and skeptical when purchasing Kindle should be too.

The book itself is great, my star rating is a reflection of Kindle and the misrepresentation in the description.

- kayleigh_long

I had to read the book because I work for Berkshire Hathaway and I had to understand our founder and what he stood for. I find a lot of parallels in the thinking of the great minds of incredibly brilliant people. This is a great American Dream success story but Warren Buffet takes very little credit for his success. He credits the success of his luck "the ovarian lottery" as he calls it, being born in America first, and then all the other possibilities that came to him by "luck". I see an incredible genius who was not afraid to follow his heart, take chances, and put in the hard work. I see a brilliant mind always thirsty for knowledge and growth but able to keep his feet planted on the ground. I see a human struggling for balance in life between what we want and can achieve and those we love. I see a man who cared and gave back and was not afraid to walk his own walk.

- finley_ward

Warren Buffett is world-famous for his success at investing. A native of Omaha, Nebraska, the son of a stock broker who served several terms in Congress, he began in business very young selling candy to neighbors and delivering newspapers but his real passion was reading everything he could get his hands on about investing in stocks and bonds, learning about businesses, and investing according to a carefully thought-out investing philosophy derived from the authors of several books he read who became his mentors at Columbia Business School-Benjamin Graham and David Dodd.

This biography, written with the cooperation of Buffett by Alice Schroeder, an author with a Wall Street background, is a thoroughly-researched account of his life and career, beginning with his childhood in Omaha and following him through his education and his career as an investor and money-manager who, through the vehicle of his firm Berkshire Hathaway, made himself and many of his investors very wealthy. Indeed, in 2008 he was named the richest man on earth.

The book chronicles his philosophy of business and many of his quirks - he favours Coke over wine and burgers and steaks over almost any other type of food - and delves into numerous accounts of his investments which have spanned cocoa-beans, textile mills, Wall Street investment banks, and railroads, among many others.

Buffett comes across as an almost asocial machine constantly sifting through businesses to find the best bargains to invest in. With family and friends he seems remote and absent-minded, uninterested in things that fall outside the world of business. He seems never to have read a novel, for instance, or a poem. When one of his friends points out a Picasso sketch on the wall at his friend’s house he says he hasn’t noticed it even though he’s been going there for 30 years. He’s also kind of funny about money, which I suppose is not surprising given who he is. That said, he does change over the course of his life in some respects and the book does a good job of describing it, showing, for example, how he was persuaded to be more generous towards his children, and describing the way he went from believing that his greatest service to humanity was through amassing a huge fortune to believing that giving money away sooner was preferable.

If this book has a limitation it is that it shies away from offering a more definitive interpretation of its subject that would aid the reader in coming to a deeper understanding of the real Warren Buffett. The book offers an account of the complete Buffett mythology: his folksy, Midwestern values, his common-sense voice, his sage wisdom about business. It reinforces his philosophy of investing in undervalued companies with excellent long-term prospects, his injunction, via Graham, to “be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.” It charts his growing fame, his circus-like shareholder meetings, his numerous appearances in the business press and on business TV networks, his love for Cherry Coke and Gorat’s steakhouse. And while the mythology is probed and dissected in some ways - yes, he’s lived in the same house since 1958 but Schroeder points out that he has remodeled it since then - I don’t think the reader will come away from this book with a true understanding of what’s driving him, at least not with a view or interpretation of this that has the endorsement and exposition of the author.

If I had to take a guess, the primary influence on Buffett seems to be his father, Howard Buffett, a stock broker from Omaha whose civic values led him to Washington D.C. where he served in Congress during Warren’s youth. His mix of patriotism and business seems to have greatly influenced his son whom he took on a visit to the New York Stock Exchange in 1940 at the age of ten. Buffett says he wanted money so he could be “independent” and didn’t like to do manual labor but so do lots of us and he didn’t stop making money once he’d become independent so there is clearly more to it than that. It’s this sort of reading of Buffett I wish there was more of in this book.

The book is nonetheless filled with as much superficial detail as you could want about Buffett. At 816 pages there’s tons of information about his whole life and world, it perfectly captures Buffett’s voice, as well as separate accounts of many important times in his life from the perspective of his family and friends. Schroeder has written a good valuation report style biography of the man and I suppose in many ways that’s the type of biography most suited to this life.

