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Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  14,213 ratings  ·  373 reviews
Starting from scratch, simply by picking stocks and companies for investment, Warren Buffett amassed one of the epochal fortunes of the twentieth century—an astounding net worth of $10 billion, and counting. His awesome investment record has made him a cult figure popularly known for his seeming contradictions: a billionaire who has a modest lifestyle, a phenomenally succe ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published August 18th 1996 by Main Street Books (first published 1995)
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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 ·  14,213 ratings  ·  373 reviews

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Dec 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I recently re-read this Buffett biography (first published in 1995 and now re-issued with a new Afterword, dated January 2008) and then read Alice Schroeder's The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life. 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 ...more
Abhishek Dafria
Nov 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everyone is interested in a billionaire! How he did it? Where did his ideas come from? Was he worthy of it? One ends up forming an opinion on such people very easily. Warren Buffet, unlike the Gates and the Jobs of the world, is however not that public a figure. His intelligence does not necessarily impact the common man's life so openly, and so frequently as it does for a few others. But having said that, reading about him has made me realise that not knowing about Buffet's ideologies, his ecce ...more
Nov 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: investment
An excellent book. I almost didn't read it as I've read a few Buffet books and usually find them quite tedious. Not this one! I loved Lowenstein's perspective as a long-time investor of Buffet's and a well regarded value investor/author himself. The result is an intimate but outside look at what made Buffet into the investor and man he is today.

Buffet is a mess of seeming contradictions, his obsession with accumulating money yet his refusal to spend any of it, his remarkable self confidence yet
Josh Friedlander
Jan 03, 2015 rated it liked it
My dad bought me this book and I finally read it.

In some ways this guy is the ultimate Mr Burns-like single-minded capitalist. But to be fair to him: he's consistently fought for his income bracket to have to pay much higher taxes, repeatedly attacked Bush's tax cuts for the rich, and finally commited to giving away almost all of his money to the Gates foundation. In some ways I think he is quintessentially American, in the same sense that Citizen Kane is the quintessential American movie.
David Dennington
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, finding it entertaining and informative, which when you think about it, is unusual when talking about finance and boring stuff of that nature. In reality, it’s a character study of the man himself—and he’s interesting. Buffett’s genius is largely genius of character—of patience, discipline, rationality and resourcefulness. He appears to be one of the few capitalists who got super rich without leaving a trail of victims and suicides (as one would find in a bleeding ...more
Oct 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read the Snowball by A. Schroeder but wanted to see how this earlier Bio compared. Many of the details of his story are similar and dealt with in the same chronological order. Even though the Snowball gives a lot more personal almost intimate details about WB's life, there are some good different insights here too.

The value principles resurface as expected. In random order some of my takeaways are as follows. Have the purchase price so attractive that even a mediocre sale would do. Put all yo
David Ball
Nov 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been following the markets for the better part of 25 years, and over the years I've come across many books, articles, and profiles of Warren Buffett; seen him interviewed countless times on CNBC, even watched a documentary about him on Danish television last week, so I approached Buffett with reasonably low expectations - how much more was there to learn? Quite a bit apparently. This book is as good as the book on his partner Charlie Munger (previously reviewed) was bad. Lowenstein does a g ...more
Mar 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this journey into a highly original and principled mind.

The detailed look into his thought processes, values and the passion of his life - investing - was complemented by lowensteins insightful commentary on Buffet's nature - a task rendered all the more difficult by Buffets private nature.
Richie Gill
Sep 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’ve read nearly every book regarding Buffett and this is one of the top three alongside Snowball and The Essays of Warren Buffett.
David McClendon, Sr
Book Review: Buffett
The Making of An American Capitalist
Roger Lowenstein
This book was written back in 1995, so it is severely dated. It does, however, give us an idea of what Buffett was like at that time. He may have changed since then.

I used to be able to say I liked almost everything about Buffett. I would use the word “almost” because, since I don’t know him personally, there could have been something I did not like about him. In reading this book, I found out what that was.

