Customer Review

193 of 244 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars requires more editing, October 24, 2008
This review is from: The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life (Hardcover)
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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Tracked by 1 customer

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Showing 1-10 of 14 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 29, 2008 1:22:28 PM PDT
Langdon A. says:
Good review, but the only comment I wanted to make was in regards to your remark about the timing of the book: as far as I know, this book had an expected publishing date of Sept 08 for quite some time. So I don't believe that this is a case of "opportunistic" publishing in any way, shape or form.

Posted on Jan 1, 2009 9:30:24 AM PST
Kali says:
"You will find nuggets in there, if you mentally block out certain sections and read between the lines."
I absolutely disagree with this statement. Schroeder's book is a must read, cover to cover. I'm reading it for the second time and have yet to be bored!

Posted on Jan 9, 2009 5:39:36 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 9, 2009 5:40:31 AM PST
A. Barchiesi says:
Good observations, from a point of view of literary excellence. Nevertheless, the writing has a freshness that tells us of the special achievement of Alice Schroeder: to have inspired Warren Buffet to trust to her the most intimate details of his life an of his family. She is another one of the women on whom he has leaned for emotional support and fulfilment. Her personality and her work thus illustrate an important aspect of the Buffett story, and the unrefined style underlies the naturalness and the immediacy of her participation in it.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 20, 2009 5:28:44 AM PST
E. Johnson says:
Alice Shroeder is an excellent storyteller and, as a result, this is a great read. It should have been edited more thoroughly, however. There are a lot of confusing and sometimes jarring uses of punctuation and some strange syntax that should have been cleaned up.

Regardless, i thoroughly enjoyed the book and am now reading "The Intelligent Investor."

Posted on Mar 6, 2009 11:12:14 PM PST
S. J. Snyder says:
You're being overly kind to her.

When we have a footnote, a DUH footnote, telling us banks were more vulnerable to robberies during the Depression because they didn't have electronic security systems, you know this baby has been over-written by at least 200 pages.

Oh, and it's full of errors, too.

I got bigger errors than that, "My Opinion," in the first 50 pages.

1. She claims Hoover was Coolidge's VP. Nope, twas Charles Curtis.

2. She claims some other speech, not "Cross of Gold," was William Jennings Bryan's most famous. Not even close.

3. A possible whopper. On page 17, she describes the "notoriously fumble fingered Buffett" trying to "get up" a PowerPoint slide as if it were an actual slide... Dunno if she believes that, but it halfway sounds that way.

And, as I said, that's just in the first FIFTY pages.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 12, 2009 9:53:23 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 12, 2009 9:56:15 PM PDT
Y says:
I wholeheartedly concur with Mr. Snyder and Mr. Huang. I am finding this book to be a real snorefest! I've put it down for several months and can't bring myself to opening it up again, which is a shame because I do wish to learn more about what makes Mr. Buffett tick as a human being. I find the writing to be very monotonous, as if I were reading financials. sigh. Personally, I would not spend money on this book. Wait for a copy to become available at your public library.

In reply to an earlier post on May 30, 2009 4:42:09 PM PDT
@SJ Snyder
1) It was Charles Dawes
2) "most famous" is a matter of opinion and open to interpretation
3) Man, that's really stretching it. "halfway sounds that way" is a pretty weak analysis in itself

I'm not defending the book, as I have not read it. I just can't stand it when people criticize and then can't even get their criticisms right.

Posted on Jun 7, 2009 3:10:44 AM PDT
E. Schuckard says:
I completely agree with this review. There are occasional "nuggets" in this text that are thoroughly interesting. However, I am finding the lack of focus very tedious. It seems to to me that the author presents pages and pages of historical information because she had access to this information rather than because it progresses a story line about the The Snowball. Despite this shortcoming, the nuggets are numerous enough to make a very worthwhile read.

Posted on Jul 9, 2009 1:42:53 PM PDT
Agree the book was too long, another concern was the book was had too many warts and not enough positives. It cast Buffett is a very bad light, he came across as lacking any social skills ie. his strange table manners, childish behaviour and dependency on his wife.

There are better books written on his investment techniques, if you want to learn about is lack of social skills read this book. T

Posted on Nov 18, 2009 10:02:46 AM PST
Saw that this author, Alice, also is getting a cold shoulder from Buffett, post publication. Seems Buffett only likes sycophants.
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