I've been a Benjamin Graham fan for years, and his investing books have had a huge influence on my thinking on the subject--particularly the two famous ones, Intelligent Investor and Security Analysis. I am an ardent value investor and fan of many of Graham's protégés as well (both the famous and not-so-famous ones). But when I came across this biography I realized that I knew very little about the life of the man himself, or the other areas where he was active. So it was with great interest that I sat down to read this book, and I was not disappointed. I had felt that the subject might be a touch dry, even for a fan such as myself, but I was mistaken. This was a highly engaging biography, and entertained me even as it taught me about a character who I've admired for so long.
It has long been an assumption of mine that value investing was born mainly out of the depression, but the tales of Graham's early years were an interesting eye-opener. In reading the stories about his difficult youth--the riches to rags--you can see the foundation being laid for what was to come. There were some fascinating segments here about the downfall of the Graham family, and Graham's determination to raise the family up again and help his struggling mother. And this was 20 years before the start of the great depression.
When it comes to the period of Graham's education, and his academic accomplishments, the story becomes truly inspiring. Graham was a more brilliant man than I was aware, and reading about the breadth of his pursuits is amazing. It's clear that he could have made his name in ANY walk of life, had he never come to the investing world at all. Truly inspiring stuff.
Others have mentioned the format of this biography as a weakness (it is split chapter by chapter between Graham's bio, and discussion of his investing/academic ideas). I partially agree with the criticism, but mainly in the sense that I was deeply engaged by the biographical material and wanted to continue with it at the end of every chapter. However, for readers not deeply familiar with Graham's writings, the investment chapters will be useful. Warren Buffett has said, "No one ever became poor by reading Graham," and I suspect that no one will come to harm by reading these chapters, either. Further, even devotees of Graham, such as myself, probably aren't familiar with areas such as his ideas for currency reform, etc, so there are useful bits there for all of us.
All in all, a really strong biography of a great man, and a very easy and interesting read. Graham was the primary influence on some of the most astute investors in history, and this book is a great way to get to know a little about the man himself. I highly recommend this one to anyone who wants to learn a little more about one of the greatest minds of the 20th century.