I am a Fundamenta
Oct 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: noone
Shelves: could-not-finish
For some strange reasons I could not make myself to like the book and the guy. Buffet is not an average Joe, but the book becomes so exhausting about boring life of Buffett that I had to stop. I expected that this book would inspire me. Instead I see this form of money loving as something perverse and not healthy. Author tries to convince us that Buffet is not greedy, he just likes frugality and simplicity. I do not agree. The kind of obsession Buffet has over his money is repulsive, even wrappe ...more
Munro Richardson
Jan 13, 2015 rated it liked it
I wish I could give this 3.5 stars.

The first major biography of Warren Buffett. Written without active support by Buffett (he also didn't discourage anyone from working with Lowenstein). I felt Lowenstein's writing in When Genius Failed, the account of the failure of Long Term Capital Management, was stronger. In contrast to Snowball by Alice Schroeder, this book focused more on Buffett as the investor and major owner of Berkshire Hathaway. Charlie Munger's role and contributions are largely sid
Tim Mort
Jan 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Buffett is a modern day hero. Lowenstein does a great job of telling his story in this book while also hammering home some of the reasons why he is so successful: discipline, sticking to his circle of competence, and I dare say most importantly his midwestern values (honesty, fairness, frugality).
Frank Stein
Jan 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book isn't revelatory, because the Warren Buffet story has been told many times. The Midwesterner coming from a family of grocers, with a strict Republican Congressman father, parleys some pinball machine earnings and the advice of Columbia University Professor Benjamin Graham into one of history's greatest fortunes. But this is a model biography, one with lucid prose and easy grace, that weaves the story of Buffett into the story of American investing, politics, and business in the 20th ce ...more
Ken Watari
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Zhou Fang
Apr 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: investing
I'm kicking myself for not reading this book earlier. This is a fair portrait of Warren Buffett's life and career as an investor. He is simultaneously seen as universal and unapproachable. His easygoing, folksy nature appeals to any student of capitalism. His photographic memory, gift for mental math, and singular dedication to studying makes one wonder if anyone else could achieve what he has. Lowenstein (author of When Genius Failed, also a wonderful book) paints a picture of his motivations a ...more
Avadhoot Joshi
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
To summarise this book, as correctly described about Buffett in chapter 14 (The Eighties) -
"In the old days he was cigarette butt investor. He looked for value.Then it got hard to find such deals and he became a franchise investor , he bought great businesses at reasonable prices. And then he said, ' I can no longer find good businesses at even acceptable prices, and I will take advantage of my size and teach the world a lesson about long-term investing'. "
This is how Buffett's life has progress
Cons Bulaqueña
Dec 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, money

“As an investor, Buffett eschewed the use of leverage, futures, dynamic hedging, modern portfolio analysis, and all of the esoteric strategies developed by academics. Unlike the modern portfolio manager, whose mind-set is that of a trader, Buffett risked his capital on the long-term growth of a few select businesses. In this, he resembled the magnates of a previous age, such as J. P. Morgan, Sr.”

“At home, Warren began to chart the prices of stocks on his own. Observing their ups and downs, he wa
Gergely Szabo
Once or twice a year I come to read a biography of a great man and I just fall for them. This was definitely one of these occasions, I don't think it's possible to dislike this man. His thorough biography is full of things I like in one. Early attempts at what they eventually succeed in, business deals described in detail, character integrity, etc. I rarely go as far as naming someone my idol, but this past ten days Warren Buffet has become one. ...more
Abhilash Bhat
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant book chronicling the life of greatest investor, and one of my few personal idols, the world has seen!!
Contains several pearls of gem about his personality, temperament and his genius that led to a follower-ship bordering on idolatry. From several stories covering his impeccable value-investing style and principles, to instances showing his less-than-perfect personal relationships, this book is a must-read for people wanting to know more about the Oracle of Omaha.
Stefan Bruun
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business, finance
A great insight into the life and thinking of one of the greatest investors of all time.
Evanston Public  Library
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 int ...more
Jan 23, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finance
Reading this work in the bull market of early 2021, with valuations at unimaginable highs and "fashion" stocks (as referred to therein, but now popularly known as "meme" stocks) rising and falling like the pucks of amusement park hammer games -- one finds prophetic notes of admonishment from strikingly similar times. Each bull run, Lowenstein points out, is characterized by some self-serving rationalization. Yet the reader nevertheless wonders, if he has read this biography in his own path of de ...more
Jun 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Warren Buffett might be the most enigmatic man of our time. While everyone knows that his past half century of investing has made him into the richest man in the world, nobody seems to know much about him beyond this. The few anecdotes we sometimes hear- he still lives in the same modest house in Omaha, he doesn't drink anything stronger than coca-cola, he drives himself around in a very basic Lincoln- only pique our curiosity more.

