Evanston Public Library's Reviews > Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist

Buffett by Roger Lowenstein
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's review
Jul 30, 2011

bookshelves: nonfiction

Reading this biography clarifies some of the traits that have contributed to Warren Buffett's astounding business success: his laser-like focus, his unusual capacity to perform math in his head, and his appreciation for true value as opposed to what I'll call "bling appeal." Insightful and meticulously researched, Lowenstein sheds light on the personality and thought process of one of the world's richest men, who started off in his in-laws' basement with little more than $800 and parlayed it into many billions.

There were many unexpected aspects to Buffett's story. Unlike many wealthy people, he is not obsessed with collecting glamorous possessions. This exchange is typical:

"He did ask Susie to upgrade his VW, explaining that it looked bad when he picked up visitors at the airport. But he didn't have the slightest interest in it.

'What kind of car?' Susie asked.

'Any car. I don't care what kind.' (She got him a wide-finned Cadillac.)" True, this was early in his career, but it is revealing of his attitude.

I also did not expect a man like this to have a healthy marriage, but Lowenstein confirms, he does, although he seems slightly distant from his children.I particularly enjoyed the section on his first major acquisition where Buffett and the indomitable, 4 foot 10 inch Mrs. B, an immigrant who created the largest furniture business in Omaha from nothing, hammered out a sixty million dollar deal. Upon closing Mrs. B stated, "Mr. Buffett, we're going to put our competitors through a meat grinder." This was Buffett's ideal--a partner who was totally focused, competitive, and very shrewd. Lowenstein skillfully escorts the reader through many fascinating incidents, showing the human side of his subject, while helping one grasp his unique financial genius.

Shira S. (Reader's Services)
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