The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life
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The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  12,255 ratings  ·  628 reviews
Here is THE book recounting the life and times of one of the most respected men in the world, Warren Buffett. The legendary Omaha investor has never written a memoir, but now he has allowed one writer, Alice Schroeder, unprecedented access to explore directly with him and with those closest to him his work, opinions, struggles, triumphs, follies, and wisdom. The result is...more
Hardcover, 976 pages
Published September 29th 2008 by Bantam (first published 2008)
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Scott Dinsmore
Why I Read this Book: Warren Buffett is the epitome of success in many ways for a lot of people. I had to find out the real story.

Topics Covered:

* Modeling
* Internal Values
* Value Investing
* Trade offs of various forms of success
* Understanding your purpose and priorities
* Importance of Relationships

Review:

I preordered my copy of Snowball through Amazon the day it was announced. I will warn you that I am a fanatic. I make it out to Omaha each year for the Berkshire Hathaway meeting and it’...more
James
This was a disappointing book.
At 834 pages plus notes and index there were a lot of words,
but at least 80% were just gossip about who had a problem
with drinking, drugs, hurt feelings etc etc etc.

That book is 1000 times better: 22 March 2012>

The trivia even included who their babysitter married!!!

Over the years I've read often about the remarkable partnership of Buffett and Munger,
but very very little of that is mentioned in this book.

And clearly Mr B didn't proof the book, because it's ri...more
Espen
Nov 29, 2008 Espen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: serious investors
To succeed in business, be patient, look for value, be honest, and have cash in hand. And don't think about anything else. In fact, be an unrepentent monomaniac. Warren Buffett has become the worlds richest man by making investments that he gets derided for at 10-year intervals, then, when the bubble bursts, he is a saint again.... Buffett is extremely good at making money - and has a rather impressive idea about what to do with it (keep investing, give it all away to someone who is good at givi...more
Jordan
After finished reading almost 800 pages book on biography of Warren Buffett most pressing question I have now is WHO THE HELL IS CHARLIE MUNGER?!?!!

I was completely fascinated by the straight talking lesser known partner of Berkshire Hathaway. The few quotes of Charlie Munger in the book is enough to justify the poor writings elsewhere. There are so much fluff in the book, that gems of wisdom from Charlie Munger stood out. Once asked about technology stocks in late 1990s Munger once said "Even...more
Saurabh Hooda
The snowball gives a sneak preview look into the life of the greatest investor in Universe (Yes, he can beat Mars folks too). The biography tells his nature, his characteristics, his habits and so many other things about him. If you want to read this book to get some tips to become billionaire, or some stock tips, then this might not be the right book. The snowball doesn't give any tips or tricks; it just presents the incidents in Warren's life and how he reacted to them. Everything is left for...more
Socraticgadfly
No, this is NOT "THE book" ...

Want a real bio of Warren Buffett? You'll have to keep waiting, because this book ain't it.

This baby's got some major boo-boos in just the first 50 pages. (But there's more later!) Add in overwriting, poor writing, and apparently economic slants or ax-grinding and ugg ....

First, the early errors:

1. She claims Hoover was Coolidge's VP. Nope, twas Charles Curtis.

2. She claims some other speech, not "Cross of Gold," was William Jennings Bryan's most famous. Not even c...more
Gary
Life story of Warren Buffet. About 800 pages. In detail, outlines in amazing detail many of his deals. Even more detail on personal relationships – a real dissection of who he is and how he came to be what he is.Goes into Howie in some detail – how he really wanted to be a farmer, his migration to Decatur, what his functions were at ADM, etc. How $1,000 invested with Warren early on made multi millionaires out of a number of people.His relationship with Bill and Melinda Gates (he thought of Bill...more
James
I think Buffett is a titan of our time, and that his story is inpirational. He is a good and righteous man, a money-changer who doesn't ever get thrown out of the temple. He's got a great sense of business, but he's also a great man. His support for the Berkshire textiles, less profitable, but of social good, hearkens back to an owner-worker relationship that existed in the 1950's, if it ever existed at all. He's got lots of quirks, a sex life that perplexes everyone, and the largest charitable...more
Judith
Get ready for a ride through this tome. It covers Buffett's childhood right up to the present. I enjoyed reading about the education of Buffett in school, out of school, in work and with people. What could have shortened the book was the too many facts about people in his life. The sentence would mention a person and you'd have to read though that persons life history and his or her family's history. I enjoy bios but if I want to read a person's bio I'll pick up their book.
Another thing that bot...more
Mike W
This is a good biography of Warren Buffett, but it could have been better. While it depicted his personal life and his character well, it could have done a better job with his investment philosophy. Roger Lowenstein's earlier biography was better, in this regard.

