Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Essential business reading, 8 Aug 2013
This review is from: Buffett: The Biography (Duckworth) (Paperback)
I cannot recommend this book highly enough as a means of learning more about one of the world's most successful business figures and recent US economic history.

Roger Lowenstein is a justifiably successful US business chronicler. Here he is diligent in tracking Buffett's modest origins, through his college days, on to his ascending business career with the Buffett investment partnership, his acquisition of the Berkshire Hathaway cotton mill company and his expanding investments in American Express, GEICO, The Washington Post, and Coca-Cola, to name only a few.

He does not neglect Buffet the person either, looking in some depth at important relationships in Buffett's life and his motivations. The author's narration is enhanced greatly by his ability to personalise dialogue convincingly.

I found there was much to learn. For example, I was surprised that Buffett is on the whole a libertarian (or liberal for UK readers) in his political leanings, albeit one who is financially exacting and disciplinarian. All the more surprising considering Buffett Sr. was a US Republican Representative. Also interesting to learn that Buffett was not as enthusiastic about tobacco investments as made out to be in Barbarians At The Gate.

The book also serves well as a source of educational investment case studies. Lowenstein's description of Buffett's interest in (even fascincation with) newspapers from his youthful newspaper delivery round, to his investment in The Buffalo Post, was excellent background context when Berkshire Hathaway made the news last weekend with its sale of a stake in The Washington Post for a $46 million profit.

Lowenstein is good at explaining financial concepts, although these are underpinned by an implicit support of Buffett's interpretation, such as his perspective on the Efficient Market Theory. It left me still believing in the advantages of index-based investments, but I am more considered before I dismiss active investment management. There may be another Buffett out there who is worth their management fee.

I admit I should be more objective in my assessment of the book. It could be accused of bordering on hagiography since the author has strong respect and affection for his subject, but considering the positive reviews it garnered elsewhere, I am in good company.

So enthused was I by the book about its subject that I temporarily started drinking much more caffeine-based soft drinks. My only regret after finishing is that I did not read the book sooner after receiving it as a gift three years ago.
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