Roger Lowenstein is well known for writing extremely engaging an
Sep 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I am kicking myself why did it take me so long to pick up Roger Lowenstein's Buffet. It was lying on my bookshelf for such a long time. I think it is the best Warren Buffett book that I've read. I found it better than Alice Schroeder’s Snowball which I read last month.

Lowenstein's book is more objective in highlighting how Buffet made his investment decisions, though Schroeder’s is more detailed and focused on his personal life. He describes all of his major investing decisions in different chap
Jewel Miller
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I previously knew many small details about Warren Buffett and had a vague sense of his personality and investment strategies. From the first chapter, this book was captivating as it details key events throughout Buffett's entire life. From his first "businesses" delivering newspapers and arcade games, starting a family and trying to instill his values in his children and in more modern day times, having to take a more direct role in companies he invested in. Buffett's determination from a very y ...more
Chris N
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A well-rounded biograpy of the essentials of Buffett's rise to investor extraordinaire.
Having read "The Snowball", this one feels like a welcome summary, trimming the personal details, but still dwelving a bit into some particularities of his private life to give a more complete picture.

The book was published in 1995, the biography stops right after purchasing a big chunk of Coca-Cola shares, so you may miss out on some of the more important moments in his recent history - the development of hi
Mar 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
"An excellent biography of the quirky Oracle of Omaha. Shows his humble upbringing, early entrepreneurial drive, insistence on finding value and holding long-term to avoid taxes on capital gains, and understanding the businesses you invest in. Even shows how he drifted from his own principles of focusing on cash-rich, non capital-intensive companies when he bought US Air. Much shorter than the other Buffet biography, Snowball." ...more
Aug 17, 2008 rated it it was ok
Never Finished this book, I do enjoy finance related topics, but I did not feel that this book was worth my time to read. I did not learn much from what I read except that Buffett was a prodigy from a young child. I do hope that when I have more time i do sit down and finish reading it however. If you want to learn about the life of Warren Buffett then I'm sure this is a great book to read. ...more
Oct 30, 2008 rated it it was ok
Not a terribly exciting book. Warren Buffett's pecularities (drinks coke, lives in Omaha, invests "permanantly") makes him a curious phenom but not an exciting subject matter. And by the time you get to 40th sentence in the likes of "in 10 year period, XYZ stock grow by astonishing 2000%) you are definitely not astonished. And no, there are no stock tips in here that you don't know already. ...more
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Roger Lowenstein has reported for the Wall Street Journal for more than a decade and is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and The New Republic. He is the author of Buffet: the Making of an American Capitalist


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  As dedicated readers already know, some of the best and most innovative stories on the shelves come from the constantly evolving realm of...
23 likes · 4 comments
“Buffett found it 'extraordinary' that academics studied such things. They studied what was measurable, rather than what was meaningful. 'As a friend [Charlie Munger] said, to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” 23 likes
“The modern spirit is a hesitant one. Spontaneity has given way to cautious legalisms, and the age of heroes has been superseded by a cult of specialization. We have no more giants; only obedient ants.” 13 likes
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