Buffett is a complex character, as Schroeder portrays him. He inveighs against privilege, inherited wealth and nepotism, but gives his kids $1 million a year as birthday gifts and appoints them as directors of his company, Berkshire Hath...more
Max Stone
Clearly worth reading if you are a Warren groupie (which I am)

Maybe worth reading if you aren't?

Some have faulted the book for not being stronger in the secrets of his investment success. This is silly. For starters, Warren Buffet himself has written extensively on that topic, imparting most of the wisdom that can be imparted. Read his annual letters or even interviews if you want that. And second, by definition there isn't an easy playbook of rules that people can follow for financial success....more
Matt
I have always disliked Warren Buffutt because of his political views. It seems very easy and convenient to be in favor of all sorts of wealth redistribution when you have so much wealth that it will make absolutely no difference to you. While I still disagree with what he stands for politically, I enjoyed the book immensely. It is a rare non-fiction book that keeps you up late on multiple nights. He has had a truely amazing life and has illustrated the benefits of compounding wealth more than an...more
Nick Duretta
This probably is a very good book -- the author is a superb writer -- but it didn't overcome my natural aversion to lengthy, overly detailed biographies such as this. Buffett is, of course, a fascinating subject, the richest man in the world but one who is not greedy, does not wallow in conspicuous consumerism, and is inherently modest. Schroeder leads us through every phase of his life, and it is a remarkable one. But I found myself skimming over much of the minutiae and fixating on some of the...more
Tiffany Reisz
Fan-freaking-tastic. I knew Warren Buffett was fascinating but I didn't know he was THAT fascinating. I spent a month reading this 900 page tome and the entire month I tortured my boyfriend with, "Ermergerd, did you know Warren Buffett this? Warren Buffett this?" So well-written and engaging. I'd let Alice Schroeder write my biography any day. She has a way of taking the most mundane life details and making them engaging, witty, and meaningful. So enjoyed this. Warren Buffett for President!
Jonny
I rarely give up on books but I gave up on this one after about 100 pages. After 100 pages we are still sorting through Warren's paper routes and stamp collections. I am interested in Warren Buffet, but do we really need over 800 pages in this biography? There are biographies of Winston Churchill that are shorter.

I would say this book is only for people that are really, really interested in Buffet.

Good luck.
Austin Alter
The story of how pinball machines and counterfeit salad oil helped build one of the great modern fortunes is fascinating, but there is a reason people generally aren't clamoring to read 976 page books by former CPA's. The writing is dull and repetitive, the pacing slows to a crawl by the end.
Kirk
hard to get through read half of it, it's gigantic and got tired of it. It's all facts and not much about his thought process or how he makes decisions so not exactly what I was hoping for. Generally more interesting than it should be though for the writing style.
Mary
By the time I got to the 70's and 80's the book was pretty boring but the early years were interesting. Problem with a Kindle is that it is hard to skip ahead to figure out how it ends.
Bookmarks Magazine
Warren Buffett should be applauded for allowing such open access to his life. Alice Schroeder, who interviewed friends and family, pored over Buffett
Marci
I really tried - his life's work is such a great American success story, but this was so boring I quit after Q1
Jeff
A great look at the richest man in the world (or second depending on how Bill Gates' stocks did today.)

I once wrote a letter to Warren Buffet asking him to come speak to the Buckhead Church staff. A few days later, I received an email from him politely declining. I was amazed he took the time to even respond. Here are some insights from one of the smartest people around:

Warren Buffett to his biographer: "Whenever my version is different from somebody else's, use the less flattering version."

Whe...more
Patrick Parker
This was an amazingly detailed accounting of Warren Buffett's life and the people he surrounded himself with. It's clearly the most complete book written about him to date, with Roger Lowenstein's "The Making of an American Capitalist" as next in line. Alice Schroeder clearly worked incredibly hard and produced an outstanding book about a man that hasn't allowed the kind of insider access to his life at any other time in history.

