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The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life Audio Download – Abridged

4.5 out of 5 stars 88 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio Download
  • Listening Length: 9 hours and 51 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Abridged
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
  • Audible.co.uk Release Date: 12 Mar. 2009
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002SPZ69K

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I recently re-read Roger Lowenstein's biography, Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist (first published in 1995 and now re-issued with a new Afterword), and then read this more recent one by Alice Schroeder. 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.

The heft of Schroeder's biography may discourage some people from obtaining a copy. To them I presume to suggest that they not be deterred by that factor. Schroeder has a lively, often entertaining writing style that drives the narrative through just about every period and (yes) interlude of Warren Buffett's life and career thus far. There is much more information provided than most readers either need or desire. However, she had unprecedented access not only to Buffett but to just about everyone else with whom he is (or once was) associated as well as to previously inaccessible research resources. It is possible but highly unlikely that anyone else will write a more comprehensive biography than Schroeder has, at least for the next several years, if not decades. Also, her opinion of Buffett seems to me to be balanced and circumspect. No doubt he wishes that certain details about his life and career were not included.
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Format: Hardcover
The book starts well although it reads a bit like a hagiography written by Arthur Hailey. That is ok by me I like Arthur Hailey and have always regarded Buffett as a saint. I laughed out loud several times during the first 50 pages.

After this it gets a bit heavier going. There are many insights and many surprises. I had not realised that Berkshire Hathaway lost money from the start and wound up having the textile mill shut down. I had not reliased that Buffett was first a director of Salomon brothers and then became chairman appointed to clean up the mess which he seems to have done with great honour distinction and dignity. I liked the account of the arbitration with the former director Gutfreund who seems to have had it coming. His views on how derivatives spawn risk rather than remove it are very current today. Also his views on the Efficient Market Hypothesis have always been my own and not current orthodoxy.

A trifle over-written but very moving at the death of this friend Kay Graham and at the death of his wife Susie. Remarkable for the close friendship he enjoys with Bill and Melinda Gates and his partner Charlie Munger.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Understanding Buffett has become a modern Holy Grail, the pot of gold at the end of a seventy eight year rainbow. How does he do it? How can ordinary people even come close? Having met him first in 2001, Alice Schroeder was first allowed in to the inner sanctum, then granted unfettered access to the man himself "You'll do a better job than I would, Alice. I'm glad you're writing this book, not me". He adds "Whenever my version is different from somebody else's, use the less flattering version".

Five years, 960 pages, 62 chapters, 90 pages of notes, 32 pages of photos, 23 pages of index later, Schroeder has brought us The Snowball, Warren Buffett and the Business of Life. Berkshire Hathaway put on over $50 billion of market capitalisation whilst she was writing it. That's over $50 million for each page. No wonder Buffett was happy to entrust the book to Schroeder. Writing books doesn't usually add value that fast.

Schroeder demonstrates that, after all this detailed research, much from the man himself and other primary sources, there is no silver bullet. This may disappoint critiques of other works on Buffett who seemed to be seeking one and were rather hoping that the official biography would, at last, provide it. Rather, what emerges is a combination of old fashioned focus, discipline, common sense, the ability to get with people, to push them just beyond their comfort zone but keep them onside, to drive hard bargains but still remain popular, to calculate business risks and probabilities with consummate ease, accuracy and success, and to continue to seek great businesses at affordable prices.
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Format: Hardcover
The bottom line is, at 976 pages, you must really be obsessed with Buffet to put yourself through this.

I'm not saying the book isn't well researched or written but you have to ask yourself, what is the point of this book and why are you reading it?

Speaking for myself, although I assume many had a similar motivation, you might want to find out more about what goes on in Buffett's mind. How does he make such good investment decisions, maybe we can learn something from him. If that's where you are coming from then I recommend Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham with foreword by Buffet. That in conjunction with a book on his most famous quotes for entertainment value.

I'm typically the sort of person that reads a book from start to finish but this one I had to drop before the half-way point. If you're truly a Buffet fan then you'll appreciate the concept of opportunity cost. Instead of reading 976 pages of over elaborate descriptions one who met with whom, what they ate, what they drank, how they split the bill your time could be spent on more useful pursuits/books.
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