- kairo_williams

In this day and age, you would have to be a hermit to have not heard of Warren Buffet.
Anyone in the field of investing, or personal development will be naturally drawn to this book, as I was. But it is also a fine story of life in business and in the public eye from the Great Depression to the 2008/9 Global financial meltdown, which will appeal to everybody. Warren’s personal life and philosophy is examined in just as much detail as his business life.
I was initially taken aback by the size of this tome and wondered whether, or not I would have the stamina to get through it. I needn’t have worried though. It drew me in from the very first chapter and throughout the book I often found myself laughing out loud and insisting on reading segments of it back to my (very patient) partner.

- amora_ross

Where shall I start. The book is outstanding in all aspects. Buffett is an extraordinary man and a compounding machine. But even he is not perfect. All I know is money and all I know about money is because of Warren Buffett. In his personal life he did commit some mistakes...Susie buffett.. My oh my... What shall I say about her. The person that comes out of this book is not Warren but sussie buffett.The woman gave gave and just gave.. The book should have had a lot of Charlie munger but does not. That is the only drawback I guess. Lessons of the book, specially for value investors -
1.Spend time with your family. At 50 or 60. It will be too late.
2.The compounding machines and learning machines. Remember shrouds have no pockets. Start giving as soon as you achieve financial freedom and accelerate eventually.
3 don't loose your head when you maKe ridiculous money.

Keep reading keep giving and spread the love...

Thank you Mr buffett and well done Alice schroder.

- jordyn_morris

It is a long read, the author is clearly intelligent, some clever words used. it jumps sections of Warrens life, i like his childhood the best,

overall it seems warren makes money for the thrill and challenge of it to see if he is clever enough to beat the market.

he doesnt invest so he can spend it.

its not a book about how to invest it is more a cse of warren came froma middle classs background with a stockbroker father, in which he had no debt, lived at home or college for years, saved and saved and started as a broker, so made his money via a cut as all fund managers do.

but he wanted to pick stocks and businesses, not just place them into folks portfolios for them.he had heartache in his life, deaths , seperation and his kids never really seen him as a suportive dad, nor did his wife see him as a manly husband, they thought in todays analysis, he had OCD when it coems to saving, scrimping and making money.nothing else mattered, he neglected his family and gave them money to make up for it imo.

- renee_rogers

I found this to be a page turner and thus give it 5 stars and recommend it.

I felt as though I got to know him on some level although I feel that the book, like Buffett himself, only gives some things away. A more incisive look into his mind and actions would have been preferred but maybe that's not possible with him.

There are far too many pages concerning other people that could have been cut. I suspect this was a requirement of his to pay homage to certain important people in his life. Still, it wasn't too much of a distraction.

- payton_sanders

Enjoyable CD set - The dialogue is easy listening as Warren Buffett follows his intuition - To para-phrase: 'A complicated man with simple tastes.' His expertise is 'The contribution / application of centred and informed principles (personal and business) , his financial compound growth, builds steadily throughout the narrative. There are also some wonderful quotes - From a grand father to grandson (even if the grandfather is a Billionaire).
There are references to key books in WB life and to individuals.

- lexi_adams

This is the first book if this type that I have attempted to read and must admit I enjoyed it a lot. At 700 pages long, it does not feel like a drag learning about his incredible work ethic from such a young age, all the way to his 80th birthday.
Learnt the overall basics of stocks and investments through this book although this was not the desired purpose of this book, which is to learn about the Oracle of Omaha himself Warren Buffett, and what makes him tick.
Would read it again in a few years time, a great read well written by Alice Schroeder.

- andi_hall

Without having inherited very much in the way of wealth Warren Buffett employed an approach to investment that resulted in his becoming one of the world's richest men. This is quite a subject for a biography and this book tackles it well. At all times the book provides the context so that we are also provided with a history of post-war developments in the financial industry. Its view of Buffett is generally favorable but his inconsistencies and his quirks as well as his limitations are well documented. It is never tedious and it is always well-written. Not a book for those seeking a speedy way to a fortune because as the book makes clear the circumstances that enabled Buffett to make his fortune are no longer there.

- kori_brooks

Great book, must read for all value investors.
This book deals with Warren's life from earliest days (actually his previous family history as well) to the present time.
It is honest to the point of being hard to read- and all the better for it.
I have read the book a few times and still find myself returning to it. As usual with material from Warren Buffer- many of the lessons are apparently obvious, but in real life really hard to consistently apply. Warren is a special person and the book really brings this to light.

