- Paperback: 832 pages
- Publisher: Bantam; Updtd & Condnsd ed. edition (Oct. 27 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0553384619
- ISBN-13: 978-0553384611
- Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 3.6 x 23.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 885 g
- Average Customer Review: 26 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #5,045 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life Paperback – Oct 27 2009
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“The mandatory book to read in these treacherous times of financial crisis.…A thoughtful and intimate biography of the globe’s wisest investor.” –Forbes
“Will mesmerize anyone interested in who Mr. Buffett is or how he got that way.” The Snowball tells a fascinating story.”–New York Times
“If the replication of any great achievement first requires knowledge of how it was done, then The Snowball, the most detailed glimpse inside Warren Buffett and his world that we likely will ever get, should become a Bible for capitalists.” —Washington Post
“Anyone who has been watching events unfold in recent months–which would be everyone–can now appreciate the wisdom of Buffett....The most authoritative portrait of one of the most important American investors of our time.”–Los Angeles Times
“Even people who don't care a whit about business will be intrigued by this portrait… Schroeder, a former insurance-industry analyst, spent years interviewing Buffett, and the result is a side of the Oracle of Omaha that has rarely been seen.” —Time Magazine
"Schroeder... has a meat-and-potatoes style that matches the homespun wisdom of her subject...Now more than ever, Buffett's emphasis on fundamentals seems like genius. It's the perfect moment for a great book on an immensely inspiring capitalist."—People, four stars
“Schroeder…is well equipped to elucidate Buffett’s deals…[and] Buffett’s life abounds with good stories.”—New Yorker
“You will learn a lot about one of the nation's most compelling and important men from reading The Snowball.” —Boston Globe
“In The Snowball, novice biographer Alice Schroeder gives us one of the most detailed, candid life stories ever published…It is almost impossible to stop reading.” —Christian Science Monitor
“A penetrating and personal look at the Oracle of Omaha…An astute, and at times riveting, read–especially now.”—BusinessWeek
“Everyone knows that in a deep and liquid capital market like that of the US, it is just about impossible to beat the stock market averages over anything more than the short term. But Buffett has been ahead of the curve for most of the past 50 years, making him one of the world’s richest people. Alice Schroeder’s massive authorized biography, The Snowball, provides some clues about how he’s done it.” —Financial Times
“In this startlingly frank account of Buffett’s life, Schroeder, a former managing director at Morgan Stanley–and hand picked by Buffett to be his biographer–strips away the mystery that has long cloaked the word’s richest man to reveal a life and fortune erected around lucid and inspired business vision and unimaginable personal complexity.” —Publishers Weekly
“This massive–and highly readable–text (produced with Buffett’s full cooperation) is an unvarnished and well-paced biography that is essential for all public and academic business collections.” —Library Journal
“For students of the Oracle of Omaha, or even those looking for a little reassurance during the crisis, Schroeder's book is a fascinating study of America's most successful investor.” —New York Post
“… Alice Schroeder’s accumulation of detail, her vivid, artless descriptions of people and places, and the resulting narrative fluidity make this a compelling book. It has the bouncing vitality of an early Sinclair Lewis novel…”—Times Literary Supplement
“If you've looked at your 401(k) statement and started to fear that everyone in financial markets is either greedy, predatory or incompetent, do yourself a favor. Take $35 out of the mattress and buy a copy of Alice Schroeder's The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life. At a time like this, it's a real comfort: Buffet is living proof there's at least one wholly rational person managing money…an excellent and highly enjoyable look at the business titan.” —Houston Chronicle
“Ms. Schroeder does a good job of pulling…volunteered disclosures out of Mr. Buffett but her real contribution is her own investment expertise which enables her to make the convoluted financing schemes over the last 50 years understandable to lay readers and truly instructive to the business information junkie.” —Washington Times
“This is a fast-paced, precisely drawn profile of a man who, despite his high visibility in the financial world, isn’t someone we’ve known much about… We do now.” —Kansas City Star
“This massive—and highly readable—text (produced with Buffett’s full cooperation) is an unvarnished and well-paced biography that is essential for all public and academic business collections.”—LibraryJournal.com
"Top-notch biographies demand thorough research and crisp, finely honed writing. Schroeder exhibits both.... It's hard to imagine a more complete account of Buffett's life had he written it himself."—Buffalo News
“Riveting and encyclopedic.... The overall power of the story carries “The Snowball” forward. There is much to be learned from it.”—wsj.com
“[A] monumental biography ... Schroeder got the best access yet of any Buffett biographer ... she deals out marvelously funny and poignant stories about Buffett and the conglomerate he runs, Berkshire Hathaway.”—Forbes.com
About the Author
Author Alice Schroeder was a noted insurance industry analyst and writer who was a managing director at Morgan Stanley. She first met Warren Buffett when she published research on Berkshire Hathaway; her grasp of the subject and insight so impressed him that he offered her access to his files and to himself. Their friendship and mutual respect make her ideally positioned to write the The Snowball.
