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on March 31, 2014
I really enjoyed the book because it lays out Buffett's motivations and theories really well, and helps to make sense of some of Buffett's comments and actions over the years. For instance, I had wondered why I hadn't heard of him donating more to Columbia University's business school over the years, and the answer is that he has been frustrated by the academics' embracing the EMH, and not giving sufficient credit to the idea that investors can outperform the market over time purchasing undervalued companies the way he has. It also has the story of his father in politics, and I think explains some of his more liberal leanings as he grew older.

Overall, a compelling story that is focused not just on his investment returns and theories, but also on Warren Buffett as a person.
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on April 24, 2017
Lowenstein focuses on Buffett's discipline and his investment approach. He spends a great deal of time providing the elements of Ben Graham's valuation "science". The book is an execellent primer for young investors.
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on March 24, 2017
Loving it so far. Very entertaining read. Might not make you an investing genius, but a very well written biography.
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on June 23, 2017
I am a junkie for good business books, and a huge Buffett fan. This is a fabulous book which explains the man as well as his busiess dealings in excellent detail. If "Buffett" was fiction it would not be believable. But it's the real deal and a great read.
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on April 12, 2015
One of two Buffet books we have read. Good read and interesting insight. I think this is the "sleeper" of the two. There is a well rounded presentation of Mr. Buffet's evolution into the person of 2014. While his practices and philosophies are interwoven throughout the book as they evolved in his life, one can easily appreciate what a unique individual Warren Buffet has become. This book is well worth a recommendation.
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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. In fact, one approach to his life and career is to examine in terms of student-teacher relationships such as Buffett's with Graham and Dodd as well as others' with Buffett, notably Katherine Graham and those who comprised the "Graham Group": Jack Alexander, Ed Anderson, Henry Brandt, Robert Brustein, Buddy Fox, David ("Sandy") Gottesman, Tom Knapp, Charlie Munger, Bill Ruane, Walter Schloss, Roy Tolles, and Marshall Weinberg. Munger is probably the most important of these associates for reasons best revealed in the narrative. It is worth noting that when Lowenstein was about to begin what proved to be three years of research and then the writing of this book, Buffett informed him that he would do nothing to block his efforts nor would he do anything to assist them. In the Afterword, Lowenstein recalls his first post-publication encounter with Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting in1996. Despite everything that had happened in Buffett's life and career during the previous 45-50 years, Lowenstein observes that "Very little in the portrait, and nothing in the investment profile, has changed." His consistency "may be his least appreciated trait."

As does Schroeder but in somewhat greater detail, Lowenstein rigorously examines subjects that include:

1. The development of Buffett's business philosophy
2. His most important business relationships over the years
3. His most important personal relationships over the years
4. His non-negotiable values
5. What Berkshire Hathaway accomplished under his leadership as CEO
6. Buffett's insecurities
7. His views on philanthropy
8. His social awareness
9. His relationship with Melinda and Bill Gates
10. Why no one else has achieved comparable results by following Buffett's advice

Joe Nocera shares his own thoughts in response to the last point in a profile of Buffett that reprinted in Nocera's book, Good Guys and Bad Guys: Behind the Scenes with the Saints and Scoundrels of American Business. "I think the answer is twofold. First, truly great investing requires a temperament that very few people have. For most of us, it is difficult not to panic when the market tanks, for instance. It is hard not to want to jump on the hot stock, even if we know nothing about the business. The ups and downs of the market are stomach-churning events. The fundamental equanimity required to be a great investor is an extremely rare thing.

"The second reason we don't invest like Buffett is that his methods are far more complicated than they sound. Think about it: When Buffett talks about the `economic prospects' of a potential investment, what he means is that he wants to be able to see where the business will be 10 years from now. If he can see the business remaining dominant for the next decade, he'll consider buying the stock."

"One of the most important reasons for difference [i.e. being able to determine whether or not a business will remain dominant for the next decade] goes almost entirely unacknowledged among those who hope to find in Buffett an easily reproducible investing style. He is a genius when it comes to numbers. `Accounting,' he likes to say,' is the language of business.' It is a language in which his own fluency is unsurpassed, and which gives him an enormous competitive advantage. Usually, all he needs is a quick glance at a balance sheet to know whether he's interested in buying a company or not - because he finds meaning in numbers that the rest of us don't."