- keaton_bailey

`The Snowball' is an in-depth and comprehensive biography of Warren Buffett and made for fascinating reading throughout. This book focuses on many aspects of his life and virtually no stone is left unturned in recounting the events that have shaped him. This look at his personal relationships, interests, his business/investing philosophies and the various business deals he has been involved with over the years. It also has additional chapters that look at the credit crunch and how Buffett felt and invested during this time of great uncertainty. Whilst this doesn't try to teach you about how to invest like Buffett, a great deal can be gleaned by reading about his life and the way he investing in various businesses and stocks. This has two sections with photos of Buffett and those mentioned in the text. It also has a detailed notes section that add to the overall depth of knowledge in the book if you take a little time to read them. This is very well written and accessible and whilst it will be of more interest to those fascinated with business and investing, it will also interest those who wish to learn about this astute, independent and unique businessman. All in all this was a thoroughly enjoyable read and although very long (at over 700 pages) it will pay back your investment of time richly.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.

- corbin_edwards

The book is 800 pages long of smallish print. I've only really gotten a chapter into this book (other priorities have caused me to have to put the book aside for a bit).

Nevertheless, I shall be happy to get back to it when the time comes. 99% of my reading during my life has been non-fiction, and I started this book hoping to pick up pearls of wisdom - mostly about life - but you never know... maybe the odd gem of investment 'knowhow' might also benefit me.

As I begun reading, I groaned a bit, thinking this is a bit like the Thomas Hardy book I read when I was 15: describing the setting, the flowers, the fanfare while I was impatiently wanting to get to the 'punch up' - the point of why I chose to read the book in the first place. But then, once I'd settled into it a bit more, I found myself really enjoying the style. Warren could practically choose anyone on the planet to write this book (simply because he modestly and astutely believes someone else could do a better job of it than he would (... is that 'gem no. 1' do I wonder ?). Anyway, I believe the book is actually written by Alice Schroeder {but I have no doubt that Warren's input would have been extensive}. Warren has known Alice for many years and been very impressed by her, (and I've already formed the notion that Warren is not so easily impressed by superficial blusterings, but rather sees under the surface); and has great trust in Alice.

Anyway, I won't say too much more; the book is written by a gifted, very keenly observant, lucid and empathetic writer. In fact, it's grown on me to the extent that ... (when I get my knighthood, and Nobel prize for services to mankind) and I want to write my own (auto) biography, I will ask Alice to do it for me.

Oh yes; and there's certainly a gem in the last couple of pages of the book (which I'd love to tell you - but with respect to Amazon and the author, I'll just say ... I'm sorry - you'll have to read the book !). Best Wishes, Richard

- jefferson_sanders

The book impressed me a lot The writing style is spot on and the author know what she s doing She s well aware of the financial market and everything she describes you can feel it -love her work I was listening to focusing music ( app) for the whole book which made the story even more fascinating Warren Buffett in my opinion is a modern day stoic and even if his name it s associated with money he is way much more than that -a really impressive character

- gemma_diaz

Warren Buffett, best sentence in the book, even if somebody would make a video of him taking the purse from an old lady, people would think the video is fake. Many things in this book could be thought in schools so kids would have an easy but valuable knowledge of how to save for the long run. It is a thick book but worth reading it. Done it so far 2 times and in future I would love to read it even many more times.

- maliyah_sanders

My favorite in-depth “autobiography” on Buffet

Full of insights. A little slow or about extended family at tines but adds to the picture.

If you want to understand Buffett read this book

- kailani_lee

I picked up this book with the hope of understanding some of the thought processes of the legendary investor. But as an autobiography, it was far too long and I didn’t really learn anything much of real value.

- sloane_martin

If you are not that interested in Buffett this is not the book for you. It is a very detailed analysis and insight into a self made man.
Will I learn enough to emulate the man -or do I want to ? Probably not! but it is a fascinating story into the psycology of such individuals. For example his aversion to spending money as once spent it cant be invested and benefit from the SNOWBALL effect -ie the benefit of compounding gains over a period of years.
Can you learn much? Well it does illustrate the importance of self discipline and sticking to your inner scorecard -I think this is the lesson I will take to heart - i.e is it better that everyone thinks you are the best lover in the world [ but are not] or that everyone thinks you are the worst lover [but are the best]. It encapsulates his philosophy to ignore the buzz of the ignorant because he is certain in himself that he has done a more thorough job of researching and analysis and knows better.
A classic example of this would be his ignoring the interent boom where others leapt on the bandwaggon and in some cases lost everything.Buffett ignored all those who implied he had "lost it" by not leaping into the bubble -he had the last laugh though!

- boone_taylor

Customers Also Bought