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on 15 December 2013
Without having inherited very much in the way of wealth Warren Buffett employed an approach to investment that resulted in his becoming one of the world's richest men. This is quite a subject for a biography and this book tackles it well. At all times the book provides the context so that we are also provided with a history of post-war developments in the financial industry. Its view of Buffett is generally favorable but his inconsistencies and his quirks as well as his limitations are well documented. It is never tedious and it is always well-written. Not a book for those seeking a speedy way to a fortune because as the book makes clear the circumstances that enabled Buffett to make his fortune are no longer there.
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on 20 March 2016
Investment advisers like us to think that investment is a complex matter needing great expertise. Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, thinks differently. To invest well, he says, we have to be prepared to go against the prevailing wisdom and ignore conventional investment guidelines. He claims to only invest in a business that he fully understands, which is why he avoided investing in high tech stocks at a time when everyone else was doing so – and avoided making spectacular losses when the bubble burst. He has always distrusted new-fangled investment instruments that made no sense to him.

People in financial markets often have the reputation of being greedy, predatory or incompetent. In its review of Alice Schroeder’s The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life, the Houston Chronicle says that Buffett is an exception. He is entirely rational. The book gives us a glimpse of how Buffett made his fortune, and describes how Buffett operates through his Berkshire Hathaway investment vehicle. He rigorously analyses a company's fundamentals, and once he determines a company’s intrinsic value and understands exactly how it makes money, he develops a view on the business's future prospects. He looks for companies that have a "moat" that creates high barriers to entry for would-be competition.

Buffett’s Should’nts:
 We shouldn’t put our eggs in many baskets.
 We shouldn’t place small amounts in each basket.
 We shouldn’t switch holdings frequently.
 We shouldn’t avoid holding cash.
 We shouldn’t rely on outside analysis.
 We shouldn’t follow the crowd.
 We shouldn’t watch the market obsessively.
 We should adhere to fixed investment principles.

Buffett’s Shoulds
 We should invest in no more than five or 10 shares.
 We should only buy if we’re prepared to put at least 10 per cent of our net worth into the stock.
 We should expect to hold our investments for ever.
 We should only invest our cash when we find something worth buying.
 We should do our own research - and do it thoroughly.
 We should always have sound, well-argued, well-researched reasons for our investments.
 We should ignore the market, the crowd, and its fashions.

Buffett believes that the most important quality for an investor is temperament, not intellect. You need a temperament that neither derives great pleasure from being with the crowd or against the crowd. Most people get interested in stocks when everyone else is. The time to get interested is when no one else is. You can't buy what is popular and do well.

Some choice Buffett quotes:

• If you are in the investment business and have an IQ of 150, sell 30 points to someone else.
• It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.
• Of the billionaires I have known, money just brings out the basic traits in them. If they were jerks before they had money, they are simply jerks with a billion dollars.

One of the most revealing parts of the book is where the author traces the formation of Buffett’s operating principles from early childhood. Having more information than the other guy, and analysing that information and using it rationally, became a key principle for Buffett. He held very clear views about the benefits of being an entrepreneur over being an employee. “If you go to work every morning with your stomach churning, you’re in the wrong business.” Buffett always knew that he had to work for himself. “I didn’t want other people directing me. The idea of doing what I wanted to do every day was important to me.”

In the heyday of his activity, John D. Rockefeller said that "the ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee." "And I will pay more for that ability," said John D., "than for any other under the sun." Buffett’s biographer tells us that all his life, Buffett’s role model was Dale Carnegie. Buffett has read and reread How to Make Friends and Influence People every year since the age of eight. Buffett decided to test the statistical validity of Carnegie’s admonitions. Once he had proved them to his satisfaction, he adopted them as cast-iron life principles. Buffett was greatly impressed by such admonitions as:
• Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success.
• Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you.
• Live today with gusto.
• Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
• Talk in terms of the other person's interests. Make the other person feel important - and do it sincerely.
• Financial success is 85 percent due to the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among people.
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on 18 June 2015
Written by a former stockbroker this is an excellent well written and researched account of Warran Buffet's life and investment history. The author follows Buffet's evolving investment style from picking up undervalued "cigarette butts" to, as the stock market became more sophisticated, looking for well managed companies with good cash flow to finally reaching a prominent position where the deals came to him. To her credit the author does not shy away from describing the big investment mistakes Buffet made, going through the logic of the initial decisions and the subsequent actions Buffet took, which only makes Buffet appear more human. On his personal life the author also does not shy away from listing the negative side of Buffet-his parismony and, in his younger years, anti social tendencies. As a former stockbroker myself I think Buffet's finest hour came during the dot/com bubble (one of history's best examples of mass hysteria ) when, his investments grossly underperforming the market and subject to almost daily ridicule as a has-been, he refused to alter his investment style one iota and was triumphly vindicated when the market crashed to where it belonged (is history going to repeat itself?). One frustration with the book is that the author does not unlock the real secret of Buffet's success (as this is an authorised biography presumably she could only give so much away). Buffet almost makes it look easy,but no one has been able to replicate his success (at the date of publication). However, as the saying go "the great make it look easy, the rest know it is hard."
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on 31 October 2012
yes, this book is large. no, it's not as adventurous as "shantaram" (another rather large life story - highly recommended); it details warren buffet's life story. for anyone who is interested in investing - warren buffet is the hero, better returns than s&p 500 for many decades, entirely self made, tries to avoid risk, is very down to earth and as tight as a ducks behind...