Warren Buffett is among the most effective CEOs in recent business history (at least since the conclusion of World War II) and there is certainly a great deal of value to be learned from his performance as both a leader and a manager. Although a business icon, he is also an exceptionally human being because of a unique combination of insecurities, hang-ups, fetishes, neuroses, etc. that various loved ones (notably wife Susie, daughter Susie, and companion Astrid) were able to manage with exquisite sensitivity. Like so many others, he cares more and more deeply than he is (generally) able to express. That said, one close associate and dear friend, Bill Ruane, suggested to Lowenstein after his book was published, "I'm not sure if you captured how [begin italics] tough [end italics] Warren is." Perhaps no one can but credit Roger Lowenstein with providing in this volume a thorough, balanced, multi-dimensional , and insightful explanation of how an ordinary man in almost every other respect accomplished greater success in business than almost anyone else ever has...or ever will.
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on January 21, 2008
The gain in net of Berkshire Hathaway, the company led by Warren Buffet, worth during 2006 was $16.9 billion, which increased the per-share value of 18.4%. Over the last 42 years value has grown from $19 to $70,281, a rate of 21.4% compounded annually. Consider that $16.9 billion is a record for a one-year gain in net worth - more than has ever been booked by any American business, leaving aside boosts that have occurred because of mergers. Of course, Berkshire did not outperform S&P500 constantly. In 1967, 1975, 1980, 1999, 2003, 2004 the S&P gave better performance, and in 2001 Berkshire even was at a loss of 6.2%.

This book, "Buffett: The making of an American capitalist" covers very deeply the values that led Warren Buffet during his life from his early childhood. The book is not only a biography per se, but a good manual on investing, that uncovers most aspects, with the detailed explanations and samples, of investing.

This book also covers very well personal traits of Warren Buffett, his attitudes toward parents, sister, friends, parents, children and wife. For example, Warren bought a farm and rented it to his son Howie on standard commercial terms. The farm was a joyful refuge to Howie, but he couldn't get Warren to share the experience with him. "I can't get him to come out and see how the crops are going", Howie said plaintively. Warren went only twice in six years. He would laugh off Howies's invitations, saying, "Send me a rent check, and make sure it's big enough". Though he had been thoughtful enough to buy the farm, he couldn't give Howie the fatherly recognition that he craved in other than financial terms.

In his investment strategy, Warren uses the concept that he calls "Intrinsic value" of a company. According to Warren Buffet, intrinsic value is an all-important concept that offers the only logical approach to evaluating the relative attractiveness of investments and businesses. Intrinsic value can be defined simply: It is the discounted value of the cash that can be taken out of a business during its remaining life.

Here is what Kenneth L. Fisher wrote about Buffet's investment strategy: a quality standing out about Mr. Buffett is his ability to morph. If you read his materials from the 1960s, he said very different things than in the 1970s and early-1980s. Early on he was buying dirt-cheap stocks by simple statistical standards and typically smaller stocks--which would today be referred to as smallcap value (although that term didn't exist until the late 1980s). Later he bought what he called "franchises." Then he entered a period of buying great managements of big companies and being a long-term holder--otherwise thought of as big-cap growth today--that many ascribed to the influence of my father coupled with Charlie Munger. When Mr. Buffett was buying Coke and Gillette, you couldn't quite reconcile those activities with the kinds of things he owned two decades earlier. Then, amazingly, seven years ago, at just the right time, he was buying smaller things dirt cheap again just as value came back into play as the twenty-first century began. I have other comments about Mr. Buffett throughout this book but I'd like you to see, while he never lost the core of what he was doing or what he was looking for, he tactically morphed steadily over the decades. Trying to freeze his tactics from any decade and replicate them in the next few would never have led you to his actual actions.

In addition to this book, I also recommend the letters to shareholders written by Warren Buffet, which can be taken from the website of Berkshire Hathaway. If you take an audio record of this title, it will not be as good as the textbook. The audio is more biographical and pays less attention to the investment education of the listener.
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on October 20, 2017
Roger Lowenstein, is a fantastic author, and gives a very good description of Warren Buffett. I was gifted this book buy James Altucher and I highly recommend this book to anybody who wants to make it big in life!
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on January 3, 2016
Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant!!! Lowenstein delivers an investment tour-de-force with his ‘The Making of an American Capitalist’. As someone who works in the investment management industry, this is now BY FAR my favorite book. It would be great to get an update version, particularly after the GFC and Berkshire's strategic investments in Goldman, BofA, GE, BNSF, PCP, and the whole Lubrizol issue.
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on November 16, 2015
This was a page turner for me. Even if your not a big reader, this book was fantastic. It can never hurt to learn about the life of a Market Master like Warren Buffett. Roger Lowenstein is a very talented author, and has hit the nail on the head with this one.
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