There are details here that I've read nowhere else, many of them ab...more
Robert
Others have shared their reasons for holding this book in high regard. Here is one of mine. Although I had already read various Buffett's chairman's letters that first appeared in a series of Berkshire Hathaway's annual reports, I did not understand (nor could I have understood) the context for observations he shared, especially his comments about especially important 12-month periods throughout BRK's history. Schroeder provides the context or frame-of-reference I needed but previously lacked. F...more
Tress Huntley


I know that most of my reading friends will not necessarily have this one on their "to-read" list, but if you are at all a reader of biographies, add this one. This book is the product of over five years of deep research, interviews with more than 250 people, and unlimited access to both Buffett himself and all of his files and correspondence. As a result, Schroeder has really produced a work of excellent and extremely readable literature, and a fascinating account of a man's life. I found it r...more
Jeremy K
Extremely well written. I mean, EXTREMELY well written. Alice Schroeder clearly spent years on this project, and her effort paid off in describing vividly and entertainingly the life of Warren Buffett.
Two things struck me about his life:
1. Even a theory as apparently simple as value investing - investing your money in undervalued businesses - takes a lot of time, energy, effort, and training.
2. Warren Buffett, for all his success, has led a fairly boring life. I had heard this before reading the...more
Marc Brackett
This was an exceptionally well written and researched book. Not quite in the same caliber as the more recent book "Jobs," but pretty close. Upon finishing this book you have a very clear idea who the man is and where he has been.

His rise has been no accident, rather it consisted of decades of extreme work. Probably from his mid 20's till his early 50's can best be described as a period where he just kept at it. There was no instant reward or success. No shortage of late nights and years doing w...more
Relinquis
Nov 07, 2012 Relinquis rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Buffett Groupies
Beware! This is a poorly edited and tedious book.

Schroder, an inexperienced biographer, could have benefited from a more aggressive editor. There are over 300+ pages of minutia and repetition in the main text. Surprisingly, the excessive trivialities centre around Buffett's and his extended family's lives rather than overly detailed discussion of his business deals.

Hierology is probably the wrong word, but you do get a sense that the author idolises Buffett. I would have preferred a more imparti...more
CJ
I must admit, when a friend got this out of the library for me and told me it was 30 discs, I wavered a bit. How would I ever get through that many on my commute? Let me tell you, there were nights when I considered bringing the disc into the house so I could continue to listen (even my 14-year-old was interested). This book really is the definitive Warren Buffett story.

Even if you don't geek out when you hear about how rich people made their money, this story is riveting. I can't imagine the ac...more
Kambin Pillay
Apr 23, 2009 Kambin Pillay rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of Warren Buffett
Recommended to Kambin by: Press release
It took me a while to read this book, purely because I've been busy. I've rated it 2 stars as I didn't really learn anything new about Buffett, but more importantly, it didn't deliver what it promised. Buffett apparently instructed the biographer Alice Schroeder to tell it like it is and to always write the less flattering version of her research. However, it seems as if either the man actually is a saint, or Ms. Schroeder strayed from his instruction. As long time follower and admirer of Warren...more
Hiro
"The Snowball" by Alice Schroeder is an interesting read because it not only covers Warren Buffett's investment strategy over the years, but it also tells his life story, and in doing so you get an idea of what the man is really like. I found similarities to Steve Jobs' personal life in that like Jobs, Warren Buffett was and is extraordinarily successful in his professional life, but he does not get high marks for how he managed the relationships with his children and his wife Susie. At 838 page...more
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Amazing response 3 64 Jan 21, 2014 06:25PM  
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Ms. Schroeder was born in Texas, and she earned an undergraduate degree and her MBA at the University of Texas at Austin before moving east to work in finance. She is a former CPA and lives in Connecticut with her husband.

Alice Schroeder was a noted insurance industry analyst and writer who was a managing director at Morgan Stanley. She first met Warren Buffett when she published research on Berk...more
More about Alice Schroeder...
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“On me personally what has been the most important was to understand the value of time -- and this is something that has come from observing him, learning his story and that time compounds. What you do when you are young (and as you use time over your life) can have an exponential effect so that if you are thoughtful about it, you can really have powerful results later, if you want to.

Also, that is a reason to be hopeful, because compounding is something that happens pretty quickly. If you are 50 or 60, it is not too late. He said to me one time, if there is something you really want to do, don't put it off until you are 70 years old. ... Do it now. Don't worry about how much it costs or things like that, because you are going to enjoy it now. You don't even know what your health will be like then.

On the other hand, if you are investing in your education and you are learning, you should do that as early as you possibly can, because then it will have time to compound over the longest period. And that the things you do learn and invest in should be knowledge that is cumulative, so that the knowledge builds on itself. So instead of learning something that might become obsolete tomorrow, like some particular type of software [that no one even uses two years later], choose things that will make you smarter in 10 or 20 years. That lesson is something I use all the time now.”
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“Time is the friend of the wonderful business, the enemy of the mediocre.” 4 likes
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