the book's style is very humble. it doesn't paint warren as entirely maverick - just as a boy/man who is passionate about business, passionate about finding value and passionate about having possibly the worst diet i have ever heard of (seriously, this guy eats dreadful food; 2 litres of cherry coke per day, tons of sears candies, peanut brittle, steaks, burgers, cheese on his burgers and not a veggie in sight...).

the book tells warrens journey from a young lad who found a love of business, his relationship with his republican father, his awful relationship with his mum; which is very sad, his various business adventures, how he found value investing, his relationships along the way - both in business and personal... i think you get the drift. it also tells the heartache of the breakup with his first wife, failed business relationships, the disaster which was salomon brothers etc., but also the wonderful investments he has made along the way; to people and companies, and his love of helping others who werent as blessed as himself...

this isnt a book which will teach you how to invest like warren, but it does make reference to his investment approach. what i really enjoyed about the book was that it doesnt paint warren as a god; it details his failures as well. overrall he is a nice guy and i feel that he is a better role model than certain celebrities and current politicians...
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on 1 December 2009
I think this is the book to end all books on Warren Buffett. Seriously, I don't think this author left a single thing out.

And I mean everything: on the personal side you'll get his family history back like 4 generations, his relationships with people and why he had them and cultivated them the way he did, his fears and regrets - getting a strong insight into the kind of man he is, decade on decade on decade. On the business side, you'll understand the kind of psychology he is hard wired with (and learned) that has enabled him to get to the point he is today, if you analyse enough you'll understand why he has managed to become so successful and revered, and how through mimicking certain attributes you might catch a snippet of the success he has enjoyed. All very very interesting and useful.

To be fair on this Alice Schreoder, I honestly don't think she could written this book in any other way, the author HAD to put in this level of detail to be a cut above the rest, but I'm glad she broke it up in places with anecdotes and family dramas because by god it gets BORING. Endless streams of names and people and companies it just becomes one massive blur. Literally hundreds of people must have been mentioned: where he met them, when, what they did, who they were married to, what their daughters' best friends' aunt was doing in New York when he sat next to them at some obscure function that really contributes nothing to the flow of the book... but it has to be mentioned anyway as it happened. Then they disappear from the book forever. Streams and streams of companies that he invested in, bought, partially acquired, then the companies that those companies invested in in what proportion and when he shifted his interest from this stock to that stock blah blah blah. It never ends! I couldn't tell you anything in particular now about how he operated but, in light of the fact I just waded through like 700 pages, it seemed very impressive!

But all in all a good effort, I don't think any other biography on Warren Buffett could ever match this. It is well written and comprehensive, I'd say the author managed to unravel the complex mind and life choices of Warren Buffett in the best way she possibly could and, in spite of some parts being complicated and dragging, it pulls through very as a unique, successful and intimate exploration of the life of Warren Buffett.
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on 8 November 2009
The book is 800 pages long of smallish print. I've only really gotten a chapter into this book (other priorities have caused me to have to put the book aside for a bit).

Nevertheless, I shall be happy to get back to it when the time comes. 99% of my reading during my life has been non-fiction, and I started this book hoping to pick up pearls of wisdom - mostly about life - but you never know... maybe the odd gem of investment 'knowhow' might also benefit me.