Ms. Schroeder was born in Texas, and she earned an undergraduate degree and her MBA at the University of Texas at Austin before moving east to work in finance. She is a former CPA and lives in Connecticut with her husband.
From the Hardcover edition.
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In my opinion, it is certainly clear that with a minimum of wisdom, prudence and patience we can all prosper through these challenging times by following Buffet's business practices and integrity. Business is not all that complicated when you choose colleagues and associates based on the right combination of character and skills.
Enjoy the book. It is long as this is a long and rich life. It is well written so take the time to enjoy all the stories and anecdotes. It is a perfect read to start your day. Much better than the current news...
The heft of Schroeder's biography may discourage some people from obtaining a copy. To them I presume to suggest that they not be deterred by that factor. Schroeder has a lively, often entertaining writing style that drives the narrative through just about every period and (yes) interlude of Warren Buffett's life and career thus far. There is much more information provided than most readers either need or desire. However, she had unprecedented access not only to Buffett but to just about everyone else with whom he is (or once was) associated as well as to previously inaccessible research resources. It is possible but highly unlikely that anyone else will write a more comprehensive biography than Schroeder has, at least for the next several years, if not decades. Also, her opinion of Buffett seems to me to be balanced and circumspect. No doubt he wishes that certain details about his life and career were not included. However, there has been no indication from him or those authorized to represent him that any of the material in this biography (however unflattering) is either inaccurate or unfair. Both halos and warts are included.
Others have shared their reasons for holding this book in high regard. Here are two of mine. First, although I had already read various Buffett's chairman's letters that first appeared in a series of Berkshire Hathaway's annual reports, I did not understand (nor could I have understood) the context for observations he shared, especially his comments about especially important 12-month periods throughout BRK's history. Schroeder provides the context or frame-of-reference I needed but previously lacked. For example, whereas in previous letters, Buffett merely offered brief updates on how each BRK company was doing, in 1978 he began to share his thoughts about major business topics such as performance measurement for management and why short-term earnings were a poor criterion for investment decisions. With the help of Carol Loomis, especially since 1977, his chairman's letters "had grown more personal and entertaining by the year; they amounted to crash courses in business, written in clear language that ranged from biblical quotations to references to Alice in Wonderland, and princesses kissing toads." As Schroeder explains, these gradual but significant changes of subject and tone reflect changes in Buffett's personal life as he became more reflective about business principles and more appreciative of personal relationships. His children were growing up and departing the "nest" in Omaha. His wife Susie decided to relocate to San Francisco. Meanwhile, his personal net worth continued to increase substantially. His national and then international recognition also increased. The "Oracle of Omaha" had finally become sufficiently confident of himself to reveal to others "a sense of him as a man."
