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The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life [Kindle Edition]

Alice Schroeder
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (323 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Successful investor Warren Buffett sits down with author Schroeder to give readers deep and erudite insights into his work and personal life. Detailing his views on current trends in the economy and society, Buffet speaks with tremendous wisdom about everything from his family to his business ethics. Richard McGonagle gives an eloquent, straightforward reading. He has a knack for delivering words with a profound importance in his voice, drawing in listeners and holding their interest for hours. Schroeder reads her introduction and sets the tone for this revealing biography. A Bantam hardcover (reviewed online). (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Warren Buffett should be applauded for allowing such open access to his life. Alice Schroeder, who interviewed friends and family, pored over Buffett's personal archive, and spent thousands of hours with Buffett, comes away with an unprecedented look at the hidden life of an American icon. At more than 900 pages (100 of which are notes), The Snowball—the title is a metaphor for the relentless growth of Buffett's portfolio—sets the bar high for future efforts. Schroeder's account is comprehensive and her eye for the telling detail keen; while she explains the financial deals, she also explores Buffett's childhood quirks and his unconventional marriage. Enough is enough, though, and John Mark Eberhart of the Kansas City Star speaks for several critics when he points out, "I just could have done with a little less bang for my buck."
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC

Product Details

  • File Size: 5969 KB
  • Print Length: 960 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; 1st edition (September 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001OD41DY
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #255,788 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
268 of 284 people found the following review helpful
I recently re-read Roger Lowenstein's biography, Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist (first published in 1995 and now re-issued with a new Afterword), and then read this more recent one by Alice Schroeder. Both are first-rate. Which to select if reading only one? That depends on how much you wish to know about Buffett's personal life, including his relations with various family members, and how curious you are about his personal hang-ups, peculiarities, eccentricities, fetishes, etc. If you can do without any of that, Roger Lowenstein's biography is the one to read. I also highly recommend the recently published Second Edition of The Essays of Warren Buffet: Lessons for Corporate America, with content selected, arranged, and introduced by Lawrence Cunningham.

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.
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134 of 160 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable Insight into an Enigma! September 29, 2008
The title of this book refers to Buffett's likening life to a snowball - "the important thing is to find wet snow and a really long hill." Buffett certainly has had that effect with money.

"The Snowball" begins with a Buffett presentation to an elite 1999 group at Sun Valley, suggesting in a humorous manner that the ".com" frenzy was no more than a bubble. Then, its on to learning why his associate Charles Munger (an inseparable partner since 1959) is both the opposite and highly similar to Buffett.

Warren Buffett, we learn comes from a heritage of very thrifty small business owners. His parents initially struggled through the Great Depression, carried initially by grandfather's letting the food bill run at his grocery store, then by the success of his newly opened stock brokerage that focused on conservative investments. Unfortunately, his mother was somewhat unbalanced, directing frequent tirades at Warren and his sister, creating a lifelong need for the approval of women. Calculating the comparative life spans of religious song writers while in church led Warren towards religious skepticism at an early age.
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180 of 229 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars requires more editing October 24, 2008
This review is to balance off the many positive reviews in Amazon:
(and to apply an expression from Berkshire Hathaway's brilliant Vice Chairman, Charlie Munger:
"Invert, always invert".)

point #1 on Alice Schroeder's Buffett biography:
When someone asked "what factor did people feel was the most important in getting to where they`d gotten in life" (sic), both Warren Buffett and Bill Gates answered: "focus" (p. 623)

Unfortunately, focus is missing in Schroeder's wordy, rambling 960 page biography. A quarter to a third of the content could have been pruned. This book could have used a few more months of rewriting, with more disciplined editing. Schroeder's book was at least five years in the making, yet With the world financial maelstrom upon us now, one wonders its September 2008 release is merely opportunistic publishing.

point #2: To use a Buffett expression: Schroeder is beyond her "circle of competence" . Schroeder has a finance background. When reading this book, We see can tell she does not have any past experience on writing an extensive in-depth personal biography.

In contrast, I would recommend you also read the Buffett biography written by Roger Lowenstein. Although published in 1995, it has a professional writer`s mark of clarity. Regrettably, Buffett gave Lowenstein a chilly reception after its publication. Lowenstein may have unfortunately become shut out from accessing Buffett for a subsequent revision.