As I begun reading, I groaned a bit, thinking this is a bit like the Thomas Hardy book I read when I was 15: describing the setting, the flowers, the fanfare while I was impatiently wanting to get to the 'punch up' - the point of why I chose to read the book in the first place. But then, once I'd settled into it a bit more, I found myself really enjoying the style. Warren could practically choose anyone on the planet to write this book (simply because he modestly and astutely believes someone else could do a better job of it than he would (... is that 'gem no. 1' do I wonder ?). Anyway, I believe the book is actually written by Alice Schroeder {but I have no doubt that Warren's input would have been extensive}. Warren has known Alice for many years and been very impressed by her, (and I've already formed the notion that Warren is not so easily impressed by superficial blusterings, but rather sees under the surface); and has great trust in Alice.

Anyway, I won't say too much more; the book is written by a gifted, very keenly observant, lucid and empathetic writer. In fact, it's grown on me to the extent that ... (when I get my knighthood, and Nobel prize for services to mankind) and I want to write my own (auto) biography, I will ask Alice to do it for me.

Oh yes; and there's certainly a gem in the last couple of pages of the book (which I'd love to tell you - but with respect to Amazon and the author, I'll just say ... I'm sorry - you'll have to read the book !). Best Wishes, Richard
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`The Snowball' is an in-depth and comprehensive biography of Warren Buffett and made for fascinating reading throughout. This book focuses on many aspects of his life and virtually no stone is left unturned in recounting the events that have shaped him. This look at his personal relationships, interests, his business/investing philosophies and the various business deals he has been involved with over the years. It also has additional chapters that look at the credit crunch and how Buffett felt and invested during this time of great uncertainty. Whilst this doesn't try to teach you about how to invest like Buffett, a great deal can be gleaned by reading about his life and the way he investing in various businesses and stocks. This has two sections with photos of Buffett and those mentioned in the text. It also has a detailed notes section that add to the overall depth of knowledge in the book if you take a little time to read them. This is very well written and accessible and whilst it will be of more interest to those fascinated with business and investing, it will also interest those who wish to learn about this astute, independent and unique businessman. All in all this was a thoroughly enjoyable read and although very long (at over 700 pages) it will pay back your investment of time richly.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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on 2 May 2009
In spite of 800+ pages, I thouroughly enjoyed reading this book. The first half of the book covers the life of Warren Buffer, his thinking about money making even as young child. The most interesting part of the book was Salomon Brothers story.

This book only confirms my belief that to become enourmously rich through the snowball effect, a critical mass is required. Warren achieved this critical mass through partnerships and reinvesting the commission earned through partnerships. If the partnership lost money, everyone would have lost money but Warren still would have been morally responsible for the loss.

In today's world of investments, different snowball opportunities exist through margin trading and derivatives. But Warren would not have liked any of these because the risk profile is different from the way he bought stocks. The lesson to learn from Warren is to buy good companies (or stocks though he was interested in buying part of or whole company) at ridiculously low prices. It ensures that the probability of a good company stock going further down is low but the probability of it going higher over period of time is higher. Buying a stock which is already highly priced and expecting it to even further up is not intelligent investing. Whether you do stocks or margin trading, choosing a good company stock at low price makes a lot of difference.
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on 22 July 2012
This is a book that needs an editor. The narrative is peppered with superfluous minutiae about his life(such as what steak he eat at a restauraunt, his wife's singing career etc.). At least 200 pages could have been cut and the book would have provided the same amount of insight, but instead you are left with something that is over-written and dull. I always finish every book I read but it was a real struggle with this and by the end I was just glad it was over.
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on 6 December 2009
A little too long to get all the stars but for anyone fascinated by money, high-achieving personalities, high-finance and the lessons of life, this is a must-have addition to their library. Buffett emerges from the pages as a obsessive man-child, who had the luck to find his guru in Ben Graham, nurturing wife Susan Thompson and the right partner in Charlie Munger, who helped him make the transition from 'cigar-butts' to blue chip and was core to the Berkshire Hathaway philosophy.

Buffett the man-child turns out to be a sort of Mr Smith Goes To Wall Street, character, who consistantly points out that the King is wearing no clothes and predicts one bursting bubble after another, from DotCom to the baffle-math which preceded the present-day crisis.

Its a long journey but there are plenty of amusing anecdotes along the way, as well as tales of moral fortitude, as Buffett attempts to untangle quite a few scandals, not of his making; from salad-oil to the T-note scandal at Solomon's.

Of course, we all know the dénouement but the idea of how he finally got his $60b and the status of being richest man in the world, keeps those pages turning.
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