I also appreciate how carefully Schroeder develops several separate but related themes that help her reader to manage the wealth of information she provides. The biography's title suggests one of these themes: the "snowball" effect that compounded interest can have. From childhood when he began to sell packs of gum (but not single sticks) and bottles of soda, and a money changer was his favorite toy, Buffett was fascinated by the way that numbers "exploded as they grew at a constant rate over time was how a small sum could be turned into a fortune. He could picture the numbers compounding as vividly as the way a snowball grew when he rolled it across the lawn. Warren began to think about it a different way. Compounding married the present to the future. If a dollar today was going to be worth ten some years from now, then in his mind the two were the same." Early in life, Buffett avoided making any purchases unless they were almost certain to generate compound interest. This theme is central to understanding Buffett's investment principles and to his own leadership of BRK. It also helps to explain why he could become physically ill when an investment cost others the funds they had entrusted to his care. Other themes include his determination to simplify his life to the extent he could (e.g. eating hamburgers and wearing threadbare sweaters, minimizing participation in family activities) so that he could concentrate almost entirely on business matters; his dependence on a series of women, beginning with his mother and two sisters (especially Doris) that continued with his first wife Susie (and their daughter "Susie Jr.") and then companion Astrid Menks whom he married in 2006; and his passion for helping others to understand the business principles to which he has been committed since childhood.
There is one other theme of special interest and importance to me: over the years, how Buffett has interacted with various associates, notably with Jerome Newman and Benjamin Graham, Sandy Gottesman, Charlie Munger, Bill Ruane, Katherine Graham, and Bill Gates. By all accounts, Buffett is a superb business associate once he agrees to become involved. He cares deeply about each relationship, does whatever may be necessary to protect and defend the best interests of his associates, and is extraordinarily generous with material rewards as well as recognition. Here is an especially revealing excerpt from Cunningham's Introduction to The Essays of Warren Buffett: "The CEOs at Berkshire's operating companies enjoy a unique position in corporate America. They are given a simple set of commands: to run the business as if (1) they are its sole owner, (2) it is the only asset they hold, and (3) they can never sell or merge it for one hundred years." These three "commands" are wholly consistent with what Lawrence explains earlier in the same Introduction: "The central theme uniting Buffett's lucid essays is that the principles of fundamental business analysis, first formulated by his teachers Ben Graham and David Dodd, should guide investment practice. Linked to that theme are management principles that define the proper role of corporate managers as the stewards of investment capital and the proper role of shareholders as the suppliers and owners of capital. Radiating from these main themes are practical and sensible lessons on the entire range of important business issues, from accounting to mergers to valuation." Those who shared Buffett's same core values of honesty and integrity, and who are also committed to the same basic principles, cherish their relationship with him.
To me, Alice Schroeder's rigorous and eloquent analysis of this theme of mutually productive and beneficial collaboration is her single greatest achievement among many in this definitive biography of one of the most important and yet least understood business leaders in recent years. Bravo!
a. Buffett, as one of the world's wealthiest men, rarely takes questionable risks with his money, except during this latest economic downturn, which is not covered in the book;
b. Buffett is renowned for buying companies that are near dead, reviving them, and then selling them. Shroeder includes a couple of incidents in Buffett's life where he paid the price for deviating from this practice;
c. Buffett started out as a notorious cheapskate and bottom-feeder in investment circles, and only over time and under the influence of certain women and men in his life has he developed a measure of grace, generosity, and respect;
d. Buffett, for all his billions made, is not without his regrets as to how he could have invested more wisely;
e. Buffett, for all his success in the modern world of finance, still has managed to retain a lot of that Omaha charm that comes with enjoying the simple conventions of life, whether it be home-cooking, music or playing contract bridge;
f. Buffett rarely ventured into a business deal that he couldn't undersand himself;
g. Buffett has been at times an emotionally insecure person who needed the support certain special people, like his late wife Susy and Katherine Graham, to manage and direct his personal life. For a man who has been totally devoted to the art of making money, it should come as no surprise that he was hopeless in looking after himself. Shroeder does not treat this quirk as a failing so much as an endearing quality in the man's personality;
h. Shroeder offers us a wall-to-wall vista of a prominent life lived out to the fullest with the 20th century history as its backdrop. There are no punches pulled here in supplying the reader with a thorough and honest account of Buffett's very instructive life, The reader certainly gets to see how the snowflake eventually becomes the snowball, the motto of Buffett's extraordinary life. Great read.
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