In summary, Schroeder`s biography is worth reading, but you should expect to exert much patience and persistence when plowing through it. You will find nuggets in there, if you mentally block out certain sections and read between the lines.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars God and Warren Don't Play Dice
Wonderful insight into the life, business and humanity of Warren Buffett. Defying the elitism and profligacy of the wealthy fringe, the world's richest man leads by example as a... Read more
Published 8 days ago by JC
5.0 out of 5 stars Only Took Me Two Years on The Kindle!
I can't believe I read the whole thing! It was the longest non-fiction book I've ever read. So long, in fact, that to feel like I read something about him in full, I read a few... Read more
Published 10 days ago by Martin M. Bodek
5.0 out of 5 stars The Inside Scoop on Warren Buffett
This book covers Warren Buffett's life, including many personal details about his childhood and early career. Read more
Published 24 days ago by Steve Pickering
3.0 out of 5 stars A long book
For a biography -- or any book, for that matter -- to hold your attention for 700+ pages, it had better be darn good. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Samuel C. Pence
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and well researched
I was born the same year as Warren Buffett. It was sometime in the seventies that one of my patients, who was a money manager, told me that "Warren Buffett was a class... Read more
Published 1 month ago by James Clair Cantwell
4.0 out of 5 stars Too lengthy, must read
Very pain to read all the lines, but important content are hidden in that. so I had to go through each line even though its boring.
Published 1 month ago by Saravanan Muthiah
3.0 out of 5 stars long read
The oracle of omaha is rightfully egotistical. But just be prepared for a long read. There are a few gems in the book. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Broken Wing
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly interesting
I bought and read this book shortly after it came out, and then purchased another copy recently for my brother-in-law. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Bill Blankenship
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
the best book I've read all year. Absolute page turner. Love the man and his story!!!!! Want to read more :)
Published 2 months ago by Jeremie Rodger
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Book about Warren Buffet and Others; Terrific Writer
Well researched and written. It provides an interesting perspective of a man who is one of the great investors of all time. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Peter C.
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More About the Author

Dubbed by Risk and Insurance magazine as one of the most respected--and fearless--thinkers on Wall Street, Alice Schroeder is the author of The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life, a #1 New York Times and #1 Wall Street Journal bestseller.

Schroeder started to track the story behind the money as a CPA, and former regulator for the Financial Accounting Standards Board. After joining Morgan Stanley, she was the first and only analyst to be granted an interview with the famously reticent Buffett. Telling The New York Times, "I like the way she thinks and writes," Buffett gave Schroeder unprecedented access -- to his files, family, business associates and himself, devoting massive amounts of his time over the course of five years - to interviews and questions.

The Snowball is a complete -- and revealing -- look at Buffett's life, wisdom and philosophy, from the development of his outlook on the world and the principles he lives by to the business secrets he has never before shared publicly. It was named Amazon's #1 Business and Investing Book of 2008 and one of the 10 best books of the year by TIME. That same year Ms. Schroeder was chosen alongside Ben Bernanke and Hillary Clinton as one of the"People to Watch" by BusinessWeek.

Now a Bloomberg News columnist, she continues her signature brand of telling the greater truth, and is on the road researching her next book.


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Topic From this Discussion
When Warren Speaks, We Should Listen!
Today Warren said it is a good time to buy stocks.
Oct 17, 2008 by Yogi Bear |  See all 3 posts
Buffett, Please start a Fund to profit from the credit crisis and save USA
This is not only a money crisis but an American Culture Crisis:

. Real Estate KoolAid
. Excessive Leverage
. Acting not responsibly: Pledge allegiance to the flag and kick the country in the rear end for a buck
. Arrogance
. Having it so good for so long has its downside

Not only Wall Street... Read more
Oct 12, 2008 by Michael Bigger |  See all 3 posts
This book is $9.99 on Kindle
Anyone know if the photos are included in the Kindle versions?
Sep 30, 2008 by JCC |  See all 8 posts
Question on file size
I think so...I have this book in Kindle format...I have all the text, all the pictures. Kindle rocks!
Oct 29, 2008 by Michael Bigger |  See all 4 posts
Is this a rough cut edition?
"Rough cut" sounds like a first draft or a grainy copy of an old movie! I thought this kind of page was called "deckle edge" and I have a number of books in that format. I think it's distinctive and elegant. I cherish the books I own with gilt edges, colored edges (usually... Read more
Oct 14, 2008 by DavLibris |  See all 37 posts
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