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Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist Paperback – August 18, 1996

4.8 out of 5 stars 222 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

Starting from scratch, simply by picking stocks and companies for investment, Warren Buffett amassed one of the epochal fortunes of the 20th century -- an astounding net worth of $10 billion and counting. That awesome record has made him a cult figure.

This illuminating biography reveals a man whose conscientiousness, integrity, and good humor exist alongside an odd emotional isolation. Buffett also masterfully traces his life: his enormously successful partnership; his early, inspired investments in American Express and Geico; his companionship and investment with Katharine Graham of the Washington Post; his role in the Capital Cities purchase of ABC; his unique relationship with his wife and mistress; and his rescue of the scandal-ridden Salomon Brothers. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

By picking the right stocks and businesses to invest in, plainspoken Nebraskan Warren Buffett became the richest man in the U.S. In this excellent biography, Wall Street Journal reporter Lowenstein details the billionaire stock market wizard's strategy of betting on the long-term growth of a handful of successful companies such as American Express and Berkshire Hathaway. Providing personal glimpses of a very private man, Lowenstein unearths childhood traumas such as the tormenting rages of Buffett's mother and his forced relocation to Washington, D.C., in 1943, where, at 13, he ran away from home (he was found by the police the next day). Buffett's wife, Susan Thompson, a nightclub singer, walked out on him in 1977 and was quickly replaced by his mistress, Latvian-born Astrid Menks. Lowenstein profiles an emotionally guarded, "strangely stunted" Midas obsessed with work and secrecy, who seemingly derives little pleasure from his fabulous wealth. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 475 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books / Random House; 1st edition (2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385484917
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385484916
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (222 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #717,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Investment is most intelligent when it is most businesslike", Warren Buffett's teacher, Benjamin Graham, once wrote.
This book is a fantastic biography of Warren Buffett. I think anyone who wants to learn about Warren Buffett or his investment techniques etc should first read this book before anything else (including his essays).
This book is written time-chronogically, from the time around the early 1930s (Buffett was born in August 1930) to around 1994. Here we can observe how Buffett had a great desire to be rich since he was young, but in his teen years, after being involved in several business ventures, he longed for a method which is more consistent in making money.
Meeting Benjamin Graham when he was 19/20 years old solved this longing for Buffett. He became a devoted investor in businesses since then. After working under Graham for several years, Buffett began a partnership (noticed how confident he was, despite his young age, to be successful) when he was 26 years old (in 1956) and achieved a 29.4% compounded annual return in the fund (he dissolved the partnership in 1969). During these 14 years, Buffett learnt which businesses (like those possessing customer franchise - Buffett called these with "Deep moats around the castles") were better than others. He dissolved his partnership in 1969 as he deemed the market to be very overvalued then.
From then on, he used the lessons he had learnt to purchase great businesses at reasonable (or cheap) prices, such as Nebraska Furniture Mart, Washington Post, Cap Cities, etc.
To fully enjoy this book, the reader should stop at certain chapters, and read other - yes, other - related books. For instance, around after I had finished reading chapter 3, 'Graham', I read Ben Graham's 'Intelligent Investor'.
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Format: Paperback
For me this was the best of about 6 stock market investment books I bought after selecting from a list of books touted by Morningstar.com as good reading. I read this book straight after reading Ban Grahams book, The Intelligent Investor.
The latter is regarded as essential reading for security analysts, money managers, etc. but I found it relatively heavy going. Seeing Ben Graham was Warren Buffett's inspiration I thought it better to read this first before moving onto Roger Lowenstein's book about Buffett.
Here, I saved the best until last because this book is mind blowing, even though all the principles espoused by the great Ben Graham are detailed in Roger Lowenstein's book. Therein lies the difference - this book is easy to read & Ben's principles, which Warren Buffett endorses, are put in a perspective, which hit you immediately between the eyes-just like a revelation.
The first few chapters I found a bit tedious but once I had past these, the book was riveting. Whilst a biography, it has plenty of "how to" investment information & will certainly make you into a bettor stock market investor. It is the best book one can read if you have not done any investing in stocks yet-merely to avoid the mistakes & bad habits other stock investors have made & I speak for myself.
One understands how Buffet avoided the Dot.com crash & why. Possibly the most interesting thing for me is that Buffet believes that NO ONE can call the market. He says its silly to rely on investment strategies like buying shares on a Monday is better than a Friday & that investing in small caps in December will likely reap you a fortune. And you should watch out for October.
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Format: Paperback
Although few readers probably come to this book because it is well-crafted, Roger Lowenstein's prose is superb. This is a great biography. But readers will likely be disappointed if they expect a glimpse of Buffett's investment secrets by perusing Lowenstein's book. Lowenstein never makes the claim that you'll learn to be a better investor by reading BUFFETT. In fact, it appears to be Lowenstein's essential thesis that it is Buffett's firmness of character, as much as his intellectual acumen, which makes him such a fine investor. Whatever one might think of Buffett, it is a rare pleasure to find so well-written and thoughtful a book as Lowenstein's biography amongst the sensationalized and poorly edited biographies of late.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Note: The review that follows is of the Second Edition.

I recently re-read this Buffett biography (first published in 1995 and now re-issued with a new Afterword, dated January 2008) and then read Alice Schroeder's The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life. 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.

In fact, I'd now like to provide a brief excerpt from Cunningham's 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 invested 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 business issues, from accounting to mergers to evaluation." Lowenstein does a skill job of examining the context in which various lessons were learned, both by Buffett and by those with whom he was associated.
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